November marks the 90th anniversary of the dedication of the St. Mary of the Lake church building. The church was
dedicated on the weekend of November 27-28, 1926. Parishioners attending Mass Sunday morning had to brave a balmy temperature of seven degrees. Richard (Dick) Arcand and Geraldine (Gerry) Michaud Doyle, two St. Mary of the Lake parishioners in 2016, were also parishioners on that cold morning in 1926. In fact, they've been St. Mary of the Lake parishioners their entire lives.
When asked about memories of St. Mary of the Lake, Dick Arcand mentioned attending St. Mary of the Lake School for 3 years. He went on to say "the school was run by nuns and was free - no uniforms and no tuition." Dick fondly recalled one nun, Sister Louise Joseph, who had the reputation of being somewhat of an "enforcer." Fortunately for Dick, Sister Louise Joseph knew Dick's father through the large French community that had settled in White Bear Lake. This "French Connection" facilitated a friendly and amicable relationship between Dick and Sister Louise Joseph. Dick mentioned First Communion, Confirmation and attending Stations of the Cross as high points in his St. Mary's experience. Dick served honorably in the U.S. Army in England, France and Germany during World War II and is the father of six children. When asked how things are different in 2016 from his earlier years at St. Mary of the Lake, Dick mentioned the influence of secularization and how younger people are drifting away from their church and faith. In talking with Dick, it quickly becomes obvious that his faith and St. Mary of the Lake have played a central role in his life. St. Mary of the Lake is blessed to have Dick Arcand as a parishioner.
Gerry Doyle was also a parishioner on November 27, 1926; albeit only a couple days old. Gerry was the first baby baptized in the newly dedicated St. Mary of the Lake church and has been a parishioner ever since. Gerry attended St. Mary of the Lake School for eight years. She made her First Communion and Confirmation here and was married at St. Mary of the Lake. Gerry describes her school days as rather routine. She recalled the annual school picnic, spelling bees and her kindly fifth grade teacher Sister Elaine, who put the children at ease and welcomed any and all questions they had. Gerry said the students wore uniforms and walked to school. She also mentioned how the children were in awe of the priests.
Gerry is the mother to five children, grandmother to 13 grandchildren, and great-grandmother to 16. Gerry married Francis Doyle in 1947. They were married 46 years when he passed away in 1994. She misses him dearly. Gerry prays the rosary every day with Mother Angelica on EWTN, and she offers her prayers for the youth of the parish. When asked what wisdom she can offer others, Gerry said "Enjoy each day and be grateful for all you have." Gerry is a delightful woman, and I couldn't help but notice her joy and excitement when she would talk about her faith and St. Mary of the Lake, as both are central to all she does.
A certain theme that forms the foundation of Jesuit spirituality is "finding God in all things." Pope Francis (a Jesuit) has called us to live out our faith in the "messiness" of the world. The church is the gathering place where we worship God. However, we also experience God in our marriages, our classrooms, offices, during our commutes, and everywhere - if we are aware of His presence. In this way, St. Mary of the Lake parish isn't confined to the beautiful building on Bald Eagle Avenue, but rather extends to those we encounter each day. Dick Arcand and Gerry Doyle are two lifelong parishioners of St. Mary of the Lake whose lives are manifestations of their faith and participation as parishioners. We are blessed to have Dick and Gerry and the many other parishioners who have built and sustained St. Mary of the Lake over 135 years.