I was among the many who gathered at Immaculate Conception on Oak Street on the Eastside of Youngstown this morning.  Today was the last Mass in that church building.

Bishop Murry presided at Mass today.  He reminded us all that, though the building would close, the church would continue on at a new location and with a new name:  Immaculate Conception-Sacred Heart of Jesus at the Sacred Heart building.

There were lots of tears on the faces of many at Mass, but lots of smiles as well.   Everyone was remembering their time at that church – special occasions like First Communion, weddings, and funerals – and the regular worship each week.

Many Youngstowners trace their roots to the eastside.  My grandmother – Mary Reardon McCormick – was baptized and went to school at Immaculate.

When I first entered the Ursulines I went to Immaculate to Mass regularly.  Fr. John Summers was pastor and Fathers Phil Conley and Dan Venglarik lived at the rectory.

But what I really learned there was how to teach.  Sister Mary Lee Nalley was on the faculty and while I was still a student at Youngstown State University, I went to Immaculate Conception school once or twice a week and learned skills of classroom management, planning lessons and working with school age students.  Some of those same students I met when I began to teach at Ursuline High School.

Sister Mary Lee, herself a daughter of the parish, has been ministering at for nearly 40 years.  She will continue to serve the people of the new parish.  As she said to Fr. Kevin Peters, the new pastor:  “I serve the people of God, not a building.”

The Ursuline Nuns have always been intimately involved with the people of the greater Youngstown area.  Our ministry is in collaboration with the needs of the local church and the needs of the people.

All of the Ursulines pledge their support to the reconfiguration of the parishes throughout the diocese.  We know that the church at Immaculate Conception-Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish will remain strong.

The Ursulines who were at today’s Mass were Sister Mary Lee and Sister Kathleen McCarragher who work at the parish, Sister Nancy Dawson and Sister Charlotte Italiano, both daughters of the parish, and Sister Darla Vogelsang who taught at Immaculate Conception School, served as its principal and worked as a pastoral associate.  Several Ursuline Associates were also in attendance:  Sheila Triplett, Monique Smith and Carol Mentges.

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  1. I found a Golden Jubilee commemorative plate in my basement from 1955.
    My brother,sisters and myself went to school there in the 1960’s.

  2. Oh, dear. I was researching something completely different when I found this entry. I cannot tell you how this news has saddened me.

    My parents owned a home a few blocks up the street from the Immaculate when I was born. I was baptized there and attended Mass there weekly (and sometimes during the week) until we moved to Boardman when I was 5 or 6. I still attended Mass there when we visited my grandmother (who lived on Prospect) because IC was my mother’s church from the time she was a child. I have such wonderful memories of that beautiful building. To this day (and I am over 50 now), I still see the beautiful blue on the ceiling . . . not an important detail, I know, but I always associated that particular blue with our Blessed Mother.

    I’ve lived in a number of cities across this country and have traveled to many other cities and countries. I have been fortunate enough to stand, sit and pray in beautiful churches all over our wonderful world. I will honestly tell you, however, that Immaculate Conception holds the dearest spot in my heart.

    Chris Cutler

    PS. Is there a way to email Sr. Nancy Dawson?

  3. Thank you, Ben for visiting our site and for your comment and pictures. I lived in the convent at Immaculate for 4 years in the late 1980s – that was my only stint on the East side, though my family lived there at the turn of the 20th century. The convent was originally a grocery story at the corner of Oak St. and Lane Ave, owned by the McNally family I believe. I will have some of the Ursuline sisters who taught at Immaculate look at the pictures and see if they recognize anyone.

  4. I read with a lot of interest– and sadness– the post on Immaculate Conception’s closing. This was the first parish I remember belonging to. My Italian American parents, wishing to try their independence from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, enrolled at the church around 1949, when they bought their first home on the East Side. Though we children attended public school at Warren Richey, every Sunday saw us at Immaculate for Mass and catechism class. I made my first communion there in 1955. This was just before another “mass”–the mass exodus of many young Catholic families from the neighborhood and eventually from the city.

    What do I remember? All the great things that parish life afforded us children and what we eventually lost by leaving a vibrant urban scene. The church was crowded on Sundays. There was a large battery of votive lights as your entered. Mom would always light a few. The choir, where my Uncle Joe sang Gregorian chant on the holidays, was located upstairs. My sister and I sat with our Sunday school class. The nuns made sure we didn’t turn around because “the devil was in the rear of the church.” We were drilled that the host shouldn’t touch your teeth. I heard the intriguing sound of a foreign language, Latin, and was hit by the smell of incense.

    There were large numbers of people on the sidewalk after services. They would linger, exchanging news. People dressed for church and this was the time to exhibit your Sunday clothes. Men and women wore hats. All the signals pointed to the fact that this was a special day and time.

    Dad would walk us around the corner to Julian’s bakery for fresh rolls. This was a Sunday treat for us. I remember the old bakery–– flour everywhere and bakers greeting in Italian or broken English. Since we lived close by, the rolls were still warm by the time we got home.

    Within six blocks of the parish lived or worked half of my family. Mom’s dad lived on Quinn, just off Truesdale, Dad’s dad owned Lariccia Grocery in the Hollow. Aunt Connie worked at Century Supermarket on Oak Street. In-laws, paesans, godparents, friends, and neighbors populated the area. So did backyard gardens.

    I often walked to first communion classes from our home at Bennington and East High. But you could always take a bus. They were conveniently everywhere. If you were on one, many riders would cross themselves if the vehicle passed by a church.

    While I don’t have any suggestions for what to do with the deconsecrated church, I do feel that this old parish’s closing should remind us of the abundant community life and the services that Youngstowners once enjoyed. There’s a new Youngstown trying to be born. Maybe the Ursuline Sisters blog posts will help in the birthing.

    Best,
    Ben Lariccia, Jr.

    Here’s a link to a couple photos of first communion at Immaculate on Mother’s Day, 1955:
    http://web.me.com/blaricci/Site_18/Photos.html

  5. Sister Norma Raupple

    Bethany,
    I can understand your feelings of loss. I served on the parish staff at Immaculate from 1987-2007. Some of my happiest memories are from the days of the “Gospel Choir” when we used to practice once a week and sing and Liturgies and events throughout the area. I am hopeful that the Ursuline Sisters and Associates can continue to support the parishoners as they continue to build a vibrant future.
    I look forward to seeing you at gatherings of the Ursuline Sisters and Associates.

  6. I remember seeing you this morning and on Thursday at the Motherhouse, though I don’t think we met formally. Both the Feast of St. Angela at the Motherhouse and the Mass at Immaculate today were liturgies that brought the sacred mysteries into our lives very closely. Perhaps the close proximity of these occasions is one of the ways that God is calling you. Keep in touch with Sr. Kathleen. And have Monique bring you back to the Motherhouse soon.

  7. Sister Mary,
    I sat front row center, right across the aisle from the Sisters. I think I cried from beginning to end. Some months ago, our parish “lost” Monsignor Zuraw, and today, our beloved building. I realize that it is all in God’s hand, so I will leave it there.
    I also was priviledged to be a part of the recent Associates induction (Monique is my sister). That night was special for me as well because it reminded me of my time going through R.C.I.A. During that time I spent a lot of time with Sister Kathleen McCarragher (once even visiting Ursulines in Cleveland) and had the good fortune to meet and spend time with many of the Youngstown Ursulines.
    Many years have passed, and a lot has happened. I had discussed with Sister Kathleen long ago thoughts I’d had of becoming a nun, but feeling inadequate. Those thoughts (urges?) have never left, though I’ve tried to ignore them. Today, as I sat crying at Mass, I felt it as strong as ever. I hope to spend more time with the Sisters coming up. I feel completely welcomed and at home with you wonderful women.

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