Our Lady of Lourdes Church celebrated its last mass yesterday. It has been in existence in Lewiston for nearly a hundred years…and now it is closing its doors. I never really attended Our Lady of Lourdes but I have many family members and friends who have. My family attended St. James Catholic Church and it too will be closing its doors. The have combined the three parishes in Lewiston, ID.
Before I was born, my mother was working as a music teacher at the Lourdes School. She taught 1st through 8th grades and among her students was my sister, who was in 1st grade. Mom found out that she was pregnant with me before the school year in 1966. She talked to Father Phelan, who the principal at the school, to let him know that she was pregnant. Mom was prepared to lose her job, because pregnant teachers weren’t all that common. Father Phelen told her that these were a bunch of Catholic kids and they were used to seeing pregnant women and didn’t see a problem.
Mom said that as her pregnancy became known, the kids would show up at her car in the morning and wouldn’t allow her to carry anything. She said that even the nuns used her pregnancy as a teaching moment telling the kids about the development of a baby. The big moment of the school year was always the Christmas concert. Since Mom was starting to get pretty big, Father Phelen was getting a bit concerned that Mom might have me before Christmas. Since the concert consisted of the band and the children’s choir – Mom’s role was pretty important. They decided to hold the concert in the old Lourdes Church was located at the location of the present day Salvation Army. Parents took charge to clean up the old church and make sure everything was ready for the concert. Father Phelen made a special prayer on Mom to make sure that she didn’t deliver me before the Christmas concert. Mom made it to the concert. Her biggest problem was the interference she got when trying to conduct the children’s choir. She wasn’t getting the attention from the kids has she expected and saw that their eyes kept wandering. Mom turned around and saw her almost 3 year old son standing on a chair and imitating his mother by waving his arms.
Father Phelen’s prayer worked a bit too well. I was expected in January but wasn’t born until February. Father Phelen put Mom on maternity leave at the first of February. Mom was receiving daily calls from her grandmothers, Dad’s grandmother, her mother, Father Phelen, and Dad while he was at work – checking on her and seeing if her contractions had started. After a difficult delivery, Mom had me on the 9th. One of the first bunches of flowers that arrived was a huge horseshoe of roses. All of her students had put together their nickels and dimes to buy the roses for Mom. She let them give me my middle name. Mom thought I looked like a little Spanish baby so with my black hair and so she named me Carmen and the Mom’s students gave me the middle name of Maria.
|My Baptism with my parents holding me. Father Phelen baptized me at Our Lady of Lourdes Church.|
Mom went back to work and finished out the year after her maternity leave. She missed the students, the nuns she taught with, and Father Phelen after she left Our Lady of Lourdes. It is sad to see it close, and it will be sad to see St James and St. Stanilaus close their doors as well. They have been a part of my life for my lifetime.