Parish Pioneer

Barbi Duggan Eggar

I’ve been a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima my entire life. I was a baby when the founding pastor, Father Robert Syrianey baptized me in 1960. The truth is I received all of my sacraments, including marriage, at Our Lady of Fatima.

My understanding is that the parish was formed because St. Bernadette Parish was getting too big. The fact that my parents lived one block from the parish grounds was coincidental but a true blessing. Of course, we could walk to church and we did.

In the 1960s there were so many Catholic families living in the area. Many of Fatima’s parishioners sent their children to school here. They could afford to pay private school tuition as it wasn’t as expensive in those days as it is today.

My memories of Fatima are very positive. It was just like a big and wonderful family. In the early days, everyone took care of everyone else. We all knew one another. The nuns and priests were like members of our families. I seem to remember it being that way through the 1980’s and even into the 1990’s. We had regular parties, dinners and gatherings to celebrate all kinds of occasions. These were not just church gatherings, as they seem more to be today, but social gatherings.

One of my favorites was the annual New Year’s Eve party when Father Mel Thompson was pastor. The people who ran it and other events always made certain there was great entertainment and good food. The events were so much more than fun; they were a way of building our church community. I also remember we seemed to have many reasons for getting together and enjoying good times on other occasions. Of course, I’m not sure everyone felt that way about all the parties but I sure did. I was disappointed when they ended but many things were changing, including the times.

I have such a strong appreciation for the way it was in the early days and when I was a child. I think others who were here in the 1960s and the several decades after would agree that the parish was such a big part of a parishioner’s everyday life. For me, it was a good place to grow up.

One of the best examples of community happened when my dad died. I was in 6th grade at the time. People rallied around and helped our family. It was wonderful. I remember another classmate who lost her dad the same year and another who lost her mother the year before. We suffered loss, yes, but we felt so loved by the rest of the parishioners here. Everyone took care of us, both physically and emotionally. They were great friends.

I can’t say there was one specific person or event that had the most impact on me. It was simply the community and family atmosphere created by all the families and parishioners. Even though the nuns were strict, both they and the priests were deeply involved in our family and church life. Maybe it was that way because I went to school here. I don’t know, but I remember attending a 30-year class reunion 10 years ago. I think about 75% of my former classmates came for the reunion. That’s a pretty high percentage. I could tell we had such a strong bond, despite the fact that many of the attendees were no longer practicing.

What makes Our Lady of Fatima Parish? I think there is great faith at this parish. There is a core group of people who are strong believers and they act upon that belief. They pray, they minister, and they contribute. I’d like to think I’m one of those parishioners. Interestingly, I went through the parish directory recently and saw that there are a lot of parents of my former classmates who still belong. We are a special community from then until now. Even though there have been a lot of changes, there is still the “core” that lives and breathes life into our parish.

I truly appreciate the community that is at Our Lady of Fatima Parish today.  For me, it’s like a second home. I think the key to feeling this way and having an active faith life is participation. It is what draws you in and keeps you. Being a participant shows a person what church really is and can be. Church is not a building; it is people. When you decide to participate, you become part of the church. None of us is an island, so don’t live like one. Find one thing to participate in and get involved!