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Parish Pioneers

Marge Zarlengo, Carla O'Leary & Bob Zarlengo

The Zarlengo family, headed by Dr. Charles and his wife, Marge, joined Our Lady of Fatima Parish after moving to Lakewood in 1958. They were thrilled to hear that Archbishop Urban J. Vehr had approved the new parish and had asked Fr. Robert Syrianey to be its pastor, because Fr. Syrianey and Dr. Charles were longtime friends. There were many Catholics in this area then, and it was the perfect location. In fact, when the school opened several years later, they moved their youngest child, Gerry, from St. Bernadette Parish to Our Lady of Fatima right away, under the advice of Fr. Syrianey. Gerry was in second grade, and was among the very first class of students at the new school. Marge was a charter member of the Altar and Rosary Society, which continues to this day, 58 years later!

Marge and two of her children, Carla and Bob, all remember attending Sunday Mass at the Lakewood High School auditorium and daily Mass at the rectory just down the street on Miller before the church was built. Cherished memories include attending the ice cream socials, Altar and Rosary luncheons with fashion shows where our parishioners were the models, CYO basketball games and dances, and truly, any event or activity the parish put on. They all said that the parish was a family. Not LIKE a family, it WAS a family. Marge recalled that the priests we were blessed with in those early days were such a blessing from God. They attended all functions, were always at the school and were part of everyone's family life. They all agree that the parish was an integral part of everyone's life, not just church life, but social life as well. They were not separate, nor separable.

Those who impacted the faith life of the Zarlengos were many. Carla remembers how vibrant Sr. Claire Carr was with the young adults/singles group. She was such a blessing and brought much life to the group, and so much faith. In fact, there were a good number of marriages that sprung from the group, including Carla and Richard's!

Bob very fondly recalls how Fr. Ken Leone impacted his faith life. His love for youth was so evident, and still is today. He was and is a true faith witness for young people. He started the SEARCH for Christian Maturity in the archdiocese and invited some of the youth of Fatima to make the initial SEARCH. Bob also reminisced about Monsignor Harley Schmitt, and what a faithful, pastoral man he was. Marge reiterated that each one of the priests and deacons was instrumental in her life, by their faith and examples.

One thing that Carla recalls which really impacted her faith, was, as a child, witnessing Fr. Syrianey pray before every Mass. He would arrive early in his black shirt and pants, enter the church, kneel, close his eyes and bow his head and pray fervently. She remembers seeing not just with her eyes, but with her heart too, how faithful Father was, and it affected her in a very deep and positive way.

A couple of humorous stories were shared. The family prayed the Rosary in the evenings, and when Gerry was too young to participate he would go into his room during that time. He would always “say Mass” in there while the rest of the family was praying. They laughed and recalled how they could hear him singing in Latin at the top of his voice while they were trying to pray the Rosary.

After Vatican II, when the guitar Masses were started, Gerry and some of the other young people led the music at the youth Masses. Bob recalled that the “Amen” could get pretty drawn out, and Father would whisper, "Do you have to sing all those amens?"

The Zarlengos tried to teach their children to think of the priests as part of the family. They needed to address them as “Father,” but they were to be treated like family. One day after Mass, as they were leaving, pre-school aged Gerry waved at Fr. Syrianey and said "Bye Dad!"

All of the Zarlengos feel that the blessing of our parish under Mary, Our Lady of Fatima has been nothing but a gift. Our Lady has always been known to make children welcome. This teaching, and our parish's devotion to the Blessed Mother, was rooted in them from the beginning, and has formed a lifelong love for her Son.

The Zarlengo Family has been blessed by being a part of Our Lady of Fatima, and the parish has without a doubt been blessed by their presence.