History of St. Mark Parish

 

A PARISH IS BORN

 

On the first Sunday of June, 1941, it was announced at all Masses at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception that the north end of Burlington would no longer be part of the Cathedral Parish. Along with the mission church of the Holy Cross in the Malletts Bay area of Colchester, the people of the north end would be served by the city's fifth parish, as yet unnamed. The official founding date was specified at June 17. The pastor of the new church would be Rev. William Tennien, then pastor of Saint Patrick's Church in Fairfield.

At a point "between Staniford Road and Thayer School" on North Avenue, south of where Shore Road would soon be built, William Hauke was about to begin construction of a housing development. In reporting the announcement by the Most Rev. Matthew F. Brady of the new parish, the Burlington Free Press said on June 2, "The construction of many new dwellings in this section of the city, incidental to the installation of sewer service, and prospects of further residential expansion were believed to be among the factors leading to the project."

The land for the new church and rectory was purchased from Gertrude Sternbergh, who operated the Sternbergh Crescent Woods Development along the Avenue. Chausse Real Estate Company handled the transaction for Mrs. Sternbergh, who had moved her land development business to Reading, Pennsylvania. She would become a good friend of the new pastor, correspond with him frequently, and admire his flower garden. The plot, about as big as fourteen building lots, measured 395 feet across the front and was about 475 feet deep. In announcing the land purchase, Father Ten­ nien said that, while the plans for the buildings had not yet been completed, they would be "of modern design, and it has been generally agreed that construction will not be of wood."

On June 7, officials of the Diocese signed a contract with the architectural firm of Freeman, French and Freeman "for the purpose of constructing a church in North Burlington." Coincidentally, Bishop Brady ordained seven priests at the Cathedral on that same day. As noted before, one of the young men was Edwin T. Buckley, who would become the second pastor of Saint Mark's over two decades later. After the official announcement of the founding of the new parish and of the assignment of Rev. William Tennien as its pastor, a name was selected: Saint Mark. Father Tennien, who, as founding pastor had the privilege of naming the parish, honored his brother Rev. Mark Tennien, a Maryknoll missioner serving the Catholic Church in China.

Father William A. Tennien

The new pastor was born in Pittsford, Vermont, January 30, 1895. He had four brothers and a sister, all of whom attended Pittsford public schools. He enrolled in the University of Vermont, a fellow student of young Robert Joyce. He majored in Civil Engineering, but by the end of his junior year, h told his mother that he was interested in studying for the priesthood. The next fall, he enrolled at Saint Michael's College and, contrary to popular lore, graduated from the latter institution before going to the Grande Seminaire in Montreal to pursue his priestly studies.

William Tennien was ordained by the Most Rev. Joseph Rice in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on May 26, 1923. The Commencement number of Saint Michael's Purple and Gold (May 1923) paid this compliment to its graduate of four years previous:

"It is not every day that we find a man who has practically completed his studies for a career in the world ready to throw them over and enter the lists of Christ's disciples. But this was the exceptional case of Father William Tennien. "Bill" had been following an engineering course at U.V.M. and, with but a year left before he could step out into the world as a full-fledged engineer, he heard the call to a higher life and gladly forsook all worldly ambitions to study for the Holy Priesthood.

"Though he was but a very short time at St. M. he, nevertheless, succeeded in winning a large place in the heart of Alma Mater, to whom he proved himself a loyal and devoted son. His ambition for study and his deep interest in sports and all activities easily won for him the admiration and respect of his fellows. We believe that "Bill's" priestly career actually began at St. Michael's, for we know of no student more zealous than he in his desire to recruit other laborers for Christ's Vineyard. Father Tennien made his philosophical and theological studies at the Seminary in Montreal. He never lost an opportunity to drop in and see his friends at the College when going to and from the Seminary. Now that he is at­ tached to the diocese of Burlington, St. Michael's will see him often."

Father Tennien's first assignment was as an assistant at the parish in Barton. In a year, he was transferred to the Cathedral Parish. On October 1, 1926, he became administrator of the parish in Norton. Nine years later, (August 1935) Tennien was appointed pastor of Saint Patrick's in Fair­ field where he worked until called to the pastorate of Saint Mark in Burlington. During his time at St. Pat's, Father Tennien was appointed Diocesan Director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (June 939). He took the assignment very seriously, establishing a unit of the CCD in every parish statewide, and designed a plan so good that it was copied in many a diocese around the country. Just before his new parish call, Father Tennien acted as general chairman of the first New England Regional Conference of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, held in Burlington. More than 15,000 clergy and laity attended the sessions of the conference. Father Tennien was well -known in the State of Vermont.

While serving as pastor of Saint Patrick's Parish in Fairfield, Father Ten­ nien had the opportunity to test both his civil en£1ineering skills and his theories of liturgical development. He built a church for the mission of Saint Anthony in East Fairfield.

At this time in the story, we must introduce another actor to the stage. Dominic Devost was to rather Tennien what Sancho Panza was to the fabled Don Quixote. Dominic was born in Norton and was in school there when Father Tennien came. After school, Dom would go up to the rectory and do odd jobs for the pastor, whom he came to admire greatly. When Tennien was transferred to Fairfield, Devost went with him and they became a team. He remembers vividly the pure enjoyment the pastor had in designing the mission church of Saint Anthony. Everyone in the satellite parish worked with the pastor and Dom to build the new church of fieldstone. As a result, the total project cost just $7,000. Tennien designed the structure, described as "liturgically perfect". Dom recalls, 'Td be driving the truck, and he'd be shoveling gravel. We'd work till 10 or 11 o'clock at night. The parishioners did most of the work under his supervision, sometimes 25 or 30 a night."

Jerry St. Germain who, with Arless Marvin, were the original altar boys of the parish, says, "The little house on North Avenue (1599) was the first rectory. A lot of people don't know this. Everyone thinks the church started in the Heineberg Club. That isn't true, the first Masses were said (in this) little house."

Jerry recalls just how he got to be altar boy# l: "When I was working at Mrs. Tracy's (it was a little dairy farm), I left work one afternoon about 3 o'clock, and I ran into a priest walking up the road. Being a good Catholic boy, I said, 'Good afternoon, Father.' He said, 'Good afternoon, son, are you a Catholic?' I told him I was and he went on, 'We're starting a parish out here, and would you come to Mass?' "This was, in fact, an invitation to serve Mass.

Jerry goes on, "I believe it was the 6 AM (Mass), which meant this sleepy-eyed little boy had to get out of bed to go to Mass. I did it,  and  to  make a long story short, five days later (my friend) Arless Marvin joined me and this gave me  someone  to  alternate  with.  Actually, father Tennien talked to me for quite a while when we first met. He wanted to know how far away I lived. Of course, I was just down the street at 1393 North Avenue." Jerry protested, "I've been a choir boy, but never an altar boy; do I have to know anything?" Tennien replied, "No, no, I'll teach you." Jerry was just 13 years old at the time.

Jerry's friend, Arless Marvin, talks about those first Masses in the little rectory: "There was one lady at the first Mass in the little house. Attendance picked up when people found out about this. There wasn't much room at the end of the hallway (where Tennien said Mass) for more than the priest and us (servers)." It was time to find a bigger place, especially for the Sunday Mass. The obvious site had to be the Heineberg Club.

The Heineberg Club and the Parish

We must understand the remarkable neighborhood experiment that is still the Heineberg Club in order to appreciate the hospitality that it gave the fledgling parish as a social institution. Some years before, Elin Ander­ son wrote a very interesting analysis of the Queen City. Its title is, We Americans-a Study of Cleavage in Burlington, Vt. In the preface to that book, Eduard C. Lindeman wrote,

"The promise of American democracy is resident in the life of local communities. Technology and industry tend to destroy or weaken our primary groups; the community can exist only in terms of primary groups, for the sense of community is lost when human relationships become impersonal ..."

Just five years after the founding of the Heineberg Club, the historian of the organization, Harold Bergman, wrote a booklet which told of the fulfillment of the above prescription. Its title is, The Friendly Neighborhood, a Story of the Heineberg Community Club and the People Who Made It. (1941). Bergman describes the Club in a nutshell on page 6:

"Today the Heineberg Community Club can be described as a successful reality. With a membership of more than a hundred and an attractive and useful clubhouse, it has become the focal point for all community activity. In a large measure its clubhouse is meeting its function as a genuine community center. Here the men, women and children of the neighborhood hold meetings of their varied organizations. Here the women come to sew for the Red Cross and to have meetings of their Home Demonstration group. Here the community troops of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Brownie Scouts, sponsored by the club, hold their meetings. To this building, also, come the people of the neighborhood for recreation, education and social intercourse. Dances, bingo parties, card parties, banquets, movies, lectures-all these help to weld neighbors into friends, to give the community in the city that richness and fullness ordinarily found only in the small town and village."

Many of the members of the Club were also members of the new parish. It isn't surprising that the same spirit of community and adventure were just as much a part of the infant Parish of Saint Mark. In 1981, Leo Martin was interviewed by a columnist for the north end's That Paper.  Leo and his wife Evelyn lived in the house they had built nearly sixty years ago on Ethan Allen Parkway. He loved to talk about what the north end was like in those days, remembering that: the Parkway had been known as Goodrich Road and, later, Bradley Road; just across the street was the Poor Farm (now the site of C.P. Smith School); a few hundred yards to the north of the Martin house was the home of Anton Hofrichter, who had owned most of the land in the area; a quarter mile down the dirt road was the Howe Farm, which was backed up by summer camps on the Winooski River.

The Club owes its origins to a strong desire on the part of northenders to rescind a Telephone Company decision that a call from Burlington to that area would be charged as "long distance". A group met at the Pine Glen Tavern and elected a University of Vermont Professor, Howard Millington, its first president. Dues were 25¢ a year. Martin was the third president of the Heineberg Club. While in that position, he bought an old building on the Corenco property (now Leddy Park) and had it moved to a site on what would eventually be Heineberg Road. The name for the Club was a tribute to a prominent physician who commuted daily from his Colchester home to his practice in nearby Burlington, making the trip via a long-gone bridge across the Winooski River.

Again, while serving as the Club's third president, Leo Martin was approached by a priest who had just been appointed pastor of a parish which would be located but a few hundred yards from the Club House. Father Tennien had a problem. He had to find a place which would hold well over a hundred people and where Sunday Mass could be celebrated until the new Saint Mark's Church was built. An arrangement was made to hold services at 8 AM and 10 AM on Sunday mornings. He also asked Mr. Martin to usher at the 10 AM Mass. Leo continued in that role until October 30, 1983. The Martins' daughter, Marilyn Siple, ended a note, "P.S., My Dad passed away in January, 1987."

 In the meantime, the 1599 North Avenue rectory was the site of daily Mass, baptisms and even weddings. The wooded area purchased for the church and rectory had to be cleared. Dominic Devost, who was Tennien's right arm, says, ''I've worked in the parish ever since I came here. I helped to chop down the trees ... this was a regular forest out here. The Northend was mostly farmland. A Mr. Owens (James H. Owens, retired, of 1218 North Avenue) supervised the chopping down of the trees and did most of it with an axe. He always felled a tree exactly where he wanted it. All the wood was sawn by hand." Some of the wood was destined to be used later in creating the liturgical art for the church.

The first Mass at the Heineberg Club was celebrated on July 6, 1941. Dominic says, "I stayed at the Rectory from the time we came in 1940. Holy Cross was our mission church. I never got to go to Mass here because my job was to drive Father De Voy out there every Sunday while Monsignor (Tennien) said Mass at the Club. Father De Voy lived at Saint Joseph's Orphanage. He loved the kids and sometimes you could see him walking along with about 200 of them following behind."

The Parish of Saint Mark was carved from the territory of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception parish. The mission church of Holy Cross existed prior to the founding of the new parish, to which it became attached. The increasing numbers of north end residents were attending the Cathedral or Saint Joseph's Church, often using the bus to go "uptown". Others would drive to the mission church. Fund-raising for the new parish, yet to be established, goes back to 1939. In an interview in July 1975, Michael Peck, then 80 years old, recalled his chairmanship of the first lawn parties. These would become one of the principal methods of raising money other than the regular Sunday and Holyday collections. "The first lawn par­ ties were held at the Heineberg Club. The party site was the front lawn of the clubhouse-there was no street there then-and later moved to the grounds of the church."

The first few parties earned about $400-$500 through numerous games and a chicken barbecue, which highlighted the events. Peck said, "We had no money, and many prizes were donated goods that the (people) solicited from merchants in town."  Peck further explained that in 1939, the Jewish owner of "Green's" store donated a crucifix, while Woolworth's gave a bag of "white elephants." Kresges gave jewelry and Hall's donated furniture. Peck went on to work on the annual lawn parties for twenty-five years, often co-chairing the events with Harvey Marrier.

The Parish of Saint Mark was ready to start a new chapter in its history.

AN IDEA IS BORN

This chapter must begin with an anecdote from Dominic Devost: "When we were up in Fairfield, he (Tennien) would say, 'When I build the next church, I'm going to have the altar in the center.' I said to him, gosh, that doesn't make sense. He just said, 'Wait and see, that's the way I'm going to have it.' He was on top of everything. When they'd bring in a Joad of cement, he'd check it with a thermometer. More than once he'd say, 'That cement has too much water, bring me a load of real cement. I can't waste the parishioners' money.' He supervised everything. He wanted everything to be perfect.''

Much of what father Tennien did must have seemed unorthodox and his subsequent liturgical innovations probably caused a few ultratraditionalist clerics to have apoplexy. While he had a very specific vision of the church he wanted to build, and despite his three years' training as a civil engineer, Tennien was wise enough to engage professional architects to draw the plan and building specifications. He picked the firm of Freeman, French & Freeman, a company of Protestants who had never built a church. There was "method to his madness". He instructed the architects to "forget anything you know about designing churches." When Bill Freeman, a Naval Reservist, was called to active duty, a journeyman architect, Tom Creighton was assigned to the job. (Tom would later go on to edit the architectural journal, Pencil Points.) The firm's members frequently corresponded with father Tennien, often in hand-written letters.

In a paper delivered to a national conference on the liturgical arts a few years later, father Tennien maintained,

"The architectural approach to Saint Mark's was not architectural at all-atleast, not in the generally accepted meaning of the term. One might say that our architectural approach was liturgical, in the sense that we made an effort to interpret the liturgical mind of the Church in terms of brick and mortar. We tried to express with bricks and mortar what the Church thinks a parish church ought to be.

"It seems to me that a parish church is essentially a building constructed for the purpose of protecting the parishioners from the elements while they offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is not primarily a temple; it is not primarily a place to pray; it is not primarily-let us recognize it-a place for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament; it is not primarily a place for preaching the Word of God, nor a place to make the Way of the Cross, nor is it primarily for novenas. Much less is a church primarily a glorified, even consecrated, art gallery for the display of the  arts of  man, his sculpture, his painting, his glass, metal work, design; it is not even primarily a place to baptize our children, to marry them when they grow up, or to pray over them when they die. A parish church is not any of these things first; yet it can be, and should be, all of them secondarily. First of all, and before all other things, a parish church is a place where all the members of the parish family gather round the Altar of Sacrifice with their pastor, and together offer their Lord Jesus Christ as Victim for their sins. 'This is My Blood of the New Testament which was shed for the sins of many.' A parish church is a place where we shed that Blood. It is the place where we offer Mass."

The architects were told to never lose sight of the fact that the most important thing in any church is the altar. Tennien went out to the plot of partially cleared land and stuck a tree branch into the ground where he envisioned the altar should be. Later he said, "Visualizing my parish family attending Mass there in the woods, we realized that if they were free to move about, they would have the tendency to form a kind of circle around the altar, some opposite the celebrant and some at each end.''

If the congregation were to be divided into three equal groups, they would form three arms of a cross and the fourth arm could be where the pulpit, choir, organ and sacristy is placed. While he was evolving his liturgically-based design, William Tennien corresponded with  many liturgical  thinkers  and  authorities  about  the  general  nature  of  his  plan, as well as about its many details. He wrote to Rev. Godfrey Diekmann, OSB, at Liturgical Press, Joseph Larue at American Ecclesiastical Review and the Rev. Gerald Ellard, S.J., of Saint Mary's College, to name a few. But perhaps he formed his closest friendship and professional alliance with Maurice Lavanoux, editor of Liturgical Arts magazine and secretary of the Catholic Liturgical Society. He wrote to him, "What we wanted to do was to pick up the Mass and hurl it into the very midst of the congregation.  We wanted it to have the force of a bomb exploding which is what the Mass has."

While one can get a feeling for what Tennien was attempting to do during the very period of the planning by reading his correspondence with trusted associates, the most perfect picture, unfortunately, must be drawn from the thoughts he put on paper and into lectures several years after the work had been accomplished. On one occasion he said, "I might as well admit it. Saint Mark's ...  was built also to prove that a church can be as contemporary as a V-3 Rocket and still be what a church ought to be-beautiful, warm, inviting, devotional and inspiring, a veritable house of God, worthy of the Mysteries enacted therein."

There was no detail of structure or furnishings that escaped William Tennien's attention. Whichever side of the altar the pastor would choose to say Mass would require a low profile tabernacle. Most liturgical artists of the time were designing these housings for the Host as if they were miniature mountains. There was also the probability that Mass would some­ day be said facing the congregation. That made it important for the tabernacle to be accessible from both sides. Once in a while, even Tennien got carried away. In a response to a letter in which Tennien bounced this idea off his friend Lavanoux, Maurice replied,

"Personally it seems to me that your proposed arrangement of the tabernacle operated by a hydraulic lift is somewhat in the nature of a stunt, and I think the difficulty engendered by the obstruction of the tabernacle when the priest says Mass facing the people could be overcome by a change in the rubrics whereby the main altar would be entirely free of any tabernacle, and reservation of the Host would be made in a separate chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. It seems to me that this would be the best solution of the problem which continually crops up in cases similar to yours."

Lavanoux was always anxious to come to Burlington where he found excitement in the liturgical developments of the day. ln one letter he said, " ... here again the question of expense comes up. Do you think there is any possibility of securing a lecture engagement in Burlington-perhaps with the combined assistance of Saint Anthony and Saint Joseph parishes? My usual fee is sixty dollars, but in this case, I would gladly give the lecture for half or thereabouts."

When the design of the basic structure was completed to Father Tennien's satisfaction as well to that of the architects, Freeman, French & Freeman engaged the firm of Victor Bergeron to do the construction of the church and rectory. On September 12, 1941, ground was broken for the new church by Bishop Brady. On the following November 8, the corner­ stone of the church was laid by the Bishop after the 10 o'clock Mass at the Heineberg Club. Altar Boy Arless Marvin remembers, "It was a beautiful, beautiful day when we left the Heineberg Club. I was in the lead with the cross and behind me was the Bishop with his mitre. All the people followed us over. That's when we laid the cornerstone." Many parishioners who at­ tended the ceremony remember that a wooden cross was planted in the ground where the altar would stand later.

Construction proceeded through the winter at a surprisingly rapid pace. At one point, work was held up briefly because of a shortage of steel. Despite the priorities for wartime materiel, Vermont Structural Steel soon delivered. The walls of the church were constructed of red brick locally manufactured. The paneling chosen was an oak veneered plywood, the joints of which were filled with a red oakum. In an interview with a reporter of the Burlington Daily News, Tennien characterized the selection of building materials this way, "There are no false arches and there is no plaster made to look like oak. The materials and design of the church appear exactly as they are. We attempted to express the tempo of the times through the architecture." He frequently characterized the design as "modern, but not modernistic." While the Art Deco style of architecture and decoration was well recognized as early as the mid-twenties, no one ever applied the term to Saint Mark's Church. However, there are several unmistakable telltales of that style in such things as the communion rail, the glass block windows, and even the pediment of the altar.

The external decoration planned by Father Tennien specified large terra cotta statues to be placed over the side entrances to the church. On the south side would be Our Lady of Peace, and over the north entrance, Christ the King. On 19 November 1941, sculptor Raymond Barger wrote from his New York studio, "By Saturday, we will have the six-foot, six-inch figure, which you saw, cast in plaster and delivered to the terracotta plant in Perth Amboy. We will send you a photograph in the early part of next week. We enjoyed your visit very much, and think the Stations will look very well with the metal halos and lettering on them." The accompanying invoice for $1,000 asked for immediate payment of $500. Barger noted in the letter that the latter amount was largely to pay for the terra cotta work. The wooden cross mounted over the main entrance would not receive its corpus until the tenth anniversary celebration of the church's founding.

A week later, Barger forwarded a sketch for the wood carving behind the altar, adding that he thought the halo should be in some shiny material such as ebony. Just before Christmas, he quoted "... $375.00 a piece which, again I believe you will agree with us, is a low price for original work of this type."

The interior decoration of the church was heading toward at least partial completion before the mid-1942 dedication date. On 2 December 1941, Tennien's friend and consultor, Maurice Lavanoux, wrote,

"A young sculptor friend of mine from Boston, Robert Amendola, called at the office (Liturgical Arts Society) this morning and told me about a friend of his, Paul Nilsson. We called on Mr. Nilsson at Raymond Barger's studio, and I saw there some of the models for the Stations of the Cross in your new church. You are certainly going to have unique Stations and I am delighted to see you are giving this young sculptor an opportunity to do something worthwhile.

"... When your church is completed, I hope you will give Lit. Arts (Liturgical Arts magazine) a chance to write it up and show illustrations, etc."

The Rambusch Decorating Company of New York City had been commissioned to provide certain aspects of interior decor and would be used in the next few years increasingly as the decoration of the church was completed and perfected. Regarding the Stations, Raymond Barger told Father Tennien in a letter dated 14 January 1942, "We ...  received a sample of the ceiling color from Rambusch, are trying to get a color glaze that will more nearly match it.  As soon as we receive the new sample for the stations, we will forward it to you." The details of the interior were looked after painstakingly by both the pastor and the liturgical artists who made a mighty effort to interpret his concepts of beauty and liturgical propriety. The color for the ceiling was a bluish white meant to suggest a clear sky. The lighting in the flat ceiling, provided by Rambusch, was also on the design cutting edge. The fixtures were recessed and their 300 watt bulbs were silvered internally on their bottoms so that the light was bounced from source to internal reflector. The fixtures are still there today, but the silvered bulbs have disappeared. The softness of the original lights has also disappeared.

In February, Barger again wrote,

"The two six-foot, six-inch figures and the models for the porcelain stations are ready. We can deliver the two large figures now, but it will be two months before the stations will be finished in porcelain. Shall we bring the two pieces to Burlington now and later send the stations? I would like to bring the figures and the stations together since the job doesn't allow for me to make more than one trip; however, if you thought it was worth the expense to you, we would make a special trip, and install the stations on the wall.

"The glaze on the stations will be as you suggested, a semi­ glossy finish, and the color will be that of the rectangular sample you selected and returned to us.

 "The wooden crosses for the stations should be made at this time. Our price is $5.00 per cross. If you want us to do them, please let us know."

The correspondence from Barger is a tribute to both Tennien's respect for perfection and his uncanny ability to drive a bargain. Each of the stations would have a single word theme such as, "Condemned", or "Mother".

The altar was literally the centerpiece of the Tennien design and would also take the brunt of early misgivings and later criticism. Lavanoux had already characterized the elevator tabernacle as a "stunt". Godfrey Diekmann, OSB, at the Liturgical Press in Collegeville, Minnesota, shared Tennien's idea of a hydraulically operated tabernacle with his colleagues, and judged that one of the requirements of such a receptacle is to be visible and to propagate thereby devotion to the Eucharist. Admitting that such a request had never before been made, his response in part says, "As you may have deduced by now, Father, our rubricists are not exactly wildly in favor of your plan." Rev. Joseph Larue, editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review, took an equally dim view of piercing the table or "mensa" of the altar to install any mechanical device. The critics also felt a turntable-mounted tabernacle was out of the question. The low-profile tabernacle with doors on both sides seemed to solve the problem without violating rubrical tradition.

The altar, a gift from "a prominent Burlington woman who preferred to remain anonymous", is made of Vermont verde antique marble, which might be better characterized as "black". The base is made of the same material. Each slab weighs about one ton. The floor of the sanctuary is of tile-size pieces of imperial red marble quarried near Swanton. The out­ side edge is highlighted by the same marble as was used for the altar. The Vermont Marble Company of Rochester, supplied the marble and, for years, proudly showed photographs of the installation to prospective customers. The communion rail has three flats of walnut and maple laminated to offer a color contrast. It is mounted on polished brass columns. Above the altar hangs the crucified figure of Christ, carved of holly tree wood fastened to a cross of Macassar ebony. It is suspended from an oak canopy or baldachin on which is carved the traditional Christian symbols. The "lantern" above is glazed with the same glass bricks as the windows of the church. A graceful "fleche" towers over the lantern, topped with a gold ball and a cast aluminum cross. Under each window is a contrasting panel of slate.

The Arkansas white oak pews, seating 160 people in each wing, were supplied by the Amasa Pratt Company of Lowell, Massachusetts at a cost installed of $2,375.00. The rest of the interior is of the same simple red brick as the outside of the church. The floor was inlaid linoleum. There is a light-hearted anecdote associated with that floor. When I began to write the history of Saint Mark's, I sent out an appeal to early parishioners for information. The first response was a telephone call from Ed Mutch. "I want you to know," he said, "that I was the first person on his knees in that church. I laid the linoleum."

The baptistry was located off the south wing of the church and, at the time of the dedication was very sparsely furnished. Two confessionals (now Reconciliation rooms) were placed on either side of the main entrance.

The fourteen room rectory, also designed by Tennien, was made with the same attention to detail and perfection as the church. Jerry St. Germain, the first altar boy, recalls that Father Tennien, always on the lookout for a "good" bargain, bought some of the wood doors removed from the cruise ship, Normandie, when she was outfitted as a troop carrier. The doors were used in the rectory construction. Initially, this building was connected to the church only by a walkway.

Underneath the church was a steam heating system that served both buildings. On December 22, 1941, the architects requested the G.S. Blodgett Company to install an oil burner and storage tanks instead of the Skelly Anthracite Stoker originally specified. The project received government approval because the use of the oil burner saved a large amount of critically needed steel.

Finally, on 14 June 1942, Bishop Brady blessed the interior of the new church, assisted in the ritual by Father Tennien, Rev. Francis McDonough of East Dorset, and the Rev. James E. Horan, who was the Master of Ceremonies. During the Mass which followed, the Bishop watched from his "throne", one of Father Tennien's best dining room chairs. The affair was described the next day in the Burlington Daily News:

"Catholics from the immediate vicinity and, despite the rain, from widely separated parishes, flocked into the new St. Mark's Church on North Avenue near Staniford Road for the structure's dedication in the morning.

"And all afternoon, people entered the Church, which is built in the form of a huge cross, to kneel before the altar in the center. As they left, pride and happiness showed on their faces at this new symbol of progress in a world confused by war.

"The pastor, Father William A. Tennien, looked happy, too. For this building represented to him the realization of a dream."

On the following Wednesday, the altar was consecretared by Bishop Brady. The relics placed in the mensa were those of Saint Mark, Saint Matthew, and Saint James the Greater. They were obtained from the Grey Nuns in Montreal for the sum of three dollars! The parish was now a material reality, and despite the many things yet to be done, it was definitely "in business". On the following August 10, Freeman, French & Freeman approved the final payment to the general contractor, Victor A. Bergeron. Total: $66,624.09.

 

 

 

 

Love Your God


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