The bell tolls at St. John’s Church
BELLAIRE — St. John Catholic Church is ringing in an old tradition.
The church bell has been silent for many years. Thanks to the generosity of a family with longstanding ties to the church, that silence will soon be no more.
Parishioners and nearby residents will now be hearing the bell at noon and 6 p.m. daily. Thanksgiving day is targeted as the ringing debut.
The times are in conjunction with the Angelus (Latin for “angel”). It is a Christian devotion in memory of the Incarnation. The devotion was traditionally recited in Roman Catholic churches, convents and monasteries three times daily: 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m.
The 900-pound bronze bell at St. John’s stopped ringing years or decades ago. No one seems to know the exact date when silence set in.
The ringing came to a halt simply because it became a manual chore. It is no easy task finding people willing and able to pull the rope on a consistent basis. In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the Foster family, which resided on Tallman Avenue across from the church, handled much of the bellringing.
The resumption of ringing gained new life through the Doyle family, which also resided years ago on Tallman Avenue near the church.
Mary Ellen Doyle was a devout church-goer, attending Mass daily. When she passed away this past year she left money in her estate, specifically targeted for St. John’s Church.
So one of her nephews, Mike Doyle, was the executor of the estate and took the bull by the horn. He wanted to put the bequeathed money to use in a fashion “everyone could benefit.”
He and St. John’s Pastor Fr. Dan Heusel found common ground on the Angelus and the automation of the bell-ringing system.
“The ringing of the bell is a call to worship. It will also be used for Sunday Mass, funerals and weddings,” Fr. Heusel noted. “It is also a source of community pride. We are thankful for the generosity of the Doyle family.”
The Virden Bell Co. of Cincinnati recently completed the project. Also assisting the Queen City firm was parishioner Dave Jingle, who donated his electrical expertise to do the necessary wiring. The control panel is located in the rectory.
Doyle, a prominent Eastern Ohio businessman, was a catalyst in making the project come to fruition in his aunt’s memory. He also takes great family pride in it becoming reality. Doyle and one of his brothers “Dub”, financially aided the project.
“St. John’s Church is a big part of the Doyle family. My aunt was very devoted to the church and would be quite proud of the bell project,” Doyle said. “Her generosity and love for the church spearheaded the project and it was a labor of love for us to make certain it was completed. It is nice knowing that a lot of people will get joy from hearing the bells again.”
The bell was originally cast in 1872 by Van Duzen Foundry of Cincinnati.
The bell features the following inscription: DEUM LAUDO (“I PRAISE GOD”); CHRISTIANOS VOCO (“I CALL CHRISTIANS”); PRO DEFUNCTIS ORO (“I PRAY FOR THE DEAD”).
It also has the following: IN HONORE SANCTI JOANNIS (“IN HONOR OF SAINT JOHN”) PRO ECCLESIA SANCTI JOANNIE BELLAIRE OHIO AD 1872(?) P STEYLE (“FOR ST JOHN CHURCH, BELLAIRE, OH AD 1872).
The history of St. John’s Church dates back to the early 1840s. On April 2, 1924, ground was broken for a new church. The cornerstone was laid June 29, 1924, and on Nov, 8, 1925, the church was dedicated by the late Most Rev. James J. Hartley, D. D., Bishop of Columbus.
The former church was converted into a school and that building still serves today.
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