At 100, it’s a new ‘Parish Community of St. Bridget’

| October 14, 2015 | 0 Comments
Father Anthony Criscitelli and Deacon Rich Heineman lead the Palm Sunday liturgy at St. Bridget in north Minneapolis.

Father Anthony Criscitelli and Deacon Rich Heineman lead the Palm Sunday liturgy at St. Bridget in north Minneapolis.

The story goes that 100 years ago the first pastor of St. Bridget in north Minneapolis carried boards from the lumberyards across the Mississippi River so St. Bridget Parish could build its first church.

One hundred years later, a people-person priest is helping fashion a new St. Bridget, what’s purposefully called “The Parish Community of St. Bridget” as the result of the merger of St. Bridget and nearby St. Austin Parish.

St. Bridget has been holding centennial year events throughout 2015, and will close celebration Nov. 21 with a 4:30 p.m. Mass followed by a dinner dance.

Father James Donahoe, described in the parish history as “renowned for his kindness, charity and industriousness,” was the priest who established St. Bridget in 1915.

Father Anthony Criscitelli, a Third Order Franciscan, is the current pastor and the one whom Deacon Rich Heineman credits with pulling parishioners of St. Bridget and St. Austin together.

Deacon Heineman, who grew up in St. Bridget, said the inclusive approach of the priest folks call Father Anthony has helped in the process of uniting members of both parishes.

“I can’t imagine it going any better,” the deacon said. “More and more I see folks coming back who might have left because of the merger. I think it’s because they know Father Anthony has no hidden agenda. He’s just there to serve the people and the Church.

“He’s an amazing parish priest,” he added. “He’s very personable. If you get within three feet of him you’re going to get a hug.”

One sign of the accommodation to former members of both the joined parishes is switching the days of weekend Masses every six months. For half the year the 4:30 p.m. Saturday Mass is held at St. Bridget at Emerson and Dowling Avenues and the 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Austin Church a little over a mile west at 40th Street and Upton Avenue. Then they switch, with the Saturday Mass on the St. Austin campus and the Sunday Mass back at St. Bridget Church.

Daily Mass alternates between campuses, too.

Deacon Heineman said he once suggested Father Crisitelli ease upon the heavy Mass schedule he keeps.

“Father Anthony said, ‘Why would I want to take a day off [from Mass]? That’s the highlight of my day.’ He just has a love for liturgy and the Eucharist, and it shows,” the deacon said.

Along with its sacramental life, the parish also works to form a deeper sense of community with the people of the northside neighborhood, holding Bridget‘s Table, a once-a-month free meal for those who live in the area, and hosting the annual “Heart of the Northside Festival.”

‘A sign of hope’

Parishioners began observing the centenary last November with a special Mass and a reception.

A January Mass commemorated the reception of St. Austin into St. Bridget, a February tea marked the Solemnity of St. Bridget of Ireland, a May anniversary Mass and parish picnic and a June all-school reunion were the highlights of the year-long observance.

In September, Father Anthony led a centenary pilgrimage to Ireland for 38 parishioners which included a special stop at Kildare, the home of St. Bridget, a nun and monastery foundress who died in 525.

Where once St. Bridget Parish alone boasted more than 1,200 families, the parish was at 250 families when it merged with St. Austin in January, 2012.

The written parish history sums up the current sentiment at St. Bridget:

“For almost 100 years the parish community of St. Bridget has been an important presence on the north side of Minneapolis. Now, with the welcome addition of our St. Austin campus and their own history of ministry and presence in the community, we can have an even greater impact on our neighborhood and continue to be a force for good and a sign of hope.”

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Category: Local News