By Nora Kerr
Memories of SRB Past, Thoughts of the Present, and Looking Toward the Future
Enzo Mion has become an institution at St. Roberts over the years.
“In my years at SRB, people will often use Enzo as a reference point, such as someone has been a parishioner longer than Enzo,” joked Joy Stauber, who interviewed Enzo and other long-time SRB members earlier this year.
Not surprisingly, Enzo did not disappoint and told many stories of his earlier days with the parish. He and his family came into the neighborhood in 1971, finding an idyllic property right near Dunham Park. The day he moved in, he bumped into an old grade school classmate and felt right at home. Enzo had 3 daughters of his own and enrolled them at St. Roberts right away.
“All my children AND grandchildren graduated from here,” said Enzo.
His wife Pat played the accordion and had a beautiful singing voice. Her musical skills were immediately put to use for the parish talent show. Enzo was quick to join in and help—not one to miss a good party.
“A lot of the Holy Name guys got involved. Picture 12 guys with wigs and makeup, with balloons stuffed in our shirts.”
These were the days of the St. Roberts Follies – an annual variety show and fundraiser for the parish that ran from 1972–1975. The shows involved intensive decorations and mandatory rehearsals to memorize skits, songs and dances much in the spirit of the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, or Abbott and Costello.
“They put a big stage together and we had 12-15 acts. There were 6 other shows running throughout the building. We made good money and ran 2 weekends.”
The show was a hit. People from other parishes would come to see the performance. Each room of the school was decked out in a different theme and took a village to put on.
“There was the Egyptian room, the 20s room… we had 100 people volunteering to write scripts.”
Enzo also reflected on less than happy moments in our church history, such as the fire of 1988.
“We borrowed vestments from St. Constance and a chalice from OLV for 7am mass that morning.”
The damage to the new church was extensive, but it didn’t stop parishioners from gathering in the school gym to pray. The people of St. Roberts came together and fundraised enough money to rebuild the current church that stands today, dedicated in 1990.
This spirit of coming together has been seen time and time again when reflecting on parish history. St. Roberts brought people together. Parish events such as golf outings, spaghetti dinners, Holy Name dances, and spaghetti dinners all serve as special memories to these long-standing parishioners. Enzo was always happy to volunteer.
“All of us guys were working 50 hours a week, but still found time during the month to get together and work an event.”
Enzo joined the school board shortly after retiring, where he still holds a seat today.
“They keep me busy and keep my nose in what’s going on around here,” said Enzo.
Phillip and Dolly Lukose are other longtime parishioners of St. Roberts, coming to the parish in 1983. All four of their children went to SRB.
“We are from South India,” said Phillip. “We came to Chicago in 1983 as migrants. I married this young lady [pointing to Dolly] had 4 kids, and found out St. Roberts was a good place for young families.”
The Lukose family has remained here ever since and live a half block from the church.
“We had many bad times and many good times here,” said Phillip.
Dolly spoke of the parish’s warm reception.
“We’re one of the few Indians here, and everyone has made us feel so welcome. Everyone is so supportive.”
John and Margaret Callaghan are also long-time members of St. Robert Bellarmine.
“I’ve been with the parish 73 years,” said John, “I did all my schooling here and my sons went to school here.”
He still gets together with many of his old SRB classmates, graduates of the class of 1953. He points to one of his peers across the room, Julie Gaskin. (See her story here.)
“We started first grade here over 70 years ago. We still laugh about the same things. St. Roberts was the glue that held us together. Like a bunch of old men, we get together and talk about the past—all the great times and good memories.”
John recalls classrooms of 60 students with one nun to manage them all.
“There were 8 nuns—one for each classroom, plus a cook,” said John.
Fr. Gillespie, the founding pastor, was larger than life back then. John remembers Father roaming the halls and times young John was lucky enough to shake hands with him.
After 70 years, even John is surprised he is still here.
“If it were up to my sons, we would’ve moved away many years ago. We go to Florida and come back and say we’re only going to stay one more year. You young people come in but us old people don’t feel pushed out.”
John’s wife Margaret married into the parish and was happy to send her two sons here. She recalls hearing the horrible news of the parish fire.
“I remember hearing the alarms, I drove here and it was so horrifying.”
The church was engulfed in flames. Reporters and gawkers were everywhere.
“I don’t know who I was talking to, but I turned to this woman next to me and said, ‘We’re going to build this church again.’”
That woman was a reporter and the statement became a rally cry.
“That sound clip was all over the media.”
Margaret mirrors John’s sentiment about leaving the area.
“It’s been a great 50 years. We’ve thought about moving, but it’s too late now,” she said with a laugh.
John seems happy enough to call SRB his forever home.
“I ain’t going nowhere.”