Every now and then you come across a man who seems timeless and he takes you back to when you first knew him. That is Fr. Bernelli.
Lisa and I decided to go to St. Mary’s 4:00pm Mass today. We knew it would be in SPANISH, but we really hoped Fr. Bernelli would be saying the mass. We were not disappointed. Two steps into the main entrance, he met us coming from the church to get ready for Mass. A quick “Hello, it is us, Debi and Lisa Keller” and he had his arms around us!! It felt so familiar and welcoming!! In a church we had never been in before, we felt like we were home.
We quickly caught up, How is Charlie and Mary? Where are they now? How are your kids? How are your siblings? He told us he is 76 years old! He looks the same as he always has in my mind.
Then he told us he had left St. Joseph’s 35 years ago!! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?? 35 years ago I was 16 years old. That was a year and a half BEFORE I met Vinnie!! This man has been someone in the back of my mind for a time; longer than I have known most people in my world and he took me right back to my childhood. He is the priest who comes to my mind when I think of my religious foundation. He was there with me, my family, and the St. Joseph community through my adolescent years. In my heart, I know he is a good man; an ethical man of integrity, of responsibility, of kindness, and of love. It is no wonder that he has made his home so successfully in down town Bridgeport, two minutes off of I-95. The parish must just love him.
When I told him we were visiting all the churches in the Bridgeport Diocese, his response was “Why? They are all the same!” He smiled. Then later on, as he left to go get ready for Mass, he said, “The mass is in Spanish, I hope you understand.” Lisa got a great laugh from him when she said, “It will be fine….Remember, they are all the same!”
The church was spectacular and he gave us the brief rundown of Italian glass, marble, and details; the structural community that he created with his parish 25 years ago. It was simply magnificent. It felt so comfortable to be surrounded by huge stained glass windows with the saints protecting us all and depicting the well loved stories of Christ’s life along side of us and a huge mosaic Christ in front of us. Simply amazing!