Denise Fedorow
Freelance Writer
December 14, 2017 // Local

St. Mary of the Annunciation remembers souls, saints

Denise Fedorow
Freelance Writer

A remembrance chapel. Even the name evokes warmth for the soul. The Remembrance Chapel at St. Mary of the Annunciation in Bristol is erected each year as a place to remember the souls of our dearly departed and to pray for and with them.

The entrance to the temporary chapel has white gates and angels to represent the gates of heaven. Inside, a kneeler has been placed in front of a crucifix and on either side of the crucifix are framed sayings.

The entrance to the Remembrance Chapel at St. Mary of the Annunciation in Bristol has “pearly white” gates and angels. A photo of former Bishop John M. D’Arcy is prominently displayed in the chapel in the background. The Remembrance Chapel is a place for parishioners to bring photos of their loved ones who have died. — Photos by Denise Fedorow

Father Robert Van Kempen, pastor of St. Mary of the Annunciation, said he believed the chapel started in 2005. He said he got the idea from a book on liturgical celebrations on how to celebrate All Souls’ Day. The place where the Remembrance Chapel is located, at the back of the church, used to be a baptismal chapel.

“It makes a perfect remembrance chapel,” Father Van Kempen said. “We invite people to bring in pictures a week or two beforehand.”

On All Souls’ Day they celebrate an evening Mass and especially remember those who died in the past year. Father Van Kempen said he incenses the chapel before the start of that Mass.

The Remembrance Chapel stays up throughout the month of November and is a place for people to come and remember their loved ones in a special way. The book with the names of the dead is also placed inside the chapel for parishioners to write their names so they can be prayed for.

This display of photos of departed loved ones at St. Mary of the Annunciation’s Remembrance Chapel includes a section for veterans and police officers. The Remembrance Chapel is erected throughout the month of November in the back of the Bristol church as a place for people to go and silently pray with their loved ones.

Father Van Kempen said there is a special section for veterans and police officers. Photos of Bishop John M. D’Arcy and former St. Mary pastor Father John Vrabely are prominently displayed in the chapel. Some of the pastor’s family members are also featured, including a special photo of his grandmother, great-aunt and great-grandmother.

There are several photos of Father Van Kempen embracing smiling senior parishioners — one on the celebration of her 101st birthday. Longtime parish bookkeeper, secretary and director of religious education Pat Contas is also represented in the chapel. Past parishioners or family members of parishioners, young and old alike, are being remembered in this special way.

A visitor from St. John the Evangelist in Goshen said of the chapel, “It’s just so beautiful.”

Father Van Kempen said he thinks November is a perfect month to remember the dead. He said with the weather outside and leaves falling, “It’s a nice opportunity to reflect on those who died.”

He recalled that every November his grandmother would go into a drawer and pull out the holy cards of all the people who had died and she’d pray those prayers.

“I encourage parishioners to do things like that — to visit cemeteries and graves and pray for those who’ve died and ask them to pray for us,” Father Van Kempen said.

He said most parishioners look forward to the Remembrance Chapel. “It’s a little quiet place to spend time in prayer.”

The pastor said it’s a nice reminder for him as well of those parishioners he might have buried or of parishioner’s family members. He said the first year they might have had 20 photos and each year it keeps growing and growing.

All Saints’ display

In addition, Father Van Kempen also puts out a display of saint statues for the month of November. He said it’s a way to remember all the saints throughout the month and not just on All Saints’ Day. On permanent display is a painting of St. Isaac Jogues, who was reportedly the very first patron saint of St. Mary of the Annunciation, a Jesuit missionary serving the Native Americans in the area. Father Van Kempen wanted to honor that part of the parish’s history when they celebrated the 75th anniversary last year and asked a friend to create the painting.

But added for the month of November are statues of St. Peregrine, St. Andre Bessette, St. Mother Theodore Guerin, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Patrick, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Anthony, St. Nicholas and others.

Father Van Kempen said of the Remembrance Chapel and saints display — “I always try to think of doing something different — anything to help enhance their prayer life.”


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