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Long Beach church celebrates a century

Father Brian Barr of St. Mary of the

Father Brian Barr of St. Mary of the Isle Church in Long Beach, speaks as the parish celebrates its 100th anniversary by the ringing of its bells at noon on Friday, July 10, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

The sounds of bells are ringing at St. Mary of the Isle Church for the first time in a century.

The 100-year-old church had never had bells in its bell tower overlooking the Atlantic, but officials officially celebrated its centennial Friday with a new stereo system, added to the church to simulate the sound of bells every hour through the day along Long Beach's busy Park Avenue.

"It's a reminder of the presence of the church and reminder of our faith," the Rev. Brian Barr said. "The purpose of the church isn't just what happens inside. We want to bring the message to the streets. The church's word shouldn't stay inside these four walls."

The church opened on July 4, 1915, and marked its anniversary Friday with a church fair and casino night. They centennial celebration is continuing this weekend. The church at Park Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard also sponsors a weekly Sunday night Mass on the beach.

Church founders established the parish under the former Diocese of Brooklyn when the rectory was the bishop's private home, Barr said. The bell tower sits about .3 mile from the beach, but it would serve as a landmark, like a lighthouse, to ships pulling into the New York Harbor past Long Beach.

The church survived superstorm Sandy in 2012 and members never missed a mass, Barr said. The storm left about 18 inches water in the chapel and closed the church for about 10 months.

During Sandy, the church moved its Mass to the parish hall next door and provided food and clothes to the community. Church officials continue to provide a soup kitchen and food pantry.

"This is a historic church and incredible day," Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman said. "After Sandy, this was a real beacon during a difficult time."

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