South Baltimore Church Turns 100 With Songs, Joy

St. Athanasius Parishioner Also 100

April 22, 1991|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff writer

"Do you think Vince can pick up the polka cakes?" the secretary of St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church asks the priest.

"Of course," says Father Brendan T. Carr.

Of course, because for 100 years, this South Baltimore church -- located just over the county line in Curtis Bay -- has been the sort of ethnically diverse place where folks love to polka and love to help each other out.

"They volunteer for everything. They always get along. They're just nice, nice people," says Father Carr.

More than 500 members are celebrating the church's centennial with special Masses, dances and church picnics.

For one church member, it's also a personal celebration. Lottie Kasubinski is turning 100, along with the church.

"She and the church were made at the same time," says Father Carr, with a twinkle.

The 99-year-old still comes to churchevery Sunday, as she has since 1912, and she still tells stories of the old days.

"I started here when I married, when I was 21. We wore hats and gloves to church in those days, or kerchiefs. We never would go to church without anything on our head," says Kasubinski.

"We couldn't receive Holy Communion unless you went to confession first. And all my 11 children were christened in that church, and some married there."

Kasubinski's husband died 42 years ago, and all of her friends are gone, but the place is rooted in her heart.

"I lovemy parish. I done everything I could do for them while I was young,"she says.

When she was young, St. Athanasius was pastored by the fifth of nine priests in its history, and, says Carr, the best loved. Father Paul Sandalgi, who served almost continuously as priest from 1909 to 1955, was a legend even among priests. The son of a diplomat, Sandalgi was descended, the story goes, from Turkish nobility on his mother's side, a brilliant man who spoke 13 languages yet had a kindness church members still talk about.

"He was here 46 years, and he was much beloved of them," Carr says. "He's the one they always talk about."

Irish immigrants had started the small brick church, perched on a hill over Baltimore's industrialized outer harbor.

Two pastors later, by the turn of the century, the congregation had shifted to Polish. Later, during the World War II, ethnic groups emigratedto the area from the coal mining districts of Pennsylvania, resulting in the church's present mix of Czechoslovakian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Irish, German, Polish and Bohemian families.

The church continues to celebrate all sorts of national holidays, including the various independence days, Carr says.

Most of the members of this thriving, financially stable church are senior citizens, the priest says.

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