Does this ring a bell?
By Jennifer Miele
Chief Communications Officer
The Scottdale Area Association of Churches is hoping some literal bell ringing will have the figurative effect on many adults who remember walking into Mass with their own families as children to the sound of tolling chimes. Filling the pews is a priority for these volunteers, especially at Christmastime.
Edwin Zylka, chairman of the initiative and parishioner of St. John the Baptist Parish in Scottdale, gathers supporters each November and December, alongside Father Elmer Alforque, administrator of St. John the Baptist Parish, Scottdale, and St. Joseph Parish, Everson, to pray for a strong return of the faithful to Mass.
“We pray for all families in this part of the country, especially in the Diocese of Greensburg, that they will listen to the voice of Your call for prayer, and above all for unity,” Father Alforque told the group at a recent gathering.
After their prayer, each person takes a turn ringing the bells outside their church for five minutes. The booming sounds resonate deeply in the hearts of each parishioner in anticipation of the birth of Jesus.
“As an 8-year-old child going to Mass on Christmas, I remember snow falling and every church in the area ringing the bells to announce the birth of our savior Jesus Christ,” Zylka says. “It was a message!
“The idea of that is to make people aware that the most important thing in their lives is God, and if we have problems, no matter what the problems are, we should turn to God. He will help us. Sometimes it may take years to understand that what He has done for us is the best for us, but He will help us.”
The ringing of bells is a call to come back to church. That is why many churches in the area are embracing the idea. You may hear bells ringing in your community at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving eve, the Sunday after Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“Hopefully we can send a message through the bells. So whether you’re here at a church or at home, you can stop what you’re doing at 6 p.m. and ring bells as a form of prayer and a message to God that you remember He is the most important thing in your life,” Zylka says.