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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Remembering the Influential Women in our Lives: Women's History Month

My friend, Frank Goodsir, sent this recollection to me sometime last week and I wanted to 'get it in' during March for national Women's History Month.

If you have stories of memorable 'characters' in you life (men or women) - whether a relative, friend, colleague or a chance encounter, I'd be honored if you would send them on to me I'll read them over and post when I can.

If you have a reaction, comment or additional contributions to Frank's submission, simply click on word 'comments' which may be preceded by a number. Thanks again, dear Frank, for sharing this witness. It's good to know that the apostle Andrew wasn't the only one to say "Come and see!" N.B.: The first section, in italics, is a bit of history on the subject of this essay, Mary Jane Melish. The second section, in regular typeface, are his recollections.

Mary Jane Melish's father-in-law was the Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights during the 1940s & 50s and her husband was the Curate of Holy Trinity at this time. Mary Jane had a vibrant ministry of her own reaching out into the environs of Holy Trinity with programs for disadvantaged youth keeping them off the streets. Holy Trinity became a beehive of activity where youth were introduced to social functions such as dances, and all kinds of classes were held for the youth's enrichment, etc.

In the 1990s Mary Jane was an active member of the merged Church of St. Ann and The Holy Trinity and was still active in the churches activities especially church sitting by opening the doors to the sanctuary every weekday so that the public could gain entrance to this historic church where they could rest, meditate and pray and under the guidance of Mary Jane learn about the history of the church and a tour of the famous stained glass windows which are the first set of figural stained glass windows made in America.

These are two wonderful recollections that I have of Mary Jane who contributed to the advancement of women the church.

1) One day I was selling items in a flea market outside of the Church of St. Ann and The Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights. A customer bought a sterling silver teaspoon and said that he was going to make it into a bracelet for his daughter.
He also mentioned that in the 1950's he had participated in a youth program at Holy Trinity Church. "Mary Jane Melish taught me how to craft jewelry," he explained but went on to say that he hadn't seen Mary Jane in many years.

I told him that she was church sitting at that very moment and that she'd be glad to
see him. Later, on her way home, she stopped by to tell me the gentlemen had indeed visited her and she elaborated that people from Holy Trinity's programs would often greet her on the street; even truck drivers would honk their horn to acknowledge
her. Mary Jane and her good works touched the lives of many youth who are blessed for having her as a mentor and friend. What a beautiful legacy!

2) On a sweltering hot summer Sunday in 1996, I was Master of Ceremonies at the 11 o'clock mass at the Church of St. Ann and The Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights. The Archdeacon of St. Marks Deanery Brooklyn was the celebrant and two babies (cousins) were baptized. Everything seemed to be going well.

At the end of communion, the celebrant abruptly said to me, "Bring the chalice and follow me." We hurried down the nave and right out onto Clinton Street into an ambulance to administer Holy Communion to Mary Jane Melish (who had been stricken by
the heat during the service and was lying in the ambulance on a gurney. Apparently she didn't want to go to the hospital to care for her physical needs until her spiritual needs were fulfilled. This was, indeed, a wonderful example of faith and

She spent that night at Long Island Hospital and went home the next day. Two days later I looked up to see Mary Jane, on her own steam, coming up Montague Street pushing her shopping cart to continue her ministry of church-sitting and greeting
visitors and telling them about the historical, beautiful stained glass windows. The Nativity window was her favorite and she was instrumental in getting funds for its restoration.

Now as a senior citizen myself I have been inspired by Mary Jane to be active and involved as long as I can. Never give up. She didn't!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely memories of Mary Jane, Frank.

During the last years of her life a dozen or so women who had been girls at the Brooklyn Heights Youth Center, which Mary Jane ran for years and from the Mother's Club, which she also ran, would come to the house every quarter or so and decorate my place upstairs and bring with them a huge lunch to celebrate with Mary Jane; always with a chocolate cake, her favorite.

They had an endless supply of stories of how she had touched their lives and the lives of many in the neighborhood. She and William Howard had arranged scholarships for bright boys and girls to Wellesley and Harvard (their respective alma maters) and elsewhere and had done so many other amazing things for what they still called the gang kids of South Brooklyn. They would stay all afternoon and laugh until they cried and so would Mary Jane.

We still miss her as do those ladies who drop by for coffee from time to time to talk about her.

Thanks for the memories and kind words about someone who touched all of us so deeply.

Lewis Marshall

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Frank for your excellent essay about a remarkable Christian woman. It was vey inspiring to me. I will think of her everytime I pass St. Anns in Brooklyn Heights.
Davidson Garrett
New York City

2:34 AM  

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