On Father’s Day sixty five years ago, the 10:30 morning mass at a church in Chicago served as a remembrance of one particular father. One hour’s commemoration meant enough to cause Agnes Tully Stevens to tuck the church bulletin away as a keepsake, rather than choose to discard it after the close of the day’s events.
That simple token of storing the paper—even for all these years—wouldn’t bring back a loved one, of course, but the wish was certainly there. For, if he had still been alive, William Stevens and his bride would have just celebrated thirty five years of marriage.
Such an anniversary milestone was not to be reached, however, for in that year prior, Will had slipped away, overtaken by the heart problems that had already plagued him for some time. Agnes and the children had bid him goodbye on May 10, 1946, and laid him to rest at Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Evergreen Park—close enough to their Chicago home to return often to pay their respects.
On this date in 1947, the family wished to honor his memory with a high mass. The bulletin advised the congregation of this designation with the note,
10:30—HM—William Stevens (Anniversary) req. by Stevens Family.
Whether this was to remember the anniversary of the wedding or of Will’s passing, I don’t know. Perhaps, if the latter, the church calendar was so full that a request for the exact date could not be accommodated. Yet, somehow, it all fell together: a special remembrance, on Father’s Day, for a man whom the family had mourned for the past year, near the date of his wedding anniversary.
The church—Saint Martin’s, “Princeton Ave., at 59th Street”—published a small token of the day on the front page of their bulletin for that June 15, 1947. Perhaps this essay seemed more precious to the family for reminding them of their relationship to the father they had lost. How different it seems from sentiments expressed in more recent years.
FATHER’S DAY—Today we assure the Father of the Family of our love and loyal affection due to him as the founder of the home. Children cannot bestow much in the way of gifts, for they are usually dependent upon him, but what they can offer, and they may be sure it will be appreciated, is a spiritual bouquet of their prayers and sacrifices for him, a small token of their love for him, a promise to obey and respect him, so as to make life pleasanter and easier for him. Grown-ups can best show their affection by giving generously both time and attention to Father on this day of his. Older people seem to be neglected in this busy world, and they get lonesome, even if they don’t show it, for the company of the fledglings which have flown the nest…To the Heavenly Father, above all things, say fervently, say it frequently, the “Our Father,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” and resolve on this Father’s Day to be a good faithful Child of God, destined as children of God are—to be Heirs of Heaven.
Above left: line drawing of Saint Martin's Church, Princeton Avenue at 59th Street in Chicago, Illinois, obtained from the cover of the church bulletin dated June 15, 1947.