Bob and Chee-Chee DiGiammarino Pilot photo/ Courtesy the DiGiammarinos
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MARBLEHEAD -- There’s an excitement in the air at Our Lady Star of the Sea parish in Marblehead, according to longtime parishioners Bob and Chee-Chee DiGiammarino. The DiGiammarinos believe it may be because the parish is gearing up to celebrate its 150th anniversary, or because the parish is in its second year of the ARISE program.
It could even just be that the pastor, Father Michael Steele has “brought a lot of life into the parish,” mused Bob.
“There’s a very positive feeling in our church, which is something we haven’t seen in many years,” he added.
Whatever the reason, “people are coming back to the parish,” Chee-Chee noted happily, adding that enrollment in the religious education program of the parish is “soaring.”
“Father Steele is such an inspiration to so many people here,” she said.
“He gets lots of people involved in doing work, but it doesn’t feel like work at all,” added Bob.
One example is the Family Mass. During the school year, schoolchildren volunteer to act out each Sunday’s Gospel reading. Volunteers help make the costumes as well as any necessary props.
“It is just amazing to see,” Chee-Chee said.
Bob, 70, and Chee-Chee, 68, have been parishioners at Our Lady’s since 1972, when they moved from their hometown of Malden. It is in Marblehead that they raised their three boys -- the youngest of whom played in the folk Mass when he was a child.
Since then, both Bob and Chee-Chee have been involved in their parish in a host of ways. Now retired -- he as an administrator for the Malden Public Schools, she as an administrative assistant at Salem Hospital -- they help out the parish in any way they can.
“Basically whatever the parish needs, if we can do it, we’ll volunteer,” joked Chee-Chee.
Currently, they are part of the marriage preparation program, they chair the ARISE program and are both extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. In addition, Bob is a member of the parish pastoral council.
Both lauded the ARISE program which was begun last year.
“It is probably the best thing Father has brought into the parish,” Bob said.
“There are many whose faith has been renewed by participating in the program and listening to others,” Chee-Chee added.
Both cradle Catholics, their faith was strengthened early in their marriage thanks to the Marriage Encounter program.
“As most couples do, we experienced some problems in our marriage and someone suggested we go to a Marriage Encounter weekend,” explained Chee-Chee. “It was wonderful.”
The DiGiammarinos went on to be involved in the Marriage Encounter program for several years during the 1970s and 1980s.
“Marriage Encounter was the turning point in our marriage,” she remarked, noting that both of them use some of the material they received in the Marriage Encounter program when they hold their parish marriage preparation classes.
“[Marriage Encounter] taught us that when we’re open to each other and listen to each other, God is there,” said Chee-Chee. “Our faith is what has kept us close as a family and as a couple.”
“I couldn’t get through life without it,” she said.
Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish, Marblehead
Year Established -- 1859
Pastor -- Father Michael Steele
Deacon -- John Whipple
Weekend Assistants -- Fathers Philip Desrosiers and Joseph O’Keefe, S.J.
Director of Music and Liturgy -- Mary Pagliarulo
Director of Religious Education -- Mary J. Pagliarulo
Business Manager -- Gary Harrington