The church bell at Holy Infancy Church on East Fourth Street is ringing again for the first time in 22 years.
The bell, first installed in 1886, was taken out of commission due to structural damage. Holy Infancy’s business manager Joe McCarthy, ‘65, said the frames which held the bell had deteriorated, making it unsafe to ring.
“It was a deafening sound of silence,” Holy Infancy Deacon Tony Ocampo said. “You know when you have something that you’ve lost and you’re looking and looking and can’t find it? It was kind of like that. You know that the sound is a missing part of your life and you wish you had it back.”
The parish raised $35,000 to repair the bell. The money came from individual donations and the earnings of a raffle the church held in 2020. Holy Infancy’s Receptionist Judy Almodovar said everyone on the church’s staff donated to the bell repair.
McCarthy said work on the bell began in August 2021 and finished on Feb. 23, 2022. He said this work included restoring the bell’s bearings – which allow for the bell’s rotation – casting new end pieces for the yoke – which holds the bell in its position – and putting in a new frame to support the bell.
“(The parishioners) are thrilled,” McCarthy said. “Many of them remember hearing the bell as youngsters. It brings back many fond memories after not having heard it for so many years.”
According to a WFMZ article about the bell restoration, the only original parts of the bell which remain are the bell itself and the headstock, which the bell hangs from.
The article said the 2,500-pound bell was also automated and now operates remotely.
McCarthy said the bell was originally a gift to the church from three friends of the pastor at the time who were employees of the Bethlehem Iron Factory, a predecessor to Bethlehem Steel.
He said the bell rings before each mass, as well as on the hour between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day.
“It is God calling us to service,” McCarthy said. “You can view it as God’s voice and he is saying to come to the church.”
Founded as a parish in 1861, McCarthy said Holy Infancy Church was the first Catholic church in South Bethlehem. He said it is also the largest parish in the area in terms of members.
“I love hearing the church bells again. It’s been a long time,” Almodovar said. “It means a lot to me actually because it brings back many beautiful memories of when I first moved to Bethlehem in 1969 with my parents. It was too quiet without them. Like an empty feeling.”