Monroe church gets new bell after theft

MONROE — They’ve missed the sound most of all.

For years, a vintage brass bell rang for Sunday services at Monroe’s St. Mary of the Valley Catholic Church.

The bell was a call to worship and a reminder of faith, said the Rev. Phillip Bloom.

“It would be a connection, a reminder of God, really,” he said.

The bell was stolen by scrap metal thieves in November. The parish was heartbroken but undefeated.

They raised money and made plans for a new bell, which arrived in late June.

A dedication ceremony for the new bell is planned for 3 p.m. Sunday. The public is invited. Leaders from neighboring civic, community and faith groups have been asked to attend.

“We feel it’s significant, not just for the parish, but for the neighborhood, as well,” Bloom said.

The old bell had a humble setting, low on the ground, west of the church.

The “new” bell, which was cast in 1890, will ring in the southern corner, facing the parking lot. There, it can welcome people as they arrive, Bloom said.

It also has a bell tower — a custom-built, 16-foot beauty created mostly with donated time and donated materials.

The tower was 17-year-old parishioner Nick Martinoli’s project as he worked to attain Eagle rank in the Boy Scouts.

Martinoli has attended St. Mary since childhood.

“I’ve always just loved this church,” he said.

Martinoli originally planned a tower for the old bell.

After the theft, he regrouped his plans with the help of “all the men of the parish,” especially Bill King, and his dad, Bill Martinoli.

Cascade Lumber of Camano Island also donated roughly $4,500 of wood for the tower.

“That was just a huge blessing,” Nick Martinoli said.

Since the theft, the church has bolstered security, especially around the new bell tower, Bloom said.

Police recovered about half of the old bell. It had been busted up and sold to a recycling center in the Woodinville area.

The pieces were sold for a fraction of the bell’s actual monetary value, Bloom said. Still, that was nowhere near the sentimental cost, and the “major violation” felt by many parishioners after the crime, he said.

“It was just so senseless, so stupid, and almost cruel for the amount of money they got,” he said.

The recovered pieces of the old bell remain in police custody. Eventually, the church hopes to re-use them, perhaps in a sculpture.

Leaders in the parish also have started an effort to get neighbors more involved in crime prevention, Bloom said. Several Block Watch groups have sprung up as a result.

Everyone is talking together and learning about one another, he said.

The ceremony for the bell on Sunday also will mark the beginning of the church’s centennial celebration as a parish, Bloom said. The church originally was founded as a mission.

People are thankful for the community’s help, donations and kind thoughts, Bloom said.

He’s anxious to hear the new bell ring.

For many, the ringing of a church bell on Sunday morning reminds them of their childhood and going to services as children wherever they grew up, Bloom said.

“It resonates,” he said. “I mean, obviously a bell resonates, but it resonates in people’s hearts.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

Ceremony Sunday

The dedication ceremony for the new bell at St. Mary of the Valley Catholic Church is planned for 3 p.m. Sunday at the church, 601 W. Columbia St.

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