What’s so funny?
Local Catholics display sense of humor
By DIANE R. CHODAN
OBSERVER Lifestyles Contributor
For about a year and a half, the changing slogans on Holy Trinity Church’s outdoor sign board have provided humor as well as provoked thought. Located in front of the church at 1032 Central Ave. in Dunkirk, the sign board is visible from the much-traveled street that runs between Dunkirk and Fredonia and can be viewed from either direction.
The first sign I noticed was “What’s missing from Chrch? U R.” Soon I began rearranging my driving route for errands to make sure I passed Holy Trinity periodically. I would ask friends and relatives whether they had seen the latest sign. Reactions to the slogans were very favorable. They always produced a chuckle.
Obviously, someone at Holy Trinity possesses a good sense of humor. But who is really responsible? Holy Trinity is not my parish, but I do know a few of its members through covering events held there. When I saw these people, I’d ask the question. Although everyone liked the signs, no one was sure who did them.
I remembered an OBSERVER story, written by Greg Fox, about the Rev. Daniel Walsh coming out of retirement and becoming pastor at Holy Trinity. I looked it up and found the story was written in December 2015. Ah ha! Signs appeared after that date. Maybe the new pastor was responsible. After I covered the Knights of Columbus Priest Appreciation Dinner held at Holy Trinity last September, I would have bet money it was Father Walsh. I had never seen a cleric with such an infectious smile, and he smiled at everyone. By this time, my curiosity was piqued.
Not too long before Christmas, I went to the Dunkirk Post Office to mail some packages. By chance I met Father Walsh there. He wasn’t wearing his clerical attire, and I didn’t recognize him until he smiled.
“It’s my day off,” he told me. “That’s why I am wearing civilian clothes. And yet people still recognize me.” His comment was bemused, rather than crabby.
I told him it was the smile.
When I asked if he composed the signs, Father told me no. “The secretaries in the office are responsible,” he said. But he did agree it might be an amusing story and gave me the go-ahead to call the office for “the rest of the story.”
Patty Donovan, secretary at Holy Trinity Church, is the person most involved.
“There are several places online (to find sayings). What we choose depends on the time of the year. We find something and then tweak it to fit our situation,” she said.
Nonetheless, Father Walsh did give permission for the signs. “We were posting an event and Father Dan said we should be using the sign board more. I later made a list of signs and he picked out ones he liked. He doesn’t want anything negative, even if it is funny,” Patty recalled.
She had a good example to follow. Her husband Rick is business manager at Fourteen Holy Helpers Church in West Seneca. In November 2014, that church posted the words “Whoever is praying for snow please stop.” A picture of this sign was posted on the internet. According to Patty, “It went viral; I was amazed.”
Patty said the sign board is a team effort at Holy Trinity. Maintenance man Randy Ruland actually puts the letters on the sign.
“It’s cold out there sometimes and that can make it difficult,” Patty said.
In fact, the day I went by to take a picture, Ruland was changing the sign. He was wearing high boots because of the melting snow.
Patty and Business Manager Cathy Mohart have to tweak the signs. “We have to edit, because we are limited in space. Sometimes we can’t use something because it has too many letters to fit,” Patty said.
In addition, there are sometimes local references.
Patty’s favorite sign was “Miss the Big Dipper? Try our Sundays.” Another sign kept with the times advising, “Don’t ignore God’s friend request.” Unfortunately, no one has taken pictures of all the signs. However, Patty keeps a notebook somewhere “with those we chose.”
Mohart said, “For this sign I figured it was time for Patty to find something with son-shine. She likes positive things. … We usually change the sign at least every three to four weeks.”