Charlie Mottern, a parishioner at the Basilica Parish of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, remembers laughing throughout the annual end-of-summer tent party fundraiser for the Southampton church in 2008. One of his friends donned a top hat to celebrate the church’s 100-year anniversary and auctioned off historical artifacts for the occasion, like a bottle of scotch given to the first pastor as a gift.
That was the last year the church hosted the party, but Mr. Mottern said the party is still one of the most talked-about events among parishioners, who have said it was the highlight of their summer. One parishioner, Mary Steinbrecher, always loved the party and the way it brought the Southampton community, and not just church members, together.
That is why, before she died of cancer last year, Ms. Steinbrecher set out to have the tent party reinstated.
A 15-member committee was formed, and on August 31, five years after the 100th anniversary, the tent party is slated to make a triumphant return to the basilica.
“It is exciting,” said Mr. Mottern, who is co-chairman of the committee. “We are calling this a celebration for life. It is in memory of Mary Steinbrecher—she had a beautiful family and loved her children, she was one of the educators in religious education, Eucharistic minister, visited the care center. She was really a great parishioner. This is for her.”
The party, which will take place under a tent on the church’s sprawling lawn on Hill Street, is being used as a way for the members of the church to thank the community for its generosity and support over the years. According to Father Michael Vetrano, the pastor, one thing he loves about Southampton is the support people show for each other, regardless of their religious or social affiliations.
He said the main goal for the event is not to make money but to celebrate the community, even going so far as to call it a “fun-raiser,” instead of a fundraiser. “Southampton is a nice, organic community where churches and organizations all seem to support each other,” Rev. Vetrano said. “This is a way of acknowledging that.”
Construction of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Church started in 1907 and was completed one year later. The Roman Catholic church was funded mostly by Protestants whose Irish servants refused to travel with the Protestant families to Southampton for the summer without a church to attend on Sunday. The church was built from discarded stones of the New York City Library, and the first Mass was said there in 1908. Currently, the parish has more than 1,400 registered families.
Saturday’s party, which is expected to draw more than 300 people, is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Raffle tickets are almost sold out, with 430 out of 500 already gone, and a 50/50 raffle also will be held at the party. Mr. Mottern said Ms. Steinbrecher’s grandchildren will draw all of the winning raffle tickets, and that her mother, Mary Gilmartin, 104, of Southampton, will be recognized.
Tickets cost $35 in advance and $40 at the door. There will be finger foods by Tim Burke, music by Doug Dwyer and an open bar. People are encouraged to buy tickets in advance, and questions can be directed to Mr. Mottern at 283-3785. All the money raised will help pay for maintenance of the church and expanding local youth ministries.
“It is not only for the parishioners in this parish, but for the community to get together and celebrate the end of summer together,” Mr. Mottern said. “There is a lot of maintenance and upkeep, and Father is creating a lot of new ministries, so all funds will be going to that.”