A dramatic David vs. Goliath account of a church under siege by its own power structure.
San Francisco Chronicle journalist Guthrie begins with the unexpected 1994 closure of St. Brigid Catholic Church, a beautiful landmark built more than a century ago by Irish immigrants in one of San Francisco’s busiest areas. The closure did not make sense—the magnificent Romanesque building had survived earthquakes, fire and both World Wars, and boasted 21 active parish groups and nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in funds—but the Catholic leadership ordered it closed nonetheless. Along came the faithful—people like Lily Wong, a blind woman who knew the exact number of steps it took to get from her house to St. Brigid’s—and their vigilant struggle to have the church reopened. Guthrie’s exhaustive research and interviews with more than 75 parishioners delve below the surface, and allow her to paint a striking portrait of their struggle and strength. Led by unlikely saints such as Father O, an offbeat priest who waved a white towel while urging parishioners to not “throw in the towel,” they kept a candle burning and petitioned for a decade to save their beloved St. Brigid. The odds seemed insurmountable and faith-shaking. Some of the people, like Carmen Esteva, originally held church officials’ decisions in godlike reverence; she later became the group’s spiritual leader. Through myriad twists and turns, Guthrie’s smoothly written narrative uncovers powerful church secrets—and a pillar of community faith.
Engaging proof that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.