When Tracie Sullivan and her husband, Brian, had their second child in 1986, they were living in Philadelphia because of work.
That didn’t stop them from having their infant daughter, Katie, baptized at St. John Vianney Chapel on Balboa Island in Newport Beach – some 2,700 miles away.
Tracie’s family’s roots run all the way back to the time before the opening of the chapel in 1941, largely to accommodate vacationers who didn’t want to drive to the Newport Beach Peninsula to attend Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the only other Catholic Church at the time in the Newport Harbor area.
Tracie’s grandfather, contractor James Barrett, and his wife, Susan, both transplants from the Midwest, helped raise money for the building of the chapel, at 314 Marine Ave.
James was an usher, and Susan helped clean the chapel on Saturdays.
On May 7, 2023, Tracie and Brian attended the baptism of their grand-daughter, Danielle, at St. John Vianney – marking five generations of Tracie’s family that have regularly attended or received a Sacrament at the chapel: her grandparents, her parents, herself, her children, and now a grandchild.
“What’s special to me is not only my family history at the chapel — it’s just a very spiritual place,” Tracie said. “I feel a lot of love when I’m there and I feel I can connect with my late parents and grandparents.
“I feel they’re looking down on us and helping us to continue being good Catholics and that they’re in spirit with us as we pray.”
‘Old beach feeling’
Back in 1991, in an interview with the LA Times for a story on the 50th anniversary of the chapel, which is affiliated with Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish, Mary Barrett Blake – Tracie’s mother — said many of the parishioners during the war years arrived on Balboa Island by boat for Sunday service to save gasoline during rationing.
“You could actually come to Mass in a boat,” Mary told the Times. “And the people who come here have been coming for generations because it still retains the charm and the history of the beach. People still come from all over, not just the island.
“It’s always retained that wonderful old beach feeling. You can go to Mass in jeans and shorts in the summertime.”
When Mary later moved to Irvine, she kept the family tradition of attending services at St. John Vianney, becoming a daily communicant.
Mary’s older sister, Georgann, got married at the chapel in 1945 – one of the first brides to do so. Their brother, John, also got married there.
TRACIE SULLIVAN’S AUNT GEORGANN AND HER HUSBAND FREDERIC PERELLI-MINETTI ON THEIR WEDDING DAY AT ST. JOHN VIANNEY CHAPEL IN 1945. PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACIE SULLIVAN
So did Tracie, in 1982.
“There were about 120 people there,” Tracie recalled. “We filled the chapel. It was just lovely.”
TRACIE AND BRIAN SULLIVAN ON THEIR WEDDING DAY AT ST. JOHN VIANNEY CHAPRL ON JULY 3, 1982. PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACIE SULLIVAN
Tracie and Brian, who live in Dana Point but still attend Masses at the chapel often, celebrated 41 years of marriage on July 3, 2023.
Tracie’s sister, Kathrine, also wed at St. John Vianney Chapel.
There have been family funerals there too, of course.
“We’ve kind of gone full circle there,” Tracie said.
Ties to Deacon
Deacon Patrick Bartolic was the celebrant at Danielle’s baptism. He and his wife, Monica, were very close to Tracie’s late mother, Mary.
“My mom spoke to Patrick a lot when he was considering becoming a deacon,” Tracie said, “and she encouraged him to do so.”
This Easter Sunday, Deacon Patrick had a couple generations of his family represented. In the front pew sat his 96-year-old father and three of his sisters.
“Just another example,” Tracie said, “of how generations of families continue to go to and participate in events at the chapel.”
The tradition certainly will continue. Danielle’s father, Michael Sullivan, for one, will see to that.
“It was important to me to have Danielle baptized at the chapel because of our family’s long history with it,” he said. “I wanted to continue that spiritual tradition.”