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One dedicated volunteer

Local Catholics remember Mary Lentini

Posted: April 26, 2008 1:52 p.m.
Updated: June 27, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Mary Lentini, a well-known and active volunteer in the local Catholic community, has died. She was 92.

Lentini died on April 7, two days before her 93rd birthday, according to son Jim Lentini.

The church volunteer was born in Illinois and eventually moved to San Fernando in 1948.

Five years later, Lentini and her husband, Vincent, opened Lentini's Pizza in San Fernando.

In 1976, she relocated to Saugus, where she lived until the end of her life.

Decades of dedication
During her decades in Santa Clarita, Lentini became deeply involved as a volunteer for the various local Catholic churches, including Blessed Kateri Catholic Church in Saugus, St. Clare's Catholic Church in Canyon Country and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Newhall.

Jim Lentini said his mother was an active member of St. Clare's since its early days.

She served as the church's wedding coordinator from 1986 to 2007.

Lentini was also active in the Italian Catholic Federation as the group's secretary.

She took part in Blessed Kateri's groundbreaking ceremony in 1996 with Cardinal Roger Mahoney, Jim Lentini said.

Soon after the church's opening, Lentini assumed the role as hospitality coordinator, taking care of picking up donuts and preparing food and drinks for Sunday services.

Volunteer efforts
Lentini became most recognized while volunteering for St. Clare's annual Fish Fry, held every Friday during Lent.

"She would be up there making the coleslaw," said daughter-in-law Susan Lentini. "She would not only be making coleslaw, but giving instructions."

Jim and Susan Lentini said Mary was only five feet tall, which required her to stand on a box in order to reach the kitchen table and prepare the meal.

As a St. Clare's wedding coordinator, Lentini said, his mother took charge.

"It was like Sgt. Major," Jim Lentini joked, as his wife added, "A five-foot Sgt. Major."

Even outside of the church, Lentini stayed active as she signed up to take swimming lessons at age 90 and continued driving well into her final years.

Lentini was also known for her Italian cooking inside and outside of the church setting.

"If there were 10 of you, she made enough for 30," Jim and Susan Lentini said.

Above all, the Lentinis said, Mary remained dedicated to her faith and families.

"That was her life, whether church family or her own family," he said.

Thoughts from friends
Throughout the years, Lentini established friendships that extended beyond the church walls.
During the funeral at St. Clare's, the Lentinis said between 500 and 600 friends and family members arrived to remember Mary.

Cathy Powers, secretary at St. Clare's, said she knew Lentini for more than 15 years.

"She was around a lot," she said. "Very active."

Powers described Lentini as a woman who had "a lot of spunk," but still a "lovely person."

Powers said she will miss Lentini.

"There's a time when there's a time, but it doesn't stop us from missing them," she said.

Renee Fields, parish business manager at Blessed Kateri, described Lentini as a "go getter" who didn't "mess around."

"She really put her heart and soul into everything she did," she said.

Fields recalls Lentini's strong faith, which she believes drove all aspects of her life.

Much like the others, Sharon Mowery of St. Clare's started out volunteering with Lentini, but grew to become friends over the years.

Mowery said her kids grew up calling Lentini "Grandma Mary."

She remembers Lentini always being properly dressed, complete with her hair and makeup done, even until her final weeks alive.

Jack Dunn, bereavement minister at St. Clare's, said Mary Lentini always had a smile and was very decisive, which drew young people to her.

"It's like an end of an era," he said. "It's hard to find people that dedicated."

Lentini is survived by her son, grandsons and two great-grandchildren, who all live in Santa Clarita.


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