Music and cars fuel parish, school ministries

Story and Photos by Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald

Yes, it’s all about location, location, location!

Our Lady of the Rosary Church and Cabrini High School – located side by side on Esplanade Avenue – are just two blocks from the entrance to Jazz Fest. They both have made their parking lots available to Jazz Fest music lovers for $40 a car.

The parking is a major fundraiser for both the parish and the high school. Father Jonathan Hemelt, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary, said the parking revenue last year was used in part to landscape the front of the church and install a wrought-iron fence.

“Usually, we can accommodate 160-165 cars,” Father Hemelt said. “The money does go into our operating funds that we use for certain projects, and it’s helped us pay for a lot of improvements. The front of the church really does look nice.”

Helping out in a tight spot

Parking in the neighborhood is so restricted during Jazz Fest that the parish alters its Mass schedule for the two weekends, canceling the Saturday Vigil Mass and celebrating two Sunday Masses at 7:30 and 9 a.m. There is no Sunday evening Mass.

This year, the parish added a 7 a.m. Jazz Fest Saturday Mass “so that parishioners who want to attend Mass each day have that opportunity.”

Father Hemelt’s advice to Jazz Fest patrons looking for parking: Get there early.

“We start parking at 8:30,  but on Saturday or Sunday, if you get there past 11, you may not get a spot,” he said.

His crew of a dozen volunteers helps patrons back into parking spots, making it easier to leave. No one ever gets blocked in.

Cabrini dads come together

Cabrini High president Jack Truxillo says the Cabrini Dads’ Club has been running the parking since 1989 – even providing food and drinks for patrons – and has helped the school with its ongoing operations.

Parking rates are market-driven.

“I told Father Jonathan we were going to beat his price this year and charge $39.99,” Truxillo said, laughing. “He told me, ‘If you do that, we’ll go to $39.98.’”

Cabrini High has advanced reserved spots available online – Our Lady of the Rosary takes only drive-up business.

Cabrini’s parking fundraiser may bring in as much as $60,000 this year, an important asset. The Dads’ Club  squeezes in about 240 cars.

“This is really a great brotherhood of men,” Truxillo said.

St. Raymond-St. Leo the Great Parish, near St. Bernard Avenue and Abundance Street, is a little farther away from Jazz Fest. It charges $20 per car.

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at

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