by Hildegard Rastutis
For nearly 55 years, Hildegard was a pillar here at First Trinity, one of the first female church presidents in the history of the lutheran church. This essay was written in 2010.
On October 31, 1948 my ship, the “Marine Fisher” sailed past the Statue of Liberty into New York Harbor and docked at Pier 19. I was a young war bride and just a little scared. I was German and the war had just ended three years earlier. So when we passed through immigration, I was a little nervous, but the officer immediately put me at ease. He told me to relax, give him my papers, and take a deep breath. Then came the pause. One of the numbers on the entrance paper was missing. I told him that my husband-to-be was at the pier and I was sure that he had the missing number. After a little while the officer came back to me and told me he had the number and I could go a ashore. Then he looked to me, smiling and he told me “See, didn't I tell you, all is well? Welcome to America"
My husband-to-be nearly squeezed the life out of me, it was wonderful. The next day we traveled through New York and I felt like I was in Wonderland. Everywhere was food and the stores were full of wonderful things I had not seen in years. The trip up to the top of Rockefeller Center was best of all. It was a beautiful sunny day and I could see the skyscrapers and was amazed at the size of the city.
The next day we traveled by train to Chicago and once again I was a little scared. Especially because I was going to meet John's father. It was a little difficult because he spoke mainly Lithuanian, but again I was warmly welcomed and I fell immediately at home. Then came the question of the wedding. My husband was Roman Catholic baptized at Saint George’s and I was an Evangelical Lutheran. But again there was no problem. They all agreed to have the wedding at a Lutheran Church, But which one? Friends took us to their church, St. Paul's Reformed church on Orchard and Fullerton Avenue on the north side. The pastor, Dr. Grauer, had a couple of premarital sessions with us and he told us that there was no problem with us getting married by him in his church, so the date was set, November 28 at 3 PM.
Again through friends we had a small two room apartment on W. Potomac Ave. and then a three room apartment on North Burling just north of Fullerton Avenue. But then came a problem; the owner of the apartment building didn't allow children and we had to move. So my husband had friends in the Bridgeport neighborhood where he had grown up and we had a lovely apartment at 3620 South Lowe Ave.
Now came the question of church. Neighbors told me that there was a Lutheran Church on 31st and Lowe Avenue, so I put my daughter Margaret in her buggy and we walked to the church. I was immediately drawn to this church because of the name above the entrance was in German “Ev. Luth. Dreieingkeits Kirche” (Ev. Luth. Trinity Church). The next Sunday we went to services and we were welcomed by John and Irma Neil. I was a little worried about bringing a young child but I was assured everything was OK. Again I was worried when Marge began to get a little restless. But again I only saw smiling faces and I felt the warmth of the beautiful congregation. A year and a half later our second daughter, Dorothy, was added to the family. When the children were old enough we enrolled them in Sunday school, whose superintendent by chance was Marie Fashing, Margaret's future mother-in-law.
After explanations that in America at the church depends on its members to support it not only financially but in all other aspects for congregational life, we became members of First Trinity. I became more and more involved in the life of the congregation, we join the voters assembly and became involved in the physical work of the church. My girls made the confirmations under Pr. Dietrich’s guidance. Christmas 1976 I was asked to serve as an assistant minister. My knees still buckle when I think of that first time. But I made it through and I was always glad to serve at the altar.
All this time we had a change of, I believe, seven pastors but the family of the congregation stayed the same. We are a friendly congregation, ready to welcome everybody into the family of First Trinity. We love each other and when necessary help each other.
First Trinity has been my home for more than 55 years. My daughter Margaret was married here. My grandchildren were baptized here, and they made their confirmations here. My husband had his memorial service here and I think mine will be here also. I can't think of any other church to be my bridge to heaven. We have been through difficult times but the spirit of Trinity has always been alive and working. And I pray that the future will be progressive and the word will be preached in truth.
And the congregation will remain a family of loving and caring people.
God bless us all.