Simply by walking into the church off Fairfax Avenue, a feeling that St. Ambrose is very special is apparent.  

A community that truly lives out the ideal of a parish as a circle of friends, members of St. Ambrose Church gather together to pray, worship and support one another.

After the 10 a.m. Mass each Sunday, parishioners join together to visit, share news and simply enjoy being together as a circle of friends — and they usually gather over a potluck of coffee, fruit and donuts which are brought in by these same parishioners each week.  

If a regular parishioner is missing on a Sunday, someone will check on that person, or make sure to give an update on a parishioner who has been ill.

As a parishioner for 47 years, Jo Iannello says with pride, “It’s my parish church and it is a very friendly church. Some folks have told me that they used to shop around looking at churches [until they found us].”  

She adds, “This is a very inclusive parish. For me, whatever happens, I go to church. God is in my life and in my home, and so God is in my parish.”

Iannello explains that she used to do more at the church, but has slowed down in recent years.

The 84 year-old woman, who was sick with polio at the age of 7 and today uses a walker for mobility, pauses, and then adds, “As long as God gives me the strength and energy, I will do it. God has been very good to me, and I am blessed.” Father Dennis Marrell, administrator of St. Ambrose Church for the past year, and Deacon Michael Morgan know all too well how much Iannello gives. “She is very accepting, goes to battle for others, always has her eye on the bigger picture, but very definitely Jo is not out for control either,” Father Marrell says.

“She has a deep prayer life and perpetually keeps peace in the family of this parish,” adds Deacon Michael Morgan.

Jo is a member of the liturgy committee, a lector and a former eucharistic minister. She still handles the scheduling of lectors and eucharistic ministers and even writes the newsletter every week.  

“She is totally the Martha,” says Deacon Michael, referring to the story of Martha and Mary in the New Testament.     

Father Dennis Marrell gives a great deal of credit for the organization of the parish to his predecessor, Father Bill Wolfe.  

“These people want St. Ambrose Parish to work,” he said.

Recently Father Marrell started having “meetings with a meal” — the meal being a simple potluck or a lasagna from Costco. During Lent, dinners are light and meatless and afterwards there are Friday stations.  

The meetings are, as Father Marrell says, “just the frosting on the cake.” Parishioners “get to know each other better” — or as Jesus found out, “they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.”