By Barb Arland-Fye
Clinton’s Catholics are under one roof now, almost 19 years after forming a single parish named Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace. The celebration March 14 felt like a homecoming.
My family belonged for a time to St. Patrick’s, one of the five parishes that merged on July 1, 1990, to form the parish known by most people as Prince of Peace. I remember the early 1990s as almost a period of mourning for Catholics with strong ties to any of the five parishes — St. Patrick, St. Mary, St. Boniface, Sacred Heart and St. Irenaeus.
People seemed to go through the various stages of grief; I was not among them because I had not grown up in Clinton and my family was preparing to move to another town.
But through my newspaper work and friendships made along the way, the Clinton community — both Catholic and secular — remained a part of my life.
From a distance I watched the parishes journey through the painstaking process of becoming one and taking the leap of faith to build a new church building in which to worship together.
And it’s a beautiful worship space, airy with large windows that send sunlight cascading into the brightly colored church. Elements of old and new give the building its unique character. The pew ends from St. Mary’s blend in perfectly with the new pews.
The façade of St. Mary’s old confessionals form the wall or reredos (back wall) of the new sanctuary. This and the pew ends helped determine the interior décor of the church as Eastlake Victorian style, says a booklet featuring the parish’s history.
Parishioners pointed out for me the beautiful tabernacle light from St. Irenaeus that hangs in the turret-shaped chapel. What an intimate setting in which to pray.
Stations of the Cross, stored below a stairwell at St. Ireneaus for more than 80 years have been restored and now adorn the walls of Prince of Peace.
This blending reminds me of the advice given to a bride for her wedding day: take with you something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.
But as substantial as this church is — it seats up to 800 people — it is a building, a place where the community of faith gathers. The people who form that community are church.
Bishop Martin Amos reminded us of that fact during his homily at the dedication Mass when he referred to those gathered as the living stones of Christ’s church.
That point echoed in my mind with each familiar face I saw, each old friend I spoke with before or after Mass, or someone I met who knew my husband.
Ronni worked with my older son Colin when he was toddler at a Clinton daycare; Elise and Al nurtured my love of theater; Dawn and I became friends when I was a young reporter and she was an equally young employee in the sheriff’s department. Now she’s a grandmother!
Denise Laufenberg’s husband worked with mine on the railroad. She’s a member of Prince of Peace’s choir, who also serves as a cantor. I asked her whether she felt nervous cantoring in front of all those people at the dedication Mass.
Yes, she admitted. “But I had done everything I could to prepare for this; I left the rest up to God.”
I wonder if her observation isn’t true of many of Clinton’s Catholics. They left the rest up to God all these years, and he has rewarded their faith and perseverance.