By Celine Klosterman
CLINTON — Prince of Peace Parish began negotiations last week with the Clinton County Historical Society to transfer ownership of St. Irenaeus Catholic Church to the organization, following more than a year of uncertainty about the church’s future.
Ed Kross, Prince of Peace’s attorney, said the parish wants to make sure the society has an appropriate use for the church and can finance its upkeep. The church can’t be used for Catholic services or for purposes offensive to the Catholic Church — such as a casino or bar.
Bob Soesbe, a member of the society’s board of directors, said the historical society hopes to buy St. Irenaeus for $1 and would apply for grants to help restore the church. Restoration costs could exceed $100,000, he said.
Soesbe said St. Irenaeus lends itself to many uses, such as a concert hall, theater or community center. But he said preserving the church’s exterior is a priority.
He is a Prince of Peace parishioner who grew up a block from the church and served as an altar boy at St. Irenaeus. But he said the personal connection isn’t driving his motivation to maintain the building.
“It’s a really wonderful example of a limestone church, built of native stone, and it’s really beautiful,” he said. The 145-year-old, Gothic-style building was modeled after the cathedral of St. Irenaeus in Lyons, France, according to a booklet printed for the centennial of St. Irenaeus in Clinton.
St. Irenaeus, whose closing Mass was celebrated in June 2008, originally was put up for sale. “But no one had a serious plan for using it,” said Dave Schnier, Prince of Peace’s business manager.
Of the five churches Prince of Peace Parish once included, St. Irenaeus is the lone building whose future remains in limbo. St. Boniface is serving as a Catholic Historical Center; St. Mary’s and St. Patrick’s have been torn down, and Sacred Heart is serving as a chapel for Prince of Peace Schools and for religious education students. Prince of Peace dedicated a new church in March.