By Barb Arland-Fye
While operating a brand new snow blower at St. Mary Parish in Pella last winter, Father Jeff Belger had the misfortune of bending a shaft on the machine. He mentioned the mishap during a homily the following Sunday. A parishioner who owns a manufacturing company offered to make a new shaft for the snow blower. The parishioner, Pat Weiler, told the pastor that Weiler Co. in Knoxville could make anything.
Months later while thinking of new ideas for an Advent wreath, Fr. Belger remembered Weiler’s comment. “At that time, I needed an Advent wreath more than I needed a snow blower,” the pastor said.
So he shared his ideas during discussions about Advent and Christmas décor at a liturgy commission meeting. Dave Langenfeld, an engineer by profession, serves as president of the pastoral council and is a member of the liturgy commission. The new church is “a large modern space that doesn’t lend itself to easy decoration. We were looking for something new and Father suggested a large wreath hanging somewhere,” Langenfeld said.
“We were all involved. Once Father had the idea, he asked us if we thought we could do it and we said, ‘Sure,’” Weiler said. Langenfeld enjoys playing with computer software and had fun designing the Advent wreath. “Knowing what it was going to be used for made it all the more special,” he said.
They selected aluminum for the wreath because of the need for something lightweight to hang above the sanctuary. Fr. Belger suggested incorporating into the wreath’s eight-panel design the “O Antiphons,” the seven antiphons recited during the Gospel Canticle of the Liturgy of the Hours Dec. 17-24. The antiphons give titles for Christ: Wisdom, Lord, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Rising Sun, King of Nations and Emmanuel. One title would be laser cut into each panel. For the eighth panel, the priest envisioned the Greek letters “alpha” (beginning) and “omega” (end) referring to Jesus’ words in the Book of Revelation: “I am the alpha and the omega.”
Just before Advent, Fr. Belger, Langenfeld and another parishioner, Joe Michaels, hung the Advent wreath from chains attached to shepherd hooks. “I like to think of it as simple, but elegant,” Langenfeld said of the wreath. “The idea was that people would reflect on the titles for Christ. I feel that if they do, it was well done.” The versatile wreath will remain hanging above the sanctuary during the Christmas season; white Christmas candles will replace the purple and rose-colored Advent candles.
The ultimate compliment about the wreath comes in the form of a complaint, Fr. Belger said. He’s heard some people say it’s absolutely irresponsible to purchase such a beautiful Advent wreath when parishioners are still paying off the new church.
“It cost us nothing,” Fr. Belger said. All labor, talent and materials were donated. And to think it all came about because of a bent shaft on a snow blower, Fr. Belger marvels.
Aluminum wreaths like the one created to celebrate the Advent and Christmas seasons at St. Mary Parish in Pella may find a home in other parishes in the Davenport Diocese. Pat Weiler, whose company Weiler Co. of Knoxville manufactured the first wreath, would be willing to create additional wreaths if parishes are interested in purchasing them.
Call St. Mary Parish in Pella at (641) 628-3078 if you’re interested in having a wreath made.