By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
CLINTON — Looking around the Catholic Historical Center at St. Boniface, it is hard to miss the influence the Determan family had on the former church. In its various configurations — sometimes spelled with one “t” or “n,” sometimes two — the family name is on everything from stained glass windows to donated historical artifacts. Additionally, family members donated the bells and Communion railing upon their installation in 1908.
The fact that the St. Boniface building survived at all after it was remanded to secular use is largely due to the efforts of Jean Determan, a lifelong parishioner of St. Boniface who helped found the historical center before her passing in 2008.
Now, the historical center is hosting the ultimate Determan family reunion, inviting even unrelated persons to join in the fun. The Determan Day Picnic will take place June 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the historical center in the north end of town.
Attendees may play old-fashioned games like apple dunking and croquet, take tours of the historical center and purchase food items. Organizers will accept a free-will donation for admission. In case of inclement weather, games and food service will take place in the adjacent St. Boniface Center hall.
The Catholic Historical Center at St. Boniface is home to artifacts from the five original parishes in Clinton, including a Knights of Columbus display and a papal display. The Catholic Historical Center also keeps a list of pre-1970 baptisms, marriages, confirmations and deaths from these churches. The center has taken in a few items from other closed churches in Clinton County, and hopes to find a place for items from St. Anne Church in Welton, which will host its last Mass this summer.
“People are amazed by the amount of things we have … We try to keep the memories alive,” board member Lucy Schoel said.
The Catholic Historical Center currently receives funding through the yearly dues of about 200 members and free will donations from tours and events such as the center’s annual Christmas celebration and living portrayals of the Last Supper.
The center has received some grant funding, but runs into the need for matching funds.
Board member Tom Koester said the idea to host the picnic came about after the Larry “Joe” Detterman family donated one of the cupolas from the former St. Patrick Church, which will soon be displayed on the lawn. Board members wanted a way to raise awareness for the historical center, and the idea of doing something to honor the Determan family came up.
Since then, Koester has been poring through phone books and genealogy records in order to track down Determan relatives and invite them to the picnic. Many of them live out of town; one of the original parishioners, Bernard Dettermann, had 19 children live to adulthood, and only one stayed in the area. So far, Koester has tracked down more than 700 living relatives.
“If they all came, this place would be packed,” said board member Mary Ellen Krogmann.
Koester said about 50 Determan relatives plan to attend, and as many as 250 might participate. Many Determans have been interested in the genealogical work Koester has done, and he is currently working with them to put together a family tree dating back to 1735.
Board members said they hope the event will be special for the Determans and the community.
If the event is successful, Koester said the historical center board would like to organize a family reunion celebration for integral families of the other original Clinton parishes, hosting one each summer and rotating among the parishes
St. Irenaeus now serving as a cultural center
In the 1860s, volunteers built St. Irenaeus brick by brick. Now, a new generation of volunteers works daily to restore the former church, which functions as a cultural center.
Since Clinton County Historical Center bought the property in 2010, the St. Irenaeus Cultural Center has hosted a variety of events, including the Clinton Municipal Band, rock bands and historic item displays.
The events bring in some well-needed funds for church repairs, which are not funded by the historical society. Volunteer Jan Hansen, the historical society’s treasurer, said that when she and other volunteers walked into the church for the first time after the purchase, the basement was completely flooded. Much of the early work consisted of senior-citizen volunteers pulling up tiles and removing mold. Work on the basement continues and, with funding and more volunteers, the center hopes to convert the basement into a usable reception hall.
“Funds are hard to come by. We get by on what we can do,” said volunteer Tom Foster.
Upstairs, the stained glass windows needed repair, particularly the window depicting the crucified Christ which was missing a large part of the midsection. Thanks to a generous donor, Hansen said the windows were repaired by Glass Heritage in Davenport.
The cultural center has also built a memorial brick garden, with bricks for sale at prices between $60 and $100.
Many of the volunteers said they have personal connections to the church, some still experiencing bitterness over the church’s closing when the Diocese of Davenport consolidated the five Clinton parishes into Prince of Peace Parish. Still, the volunteers desire to keep the oldest church in Clinton standing.
He said he was depressed when the church was closed, “but there was nothing I could do about it,” said Foster, who attended the church from childhood. “That’s why I’ve been so anxious to do something.”
Though it may be a work in progress, visitors seem to appreciate the efforts made to preserve the former St. Irenaeus church building. Karen Johnson of Sabula visited the church with a few of her friends May 28, noting that her parents had been married in the church decades ago.
“The inside of this old church is beautiful. They all are,” she said.