By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
More than a month has passed since St. Anne Parish in Welton celebrated its final Mass. The church building is set to be demolished later this fall, but many former parishioners have been working daily to ensure that the church’s religious objects find new homes in order to avoid the same fate.
“We don’t want anything to be destroyed,” said longtime St. Anne parishioner Judy Gannon. “It’s a continuation of our parish.”
The stations of the cross, altars and numerous statues have been important to the parishioners over the past 100 years, but these objects cannot be sold or given away to just anyone. Objects blessed and dedicated for divine worship and veneration must be used for some other sacred purpose in order to avoid destruction (cf. Code of Canon Law, #1171).
Before the closing of the church July 26, a list of available items was sent to diocesan parishes with help from the Diocese of Davenport. The parish did not charge a fee for the items; the goal was simply to find them new homes.
Father Rudolph Juarez, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City, was searching for a set of stations of the cross for his parish’s day chapel to replace a set he’d given away to a religious community. The notice about St. Anne’s religious objects couldn’t have come at a better time. The Needleworkers of St. Patrick’s wanted to put their bazaar money toward a new set of stations. “It is kind of a divine coincidence that these became available,” said office manager Lila Scott, adding that the St. Anne stations have an older look that fits perfectly in the chapel. Even though St. Anne’s offered the stations for free, Needleworkers wanted to contribute. “It’s good for both of us; we didn’t have to pay an exorbitant price for a new set, and they got a donation.” The mutual benefit points to the relational nature of being Church, Fr. Juarez added.
St. Joseph Church in DeWitt — the new home of many former St. Anne’s parishioners — took in several objects, including the statue of St. Anne and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pastor Father Paul Connolly also served as pastor of St. Anne’s before its closing, and blessed the statue as a way to make the new parishioners feel welcome. The statue is now displayed in the church’s gathering space. Gannon is among the new parishioners there, and said the St. Anne statue “looks like it was meant to be there. It fits perfectly.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport accepted the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ statue. Pastor Father Rich Adam said the statue is in the cathedral’s front vestibule. “We would like to thank the parish of St. Anne’s for the wonderful statue.”
Fr. Connolly said Iowa City Regina took the altar of sacrifice for use at school Masses and youth rallies. St. Bernadette Parish in West Branch acquired the holy water font and holder, and St. Mary Parish in Iowa City asked for a processional cross, president’s chair and deacon chair. St. Joseph Parish in Delmar accepted a statue of its patron saint, and several other parishes throughout the diocese asked for smaller items, such as chalices.
Still, a number of items were unclaimed, and parishioners began to look beyond the diocese for a home for items of major significance, including the old high altar, St. Joseph side altar and the Blessed Virgin Mary side altar. These altars were made in 1918, and crafted from plaster and horsehair to resemble marble. Gannon said, “They are such beautiful altars and we would have been heartbroken if they were destroyed.”
Through an antique shop owner, Gannon said they discovered that St. Joseph Parish in Farley, which belongs to the Archdiocese of Dubuque, had been looking for turn-of-the-century altars for some time. The church originally had a set of altars similar to St. Anne’s, but they had been damaged and lost in a remodel decades ago.
Father John Haugen, the Farley parish’s sacramental priest, said he was thrilled to acquire the altars for the church. “The people of the parish are happy. It fills a void that was there,” he said. To show his appreciation, Fr. Haugen said he plans to invite the former St. Anne parishioners to a special Mass and reception once the altars are installed.
Gannon said, “Everyone’s looking forward to that.”