By Barb Arland-Fye
Thirty years ago I wanted to get married in the church of my childhood, but it was not meant to be. With parents living overseas and the childhood parish being 300-plus miles away, it made sense to celebrate the sacrament of marriage with my husband Steve in our new parish, St. Patrick in Clinton.
We grew to love St. Patrick Parish; our first son was baptized there. The parish later merged with four other parishes in an emotionally difficult consolidation to form Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish. Many elements of the five former parishes – St. Patrick, St. Mary, Sacred Heart, St. Boniface and St. Irenaeus — were incorporated into the design and furnishing of Prince of Peace. What a beautiful way to reinforce the sense of connectedness!
Lu Ann Farrell, who recalled that I had gotten married at St. Pat’s, invited me to the blessing of a St. Patrick’s statue placed inside the long-gone church’s cupola. The restored cupola takes up residence on the back lawn of The Catholic Historical Center at St. Boniface in Clinton’s north end. Lu Ann chaired the St. Patrick Founders Day event July 18. Last year, the historical center celebrated St. Boniface Founders Day. “We want to do this for all five parishes,” Lu Ann explained.
My mind pictured the cupola from its lofty position at St. Patrick Church, so it seemed a little weird to view this architectural piece with its green dome and cream-colored pillars anchored to a pedestal on the grass. But the cupola fits the new environment and its refurbishment symbolizes the love of Catholics for the church that nurtured them in another place and time.
“I miss St. Pat’s. I look out my kitchen window and it’s not there,” Grace Burke told a friend before Father Ken Kuntz, pastor of Prince of Peace Parish, blessed the St. Patrick statue. Ed and Jeanne Swamberger grew up in St. Patrick Parish and raised a family there. “We started kindergarten together,” Ed recalled. Both remembered kindergarten teacher Sister Louise escorting students in and out of their classroom from a ground-level window. She’d open the window and out we’d go,” Ed laughed. Grandparents on both sides of Ed and Jeanne’s families helped establish the parish. All four Swamberger children received sacraments in the parish and graduated from the school. “To me, St. Pat’s was like going back home,” Jeanne added fondly.
The historical center acquired the church’s cupola after Steve Bell spotted it at Larry Joe’s Construction Co. Steve and Tom Koester water-blasted the piece and workers from Air Control in Clinton refabricated the metal pillars and base.
A donor purchased the statue of St. Patrick that stands on what used to be the cupola’s trap door. Other people participated in the refurbishment effort, including Wayne Schoel. Donors are identified on a plaque affixed to the cupola.
Refurbishment of the cupola “helps bridge hard feelings,” said Lucy Schoel, referring to the historical center’s efforts to include artifacts from each of the former parishes. “It means the most to St. Patrick’s people, but it’s important to have it in this yard because (the museum) is for all five former parishes,” Mary Kay Wik noted.
These Catholics have gracefully moved on in their journey of faith, celebrating now as members of Prince of Peace Parish while cherishing their heritage. For one small stretch of time, I had the privilege to share in that heritage as a member of St. Patrick.