By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
WELTON — A memorial that marks the site of the former St. Anne Church was dedicated July 24. Around 30 people attended the event.
Father Paul Connolly, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt and former pastor of St. Anne’s, said the land was sold to two neighbors and a business following the church’s closing in 2014. “Nothing can be built here for 25 years,” he said.
During his homily, Fr. Connolly recalled the history of St. Anne’s. Catholics in that area initially attended church in Petersville. But the roads were not in good condition. Mud and snow made travel even harder. Catholics in the Welton area approached Archbishop John Keane of the Archdiocese of Dubuque about establishing a new church because they wanted the Eucharist. The parish was established in 1910.
Fr. Connolly read a passage from Ecclesiastes 3: “a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build.”
He noted that in its final years, St. Anne’s needed a lot of repairs. At a meeting he said one person stood up and asked those in attendance to look around. “Who will be here in 10 years?” Parishioners started to think that maybe it was “a time to tear down.” “No one wants to tear down,” Fr. Connolly said. Money probably could have been raised to fix the church, but its future was uncertain.
After making the decision to close, the parish decided to find a home for as many of the liturgical items as possible. Fr. Connolly said the monstrance and the statue of Sacred Heat went to Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. The Stations of the Cross are at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. The high altar is at St. Joseph Parish in Farley. The main altar is at Regina Catholic schools in Iowa City. Many other items found homes in parishes. “If we had waited a few more years, would we have had this opportunity,” he asked?
Parishioners have spread to different parishes in the diocese. “The general rule is there is a parish within a half-hour of our border. You have access to the Eucharist and gathering for the Lord’s Supper. Pick what is most comfortable and celebrate and live.”
After the homily, Fr. Connolly blessed an engraved, polished stone with a picture of St. Anne Church. To the left of the stone is the cross that topped the parish’s steeple. A tree and plant were placed nearby. Bricks and rocks encircle the memorial.
Karolyn Meier is a committee member who helped plan dedication of the memorial, along with Linda Selby, Susan Koranda, Deb Gannon and Pat Frey. The memorial was paid for with funds left over after the church’s closing. Fr. Connolly noted that after all bills are paid, money will be distributed to parishes where former St. Anne members now make their parish homes, which is diocesan policy.
Maureen Schrader said she wouldn’t have missed the memorial dedication for anything. She married into the area and raised her children in the parish. “They had all their sacraments here.” She is a member of Ss. Philip & James Parish in Grand Mound.
Mary Kittleson said she was baptized at St. Anne’s, received her first Communion there and was confirmed and married at the church. “This was my lifetime church. It was sad when they took it down. But this memorial is something to remember it by. Having the cross from on top of the steeple is wonderful.” She now attends Ss. Philip & James Parish.
A Mass for deceased and living members of St. Anne Parish was held July 26, the feast of St. Anne, at St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt.