By Sharon Crall
For The Catholic Messenger
GEORGETOWN — St. Patrick Parish in Georgetown is preparing for its annual God’s Portion Day Weekend with an eye to the sky! Not the clouds, but the church steeple which holds a large, heavy church bell that has served the parish for over 115 years. The belfry and bell have withstood two tornadoes, several windstorms, ice, snow, winds, etc., but the weather elements took their toll. It’s time for repairs. The parish hired a steeplejack crew named “Inspiring Heights” to give an estimate on repairs to rotted beams around the bell and to the mechanisms which ring it.
The bell needs to be restored because it has rung for four to five generations of weddings, funerals, Masses, the Angelus, and to announce the turning of two centuries! Walter Lahart even raced to the church to ring the bell when news came that St. Patrick Church had been named to the National Registry of Historic Places!
There’s even a fascinating story behind the acquisition and dedication of the bell. In 1899, Father Edward Gaule decided that the $400 left as a provision to the church in the will of James McFadden should be used for a bell for the tower. The congregation decided to buy the biggest and best bell to be found. Reportedly, the bell was hauled from Baltimore by train, unloaded at Tyrone, Iowa and brought by bobsled four miles up the road to Georgetown. The bobsled and bell toppled twice making the winter trip, according to historical records. The tower work was completed in December 1899, and an elaborate ceremony was held to christen the bell. It was washed with holy water inside and out. Sponsors were William Judge and Kate Whalen. The bell was rung for the first time to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and then at the turn of the century a few weeks later.
The parish is on a mission to “save the bell.” Donations at God’s Portion Day Weekend Sept. 3-4 will be earmarked toward that expense. It won’t be a bell, but a shotgun start that will be heard during one of the weekend’s highlights, the 7th annual Georgetown Open Golf Tournament. The event will be held Saturday, Sept. 3 at Albia Golf and Leisure. Check-in will be at 8:45 a.m. with a start time of 9:30 a.m. For information call Paige Bradley at (641) 777- 9687.
The alarm clock bells will go off early for the chicken frying crew on Sunday, Sept. 4, preparing for the homegrown country dinner that features fried chicken and roast beef with homegrown sweet corn and lots of trimmings. Cost of the dinner is $10 for adults and children 12 years and older and $5 for younger children. As the dinner works, the church bell will ring to announce the 10 a.m. Mass where graduates of the former parish school and parish natives will be recognized.
Hunter McAninch will provide entertainment for the weekend, which also includes games, a country store featuring “Taste of Georgetown” items and a souvenir stand. The church bell will peal and the grand live suction on the south church grounds will begin at 1 p.m. The lawn social will begin at 3 p.m. and should keep bidders content until the conclusion of the auction when raffle tickets will be drawn. Finally, the church bell will ring at the end of the weekend to announce a job well done and to celebrate the success of the event!