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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

New home dedicated for St. Joseph Catholic parish

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Rev. Kevin Richter, priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Le Mars, gives a "talking tour" of the newly constructed church facility Wednesday. The church was dedicated in a 3 p.m. ceremony last Sunday, and the public was welcomed to an open house Wednesday. The high altar is one of many items brought to the new church from the old church. See more photos on page 14.
A Le Mars Catholic parish which held its first Mass in April 1870, dedicated its new church building last Sunday.

A dedication Mass for St. Joseph Catholic Church officially opened the facility to parishioners as their new house of worship and faith.

They entered doors where, etched in stone above the main entrance are the words from Psalm 122:1 "I rejoiced when I heard them say, let us go to the house of the Lord!"

Gothic-revival arches are featured in the new St. Joseph Catholic Church in Le Mars. The stained glass windows are from Germany and were originally from a church in New Hampshire. The windows came to Le Mars via a church salvage dealer. The Stations of the Cross come from the now closed St. Joseph Catholic Church-Neptune, south of Le Mars.
Planning for the new church began nearly 10 years ago, as members recognized the need to replace a church building that was constructed in 1884.

Groundbreaking was held in April 2011, and construction began immediately.

Sunday, general contractor, Ryan Wiltgen, Wiltgen Brothers Construction, Le Mars; and architects, Ryan and Kevin Strehle, BCDM Architects, handed the keys of the church over to Bishop R. Walker Nickless, bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City.

The new St. Joseph Catholic Church in Le Mars features the Gothic-revival architecture while incorporating offices and a parish hall at the sides. The windows near the roofline feature stained glass from the old church.
As a part of the Mass, the church was blessed with holy water and anointed with Chrism (oils) at the 12 consecration points throughout the church, the altars and the chapel.

Inside the church, members will find many things familiar to them, as items from the old church have been incorporated into the new building.

The parish opened its doors to the community Wednesday, hosting four "teaching tours" led by the Rev. Kevin Richter, parish priest, throughout the day.

The baptismal font at the entrance to the sanctuary features flowing water in a pool, and the font bowl from the old church. The overhead canopy incorporates stained glass from the old church in its design.
Once inside the church sanctuary, members and guests immediately recognized the high altar and two side altars from the old church.

The church has Gothic-revival architecture.

"We started out wanting a Gothic design, which was what the old church was," explained Dick Ahlers, a parish director for the church.

On the east side of the new St. Joseph Catholic Church, a patio and landscaped area remember the heritage of the parish. The cross and copper base stop atop the steeple of the old church. The stone nameplate recognizes the first school, St. Josephs School. The school building was the first building demolished to make way for the new church building.
That plan determined how the altars and other items would fit into the new church.

"Very early on, I told the architect we don't want it to be a new building with old furnishings. We want it to look like the items were made to fit the church. And it does," Ahlers said.

Parish director Margie Moir said incorporating items from the old church gives the new church greater meaning than starting from scratch.

In the new St. Joseph Church daily chapel, the old becomes new again. The altar is crafted from the organ facade from the old church and the pews are refurbished from the old church. The crucifix and tabernable come frome the now-closed St. Joseph Catholic Church-Neptune, which was located south of Le Mars.
"By using the old it feels like home," Moir said. "It was our desire and dream to tie to the past."

During the summer, the altars from the old church were carefully dismantled and completely refurbished with new paint and gold trim.

Parish member Paul Langel took charge of taking the altars apart and putting them back together, according to Ahlers.

On the east side of the new St. Joseph Catholic Church, a patio and landscaped area remember the heritage of the parish. The cross and copper base stop atop the steeple of the old church. The stone nameplate recognizes the first school, St. Josephs School. The school building was the first building demolished to make way for the new church building.
"I can't say enough about Paul, he was an engineer at that," said Ahlers.

Ahlers added the brown paint selected to paint the altar columns matched the brown from the altars from 130 years ago.

While the high and side altars are the most visible items from the old church, there are many pieces of the past in the church.

At the front, the ambo (or lectern, from which scripture is read) and pulpit come from the old church.

Stained glass windows at the top of the church were redesigned from the glass in the old church windows.

Bells from the old steeple now ring in the new steeple, which was crafted to be similiar in style to the old church steeple, complete with clocks.

The baptismal font at the entrance to the sanctuary, represents the "entrance into faith," Richter explained.

Water flows into a granite pool. The old baptismal basin is incorporated into the design.

Wood trim around the bottom edge of the font comes from the pew screen which was at the front pews in the old church.

A canopy over the baptismal font incorporates more stained glass from the old church.

The base of the dedication candles on pillars in the sanctuary were made from the stone steps of the old church.

A cross design is laser-etched in each piece of stone.

Two of the four triangular paintings which were located in arches near the ceiling of the old church, have been refurbished and now are at eye level in the sanctuary.

One shows the marriage of Mary and Joseph, the other the death of St. Joseph.

The large Stations of the Cross from the old church were sold to a church in Omaha, according to Richter.

The smaller Stations of the Cross in the new church come from the former St. Joseph Catholic Church-Neptune. which held its last service June 5, 2011.

The tabernacle in the daily chapel also comes from the Neptune church, as does the crucifix on the chapel altar.

In the chapel, the altar is made from the center arch of the organ facade from the old church.

Pews from the old church were refinished and placed in the chapel, too.

The eight new scenic stained glass windows in the sanctuary were originally in a church in Exeter, N.H.

Ahlers said the windows, originally made in Munich, Germany in 1890, were salvaged when the New Hampshire church was torn down.

"We found the windows through the King Richard Company, which deals in old church artifacts," Ahlers said.

When Ahlers and Langel went to Atlanta, Ga., to look at the windows, Ahlers said they were in bad shape, and the two almost didn't buy them.

"The glass was so stunning, we could not turn them down," Ahlers said. The windows were cleaned and releaded by a studio in Chicago. Ill.

Keeping the old items was important to Moir and parish members.

"It is most beautiful that we preserved the altar and the statuary of the old church. That makes it like it belongs to the same people," Moir said. "You feel comfortable when you go there."

She also points to another feature of the new church.

"Most importantly, as our church populace ages, going up and down the steps will not be a problem. Everything is now on the same level," Moir said.

New technology, including a geothermal heating and cooling system, has been incorporated into the church as well.

While the old pipe organ could not be fitted into the new church, a new digital organ will fill the sanctuary with pipe organ sound.

The church now has a spacious fellowship hall and kitchen and meeting areas.

Church office staff have been in their new space since August.

A patio to the east may be accessed from the fellowship hall.

In the landscaped area between the church patio and Gehlen Catholic School, the cross and copper base from the old steeple have a special place, along with the stone nameplate from the old St. Josephs School.

Moir said Sunday's dedication service gave her a feeling of awe and she sat in the sanctuary.

"To see it and be in it, was just breathtaking," Moir said.

Ahlers added, "It was a very moving experience. At that point, I felt that all the meetings and decisions, restoration work, and all the hours, weeks and months spent on the restoration was all worthwhile."

Richter said the dedication Mass gave him a time to sit back and reflect, as the service was conducted by the Bishop.

"The service was wonderfully symbolic," Richter said. "It was so exciting to reach this point."

Richter said it was the first dedication service he had attended.

Richter added it was a privilege to be a part of the process that culminated in the new church.

Nickless shared his thoughts on the new church:

"This, like every Catholic Church, stands as a visible reminder, as a special sign of the pilgrim church on earth, reflecting the church dwelling in heaven. This church should make us feel, as we enter those doors, as if we are in heaven.

"This indeed is a holy place; it is not just a meeting hall or a gathering space. It is the place where God dwells in our midst; first in the Eucharist, then in the people and then in the words we hear proclaimed everyday in sacred Scripture."

When the parish members started to raise money for the new church, which has total project costs of approximately $10.6 million, they called the capital campaign, "Honoring Our Past; Building Our Future."

The goal was to construct a church that would stand the test of time, and stand for the next 100 years.

"I've always felt that the church indicates the depth, and extent of faith of the people of the parish," Ahlers said.

Regular mass schedule begins this weekend for the parish.

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