By KATIE BORKOWSKI
Where do tabernacles, Stations of the Cross and statues go when a church closes?
“Once an object is blessed and is used for the sacred liturgy, it can never be used for anything else, especially for secular or profane use,” said Father Brent Lingle, director of worship and director of pastoral planning for the diocese.
He continued, “Many of the items are not only of great monetary value but hold special significance in the life of a parish and in the parish’s liturgical life. Ideally some of these sacred items could be used in the parish or parishes that the people from the closed parish now attend, allowing them to value the past, while living in the new parish realities.”
The Ministry 2025 plan proposes that 40 churches will go to oratory status. However, since these church buildings are proposed to go to oratory status, they will retain all of their sacred items, Father Lingle clarified.
“When Masses or other liturgical events take place in the oratory, they would need those items for use during the liturgy,” he said. “The only time sacred items are removed from the church is when the building itself is closed.”
When a parish closes, the pastor is responsible to make sure that an inventory of the sacred items is completed.
“He (the pastor) coordinates this with the director of worship for the diocese and may be assisted by him and others appointed for that task,” said Father Lingle. “Once an item is blessed and used in the sacred liturgy it cannot be sold, as that is a serious sin. It is our practice to see that the items are donated to other parishes or placed in the archives of the diocese for future use. We also try to place some of those items in mission territories.”
In the instance the parish receiving the sacred items wishes to make a donation, which is different than a sale, “the money from the donation would go back to the receiving parish responsible for the closed church,” said Father Lingle.
Policy on Sacred Patrimony
A Policy on Sacred Patrimony was approved and promulgated for the Diocese of Sioux City on Oct. 26, 2015, by Bishop Walker Nickless, Father Lingle and Deacon David Lopez, chancellor.
According to the policy, “The care of sacred items that belong to the parishes of the Diocese of Sioux City is an important task that the Bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City shares with the pastors of the diocese. Once an item is purchased or donated for sacred use it must be perpetually cared for.”
Within the policy, there are guiding principles that will assist in establishing a procedure for removing the sacred items from a closed church/parish. The policy states, “The pastor or his delegate are to make a record of the final disposition of each item on the inventory.”
There is a list of five principles and procedures to be followed when it becomes necessary to close a church within the diocese.
Le Mars All Saints Parish – St. Joseph Church has items from two closed churches: Neptune St. Joseph and Merrill Assumption.
The Stations of the Cross from Neptune are now in the body of St. Joseph’s. The tabernacle and crucifix from Neptune are now in the chapel at St. Joseph’s.
A Tapestry of Mary, Mother of God, from the church in Merrill is now in the parish hall of St. Joseph’s and the Stations of the Cross are now in the chapel.
“It means a lot to parishioners to continue to have items from their churches used, especially in a site where they can continue to still see them and to be part of their use,” said Father Kevin Richter, pastor of All Saints Parish in Le Mars. “The people feel a deep connection to each of these items, and it gives them a feeling of ‘being at home’ when they see them being used here.”
The chapel at Bishop Heelan High School in Sioux City received statues of Mary and Joseph and a tabernacle from St. Paul Church in Scranton. The wooden figure of Christ was removed from Scranton’s crucifix and placed on a new cross that was custom-made to match the altar and woodwork furnishings in the chapel.
“It is nice that they were able to be repurposed as is the case with the stained glass windows and altar cloths as well,” said Chris Bork, principal at Bishop Heelan High School. “I appreciated the way that all of the items came together to create a beautiful and peaceful place for our students and community to worship.”
In recent years, both St. John’s in Quimby and Visitation in Maryhill have closed. Immaculate Conception Church in Cherokee has the Stations of the Cross and the baptismal font from St. John’s. The sanctuary lamp from Visitation in Maryhill was refurbished and placed in Immaculate Conception at the time of the renovation/restoration.
Since the church in Maryhill was destroyed in a wind storm, there are not many items at Immaculate Conception, except for some small items such as church vessels and vestments.
“I think it’s important to the local members of these parishes to see some of their items used because it helps keep a remembrance of their former church and community,” said Father Guenther. “I would compare it to having keepsakes from a deceased loved one. They don’t take the place of this loved one, but they can bring back some fond memories, which is really a helpful thing when we let go of those that we love.”