Final touches to complete Le Mars St. Joseph Church
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
Bishop Walker Nickless will celebrate the dedication Mass for the new church at 3 p.m. on Oct. 21.
The ceremony will begin with the congregation outside the main entrance of the church. The general contractor Ryan Wiltgen from BCDM will officially hand over a symbol of the building to Bishop Nickless, said Father Kevin Richter, pastor at St. Joseph’s.
Then everyone will process into the church. During the ceremony, the bishop will bless the church with holy water and consecrate the church with chrism – the top of the altar and 12 consecration points throughout the church. The altar has a new granite top and the bottom was created about 20 years ago from the Communion rail.
Parishioners will be involved in various aspects of the Mass. The two parish directors will be the lectors, a four generation family will bring up the gifts, four people will dress the altar and five altar servers whose families are “very involved in the parish and have along history here,” said the pastor.
A new church
Construction began on the new church in April of 2011. After finishing final touches, the church will be complete for the dedication Mass.
The new structure includes the church, a chapel for daily Mass, office space, social hall and family room.
“Everything has gone extremely well,” said Father Richter. “I have had the privilege of being part of this from the first interviews with the architect through the conceptual phase and the design phase. It exceeds my expectations. It is beyond what I thought it would be even though I have seen all the drawings. It is an incredible church.”
The architects from BCDM are Dave Beringer, who first worked with the concept, and Kevin Strehle, who has led the way on the technical detail. The general contractor from BCDM is Ryan Wiltgen. Many of the subcontractors on the project are also parishioners at St. Joseph’s.
“One of the incredible aspects of this church is the long list of items that are in this church from the old church building,” said the pastor. “The new church is designed around the high altars from the old church.”
Other items from the old church are the altar, the ambo, the presider’s chair, the backdrop in the chapel and the altar in the chapel. The upper basin on the baptismal font is also from the old church. Two paintings that were in the upper portion of the old church have been reconditioned for the new church.
In addition, almost all of the stained glass from the old church has been reconfigured and reconditioned for the new church. The stones that hold the candles of the consecration points were cut from the steps of the old church, Father Richter noted.
The Stations of the Cross and the tabernacle in the chapel are from the church in Neptune.
Parishioners at St. Joseph’s have taken ownership in the process of building the new church, said Father Richter.
“Ryan Wiltgen commented to me early in this project that there are a lot of what they call owner items on this project, a lot of elements that the parish said we would do,” he said. “Every one of the parish elements is done by volunteers. We have a crew, especially Paul Langel and Dick Ahlers, who have lined up a score of volunteers to work with them.”
The parishioners have done everything from moving the high altars and constructing the base trim on the baptismal font to putting together the niches for the ambry and statues and reconstructing the screen from the old pipe organ into the backdrop for the altar in the chapel. The volunteers also installed pews in the chapel and constructed the wall in the confessional.
“They have been hanging pictures, moving things and cleaning things,” said Father Richter. “They not only moved the high altars. They disassembled it, cleaned it, repainted the gold and any other paint on it and then reassembled it. The list goes on and on. It has been incredible the parishioners who have been involved and the number of things they have been involved in.”
Paul Langel has been a parishioner at St. Joseph’s almost his whole life. He is among the volunteers who took on the project of moving the altars from the old church to the new church. He helped put up the stations, the four evangelists and hanging the wall paintings. He also built the confessional divide and helped install the pews in the chapel.
Langel loves being involved and didn’t want to miss it. He normally works on other carpentry with his sons, but told them “I wasn’t going to be there this year because I wanted to help with this.”
“This is a historical event taking place,” he said. “We think it’s awesome. It turned out beautiful. There aren’t too many things I would even change. We are pretty excited about it.”
Mary Hartman has been a parishioner at St. Joseph’s for 25 years and was a teacher at Gehlen for 30 years. She had taken care of the candles and kept them clean and will continue to do that in the new church. To prepare the new church she has painted gold on the altar and other pieces in the church.
She said it means everything to her to be part of the process, “especially because I am older and God has blessed me with this wonderful health and I can come every day, paint and work. It has been wonderful.”
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