Historic bells to ring in new church
By Joanne Glamm
A crane lifts more than a ton of century-old metal away from a brick enclosure, lowering the historic sound maker to the ground.
The process is repeated to bring two more bells down to a cement landing outside St. Joseph Catholic Church in northeast Le Mars.
The bells are an example of the way the contractor is literally moving parts of the 125-year-old church building just north to the new $9.2 million church, under construction since April.
Dick Ahlers, of Le Mars, a member of the St. Joseph church building committee, was with church contractor, Wiltgen Construction, of Le Mars, during the removal last week.
“We were hoping to make a larger hole in the tower, but the brick is so bad up there, we were afraid if we took out more brick, part of the tower would collapse,”Ahlers said.
The Rev. Kevin Richter, pastor of St. Joseph, said two of the bells had been named, which is not unusual.
“One of them is dedicated to St. Mary and one is dedicated to St. Joseph,” Richter said.
The largest bell weighs 2,400 lbs., according to Ryan Wiltgen of Wiltgen Construction.
There will be more moving days for parts of the current Gothic style building.
Ahlers said all three altars will be disassembled from the church built in 1885 and placed in the new St. Joseph church.
The stained glass will be resized to fit the new building.
The move is away from Le Mars for two other features.
The Stations of the Cross are too large to fit the sidewalls of the new church and have been sold to a parish in Omaha, Neb., Ahlers said.
He explained some of the Omaha parish’s large paintings, which serve as their Stations of the Cross, were stolen.
A home has not yet been found for St. Joseph’s organ, which is for sale.
“A new pipe organ, similar to what we have here would probably be $300,000-$400,000 so someone’s going to get a bargain,” Ahlers said.
The new building will also reflect reuse of materials beyond the Le Mars church.
Stations of the Cross from St. Joseph Church at Neptune, near Hinton, will be repainted and placed in the new Le Mars church.
The Neptune church closed in June.
Ahlers said the stations are the same style as the larger ones in the current Le Mars church, but probably half the size.
“They should work nicely in the new church,” Ahlers said.
Windows from a church in New Hampshire will be added to the new St. Joseph worship center.
Richter said he found the set of stained glass windows on a website of a company that salvages religious items from other churches and parishes and helps to get them to new parishes for use.
“We did stumble upon this one set of windows that fit very closely to the size of the windows that were projected for our building so we began to pursue them,” Richter said.
The Gothic style windows differed from St. Joseph’s because the current church does not have figures in the stained glass.
“So, these are all images — most of them images of Christ or of the saints,” he said.
According to Ahlers, the eight antique stained glass windows were made in Munich, Germany around 1900.
Paul Langel, of Le Mars, and Ahlers traveled to Atlanta, Ga. to see the windows.
“They were very highly detailed and very fitting for our church,” Ahlers explained.
The windows are being disassembled and re-leaded in Chicago.
“They will occupy the eight large main windows in the new church,” he said.
Rain in the spring and summer has delayed construction on the new St. Joseph church slightly, both Ahlers and Richter explained
The target date to be in the new church building is July 31 of next year, Richter said
“I think it is just going well,” he said. “I’m happy with the contractor and the process, and I think it’s exciting to see it go up.”