Three years ago, a tornado tore through Ridgway, Illinois and destroyed the town’s Catholic church.
All that survived was the altar. At the time, Deacon Bill Johnson sent me pictures and news:
You will notice the Italian marble altar that was miraculously spared. Work is underway to salvage the altar by first protecting it from the elements, and then having it dismantled piece by piece. Thankfully, the parish priest (administrator) Father Steve Beatty, who lives in the rectory next to the church, escaped injury. The rectory was heavily damaged. Of course the main question being asked is if the church will be rebuilt. As of now that has not been determined.
Well, the decision was made to rebuild. I’d forgotten about all this until late today, when Deacon Johnson dropped me a line:
A lot has happened since that event, including the suppression of St. Joseph Parish and the establishment of a new parish, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks, based still in Ridgway, IL. The new parish resulted from the combining of the neighboring parishes in Shawneetown (Immaculate Conception), Equality (St. Joseph) and Pond Settlement (St. Patrick) together with St. Joseph in Ridgway. Eventually, Bishop Edward Braxton granted permission for the new parish to build a new church, which was dedicated by Bp. Braxton this past Sunday (Nov. 29). I was privileged to be one of the assisting deacons at the Mass. The altar was reassembled by Daprato Rigali Studios and now occupies the sanctuary as the reredos, providing the background for the new Altar (also made of Italian marble). In addition, the pastor, Fr. Steven Beatty, arranged for the stained glass windows and Stations of the Cross from another closed parish (St. Francis Xavier, St. Francisville IL) to be purchased and installed into the new church.
The results? I think they speak for themselves. What a glorious start to Advent—and a blessed capstone to Thanksgiving weekend, too. Ad multos annos!
Photos: Deacon Bill Johnson