The bells of St. Mary’s are silent and the windows of St. Mary’s are dark.
That sounds a bit ominous. It is, to some extent, but there is light and there is hope.
On Aug. 28 lightning struck St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church while I was inside offering a private Mass after having just flown in from California.
That one zap disabled the church’s computers, elevators, chimes, bells, pipe organ, sound system, security cameras — and that was only the immediate result.
Some months earlier a few cracks had been observed and it was soon evident that one of the major beams in the attic had crushed some of the support bricks beneath it.
With that clear measurement as a reference point, additional measurements were taken after the lightning strike and showed the church took a good shake.
This was evident in the plaster which fell in the choir loft and other large cracks that appeared in the ceiling.
It was also noted that the outer walls seemed to be leaning slightly out where the choir loft attaches.
Currently several engineers are taking measurements and preparing recommendations.
In the history of the parish, just about every pastor put a new roof on the church.
I am praying that all 11 roofs are not up there.
Our goal, no matter what the results of the engineers’ reports say, is to restore and preserve every bit of this historic Columbus structure.
For the most part, St. Mary’s still looks very much like grand old St. Mary’s in its earliest photographs.
Old photos do show that the gas lights gave way to a large chandelier with countless light bulbs. The effect must have been blinding.
Every effort will be made to restore the historic paintings and the beautifully carved German Altars.
This will be our time of exile, our wandering in the desert and a renewal of ourselves as a Christian people even as we renew the building and as we pray.
St. Mary’s has functioned as a concert hall with its organ and the many German singing societies that have filled it with beautiful music and beautiful memories.
The people of St. Mary’s have always been glad to welcome the larger community for special events, especially those that help preserve the German culture that was so influential in the forming of this community.
The hardest lines to write are the opening and the closing.
My secretary grew weary of me trying to find a closing line so she said: “Just write: ‘Please pray for us and send us lots of money!’ and be done with it.”
I’m going to get a little help from an early Christian bishop: St. Augustine spoke of truth and beauty as “ever ancient, ever new.” The phrase fits St. Mary’s as well: ever ancient, ever new. And closed for repairs.
John Rees offered these photos of the structural damage:
The Rev. Kevin Lutz of St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church submitted the Village Notebook column.