It was cloudy and gray on my June 28 drive to Ireland, Indiana; but as I got out of my car to walk into the new St. Mary Church, the sky started to clear and allow the sun to peek through the clouds.
Once inside the new church, the sun continued to shine through the breathtaking stained-glass windows. All of the current church’s stained glass windows were refurbished by Mominee Studios in Evansville to be placed in the new church, and nine new windows were commissioned.
I know many people were not able to attend the Dedication Mass, celebrated by Bishop Joseph M. Siegel, because of COVID-19-related gathering restrictions that limited attendance to 230 to enable proper social distancing.
I was in Ireland to cover the dedication for The Message.
I know it was disappointing for some to not be able to be part of it, but know that the church will be around to enjoy for many years to come.
While I was there for work, I feel especially blessed I was able to be part of the event since my uncle, Father Joseph “Effie” Erbacher, is St. Mary’s pastor.
As I looked around the new church before Mass, my eyes settled again on the stained-glass windows. As I studied them, they glowed from the sunlight, radiating vibrant colors.
It took me by surprise when it was time to start the Dedication Mass, and my eyes filled with tears as Bishop Siegel instructed my uncle, Father Joe, to open the doors to the new St. Mary Church in Ireland.
It may sound silly that something typically so ordinary could cause me to have goosebumps, but this was no ordinary door-opening. To say it was special to witness the Dedication Mass is an understatement.
I’ve shared memories in previous columns of growing up Catholic, and how I like to brag about having an uncle who is a priest.
Uncle Father Joe, know how proud all of us are of you and your many accomplishments. I’d like to think some of that sunshine coming through the stained-glass windows was Grandpa John and Grandma Evelyn Jo smiling down on you.
I know my uncle is not the only person who worked tirelessly to bring this project to fruition; so kudos to everyone who played a part in the new church project. Many people have put their hearts and souls into making this dream for St. Mary Parish come true, and now we celebrate your successes!
During his comments at the end of Mass before the final blessing, Father Joe mentioned how beautiful the weather turned out.
“The good Lord has blessed us with very gorgeous sunshine,” he said. “Let us all remember that glorious sunlight shines through our old, renewed stained-glass windows and our new stained-glass windows. That bright light of Jesus Christ has been given to this parish because of your faith. … We hope and pray that with your faith, your deep Catholic faith, it will continually grow and grow.”
When you get a chance, I urge you to schedule a tour or attend a Mass at St. Mary to see the magnificent new church.
Congratulations to St. Mary Parish, the Diocese of Evansville and all involved on the new church!