Christ Our Light honors past as it plans for parish’s future

Every since Christ Our Light Parish was formed — through the merging in 2010 of St. Edward in Princeton and St. Pius X in Zimmerman — worshipping together in one building has been the goal. On Pentecost Sunday, May 23, the parish took another step in that direction with the decommissioning of the south campus in Zimmerman.

Eileen Bialka and Wanda Kehrer, both longtime members of St. Pius X and later Christ Our Light South, fold the altar cloth during the decommissioning of the Zimmerman building May 23. (photo by Sandy Clemons)

Because the building is in the process of being sold, parish staff wanted to have a service to officially close the church and prepare it to be used for something else.

Bishop Donald Kettler presided at the service and offered three short reflections. Each section started with a reading, then his reflection was followed by a hymn.

“The Holy Spirit is alive, guiding us through all that’s happening, including what we are talking about today,” Bishop Kettler told those gathered for the service and watching the livestream. “Sometimes it seems like it might be difficult. There have been difficult days getting to this point. It’s been a long road. But we knew that it was going to happen because God was here. And Jesus told us that with God, all things are possible.”

“[Bishop Kettler] did a great job of preaching that we are the temple, we are the body of Christ, not the building,” said Maureen “Mo” Putnam, director of music and liturgy, who planned the service.

During the service, Bishop Kettler blessed essential parts of the church, like the tabernacle, the Stations of the Cross and the ambo, followed by a procession out of the church.

“Then we had the trustees actually shut the door. It was just very powerful,” said Father Kevin Anderson, pastor of Christ Our Light. “I went back there later that night and it really did feel empty without the tabernacle open, the altar cloth gone. I mean, there are lights and there are stained-glass windows, but … it’s almost like taking the heart out of the church. Powerful.”

To prepare parishioners for what could have been a traumatic event, parish staff planned “Igniting Faith Week,” a series of events leading up to the decommissioning, including a nine-day novena, a parish mission, a storytelling and memory night and a 24-hour vigil in the church with perpetual adoration.

“I’ll miss everything,” said Chris Koehler, a lifelong member of St. Pius and Christ Our Light South. “I’ll miss the stations of the cross and my favorite stained-glass window, but Father Kevin and the staff did a great job with the Igniting Faith Week helping us prepare and celebrate the stories and memories at South.”

“Walking out of the church at decommissioning was very emotional,” she said. “I felt like a final chapter in life was closing, but I’m excited for the new chapter.”

The parish has purchased 107 acres of land where a new church will be built, and plans are underway with a capital campaign planned for the fall. The new church will eventually replace both church buildings.

Parish staff spent a few days in June packing up the old church and crews removed the pews.

Some of the pews were purchased by parishioners, some of them will be made into crosses that will be given to families as part of the capital campaign, and the rest will be taken apart and put into storage, Father Anderson said, and the wood will be used somewhere in the new building. The plan is to reuse and repurpose whatever they can. “We’re going to take the Stations of the Cross … and we’re going to put them in the ground to make a walking trail near where the new church is going to be,” Father Anderson said.

Other things like the light fixtures, which are new, and the sound system will be included in the new church, and they hope to use some of the stained glass in the social hall of the new building, he said.

Christ Our Light has a sister parish relationship with St. Mary Mission Church in Red Lake and some of the stained-glass windows will be used in a new church there, replacing the building destroyed by fire in 2017.

“The sale of the south building is a significant opportunity for our parish to honor who we have been — as two merged congregations — to celebrate the vibrancy of who we have become, and to anticipate the growth and vitality of who we are meant to be,” Father Anderson said. “In all aspects, our slogan has been to ‘trust the Holy Spirit’ leading us into our future.”

Author: Dianne Towalski

Dianne Towalski is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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