Prayer at the center of Elmdale Church renovation success

The pews were packed June 29 as parishioners gathered for Mass at St. Edward Church in Elmdale for the first time in nearly a year.

Bishop Patrick Neary presided at the Mass of thanksgiving, a celebration of the completion of the renovation of the church and the installation of Vincentian Father Jimmy Joseph as pastor of the parish.

Bishop Neary blesses the assembly. (Photos by Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

Last July, just weeks after Father Joseph was assigned to the parish, St. Edward’s was severely damaged by a fire so his installation Mass was put on hold. The community has been working together since then to repair and restore it so Masses could resume.

“Every time I asked the people, they were here, ready to help,” said Father Joseph, who is also pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in St. Francis and St. Mary in Upsala. “Whatever we needed, there were people ready to help.”

And people collaborated in all kinds of ways, working together on everything from building cabinets to cleaning and painting.

Damaged by smoke and water, the Stations of the Cross, statues and altars needed minor repairs and cleaning, followed by repainting.

Little Falls artist Sheila McCallum, who has worked with Father Joseph before to refurbish statues, took on the project.

“It was my privilege to help restore St. Edward’s! I am grateful to God for providing me the talent and to Fr. Jimmy for asking me to be part of it,” McCallum said.

It seemed overwhelming, but Father Joseph had prayed about it and was certain she was the one for the job, she said. The task was daunting, but she had confidence because the Lord wanted it, she added.

“Sheila has been amazing,” Father Joseph said. “Where we’d be without her, I can’t imagine.”

Starting last November and finishing just hours before the reopening Mass, McCallum repaired and restored 57 pieces, including the high altar and two side altars, baptismal font, Stations of the Cross and 10 free-standing statues and the bases they stand on, including the large crucifix on the back wall.

While repairing the broken globe just below the crucifix on the dome of the high altar, she found that it was filled with newspaper to give support to the shape when it was made.

“It was sports pages from the St. Paul Pioneer Press from August 24, 1920,” she said, noting that St. Edward’s was designed and built in 1920 by Victor Cordella, a Polish architect.

“The Lord’s hand was certainly on the entire church renovation,” McCallum said. “The team collaboration was amazing. When I was nearing the reopening Mass deadline and was putting in long hours the last few weeks, Father Jimmy called me out of the blue and told me that he and a team had been praying for me every day since I began the project. Truly, this is why the Church’s entire restoration turned out so well — it was surrounded by prayer and sacrifice.”

Father Joseph agreed that the whole renovation was a positive experience.

“It’s was a wonderful experience for me because it was like God sent me here and there was a reason for me being here,” he said. “There was a mission and there was a purpose. And since then, I have experienced that guidance and that protection and care from God, and from the Holy Spirit — and lots of help from the community.”

Quoting Father Joseph in his homily, Bishop Neary said, “Years ago, their ancestors built this church — more than a hundred years ago — but now they’re rebuilding their faith. It’s a good time for people to come together and celebrate and live their faith.”


Author: Dianne Towalski

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

Leave a Reply