St Joseph and St Mary Parishes in Freeport, IL

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Symbolism in the Church #9

In St Joseph Church, there is a special feature that you would not find in many places. Above the tabernacle, where many times we place a crucifix, is what is called a rotunda. It is part of the façade of the reredos that changes according to the season. I call it a rotunda because in the reredos, the rotunda spins around to show three different facades: one for ordinary time, one for advent and lent, and another for Christmas and Easter time. So the rotunda adds to the diversity of the reredos to apply to the various times of the year. When we first got this high altar and reredos in 2011, it had many different layers of paint on it. These layers were carefully taken off in order to find out what the original design of the painting was. This is what we attempted to paint on it. There were a few adaptations to it, but for the most part it was done the same way it was originally painted for St Mary’s Church in Dubuque, which is now closed. Continue reading


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Symbolism in the Church #6

The high altar does not stand alone like the front altar. Most noticeably, it has what is known as the reredos. They are decorations that extend from the back of the altar to help focus on the sacrifice on the altar, the same sacrifice that lives in the tabernacle. Ours here at St Joseph is very rich in symbolism and teaching moments, more than in most I find.
First, the gold reminds us of the majesty of God. It is most evidently a golden palace. How many grandparents take their grandchildren to church here and the kids get it? It’s a great castle! Yes, a great golden castle for Jesus. That is truly where He lives, at the very center, the tabernacle. And in this majestic castle, we are invited to live, too, because in this castle there are many rooms for us (John 14:2-3). Jesus has prepared a room for you. Which room is it? Are you like the foundation or pillars and sturdy? Are you close to the heart of God, in the center? Has God risen you to lofty heights? Or are you by the arms of the reredos, always in His embrace? Or are you by the slain lamb from the long suffering of this life? … Continue reading


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The Symbolism in St Joseph Church #4

God sheds his grace upon us in many colors, symbolized in the colors we see when the sun shines through the windows. Real stained glass is getting more and more rare. Real stained glass is actually what it says it is, glass that is stained, or has the color in the glass. The more modern “stained glass” may have a backdrop color in the glass, but then they spray paint on top of it to give it its shading effect. This allows for more detail in making images in a time where the true art of making the windows is almost all lost. Look closely at the stained glass in any old church. It is nearly impossible to have the same glass replaced.
In the old days the glass was stained by hand, making it very difficult to match. Even the same piece of glass may have different parts of it with different intensities of that color. Stained glass can vary in thickness, giving it a different look as well. Consistency was very hard to keep in stained glass. When we look at this stained glass, we see the uniformity and consistency of all the glass. In fact, we can see it in the very building. Continue reading


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The Symbolism in St Joseph Church #3

Jesus leads us through the storms of this life: all our uncertainties, sufferings and joys, both individually and communally. Sometimes we “see how strong the wind {is, we} become frightened” (Mt 14:30) and start wondering why He is leading us to such turbulent territory. We question if He is even leading us or if He cares. But He has the helm. He has His boat under control. He is leading His Church to the safety of the dock. The winds and the waves may be pushing this old barc and our very lives around, but we still have nothing to fear as Jesus is the one who leads us. He is the one who saves us (Mt 14:30-31). Continue reading


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2022: 150 Years of the St Joseph Church Building

It is hard to imagine, in the year 2022, less than four years from now will be the 150-year anniversary of the St Joseph church building. Just ten years after the official founding of St Joseph parish community, the people of the parish built the church we have today. This community has seen a lot of changes in the world since that time: cars, planes, electricity, phones, computers, and space travel. America looks quite different too. From Jesse James, the purchase of major lands from Mexico, to putting an American flag on the moon, a Catholic president and a German pope. Freeport has changed too. Lots of hard work gave way to prosperity. Now we experience the hard times on Freeport and its residents. Families built this church; many are still here, and many are not. Continue reading