May 14, 2020
The St. Anne window created for the Hamburg church
Nothing could extinguish the spirit of St. Anne’s – not a fire, not a tornado, not even an edict of man.
Closed since 2013, St. Anne’s Church in Hamburg, Ind., lives on in the people who loved it and in a space that bears its name and houses its treasured symbols. Stained glass windows removed from the building are now part of St. Anne’s Chapel at Holy Family, the Franciscan parish in Oldenburg, Ind.
In a time of separation, the windows remind us how dearly we hold our sacred spaces. “It’s like your home,” says Cindy Lamping, a former parishioner of St. Anne’s, “and with this quarantine thing you realize how much you miss not being able to go to your church.” But they also remind us, “A church is just a building,” says Bill Patterson, whose faith life revolved around St. Anne’s before it was closed. “It’s what you put into it that matters.”
PHOTO BY CARL LANGENDERFER, OFMThe windows from St. Anne’s have found a new home at Holy Family.Carl LangenderferBonaventure HammerBede Oldegeering
“My family’s been part of St. Anne’s forever, until it ended,” Cindy says. “My mom and grandma were some of the original parishioners. Dad was on the parish council; mom was the religious ed leader for a while, and parish secretary and bookkeeper. When she started getting older, I took over as bookkeeper.”
Through the years, the faith of families like Cindy’s was often tested.
“To begin with, we were destroyed by fire in 1954,” says Catherine Augustin, whose mother was 3 years old when her family moved from Greensburg to Hamburg and St. Anne’s. “There was a freak thunderstorm: One big flash of lightning, and it struck the steeple. The church was gutted completely. The people of Hamburg got together and got the church rebuilt.”
Twenty years later, disaster struck again. Cindy was a junior in high school when a tornado roared through the village on April 3, 1974, part of a “Super Outbreak” of 21 tornadoes that struck 39 counties in Indiana and killed 47 people. From their school windows, “We could see the tornado go across the interstate and head toward Hamburg,” Cindy says. “After the tornado, the church was a pile of bricks.” Also flattened were a two-room schoolhouse, the rectory, and the Knights of Columbus Hall. “Everything was demolished.” Even the tombstones in St. Anne’s Cemetery were mowed down.
Carl Langenderfer at Holy Family Church; above, a page of St. Anne memoriesMost devastating of all was the loss of a classmate of Catherine’s, an expectant mother who died with her daughter during the storm. When it was over, just six homes in Hamburg were left standing.
In response to their loss, citizens rallied around St. Anne’s. “It was a very small town and the people wanted a church,” Catherine says. “The church was the center of the town and we didn’t have much else. Everybody pulled together” to make sure it was rebuilt.
The cornerstone for the third St. Anne’s Church was laid on April 3, 1975. This building would be sleek and contemporary, a contrast to the region’s older, more ornate churches. Among its furnishings was a wooden statue of the Blessed Mother that had survived both the fire and the tornado.
For the Pattersons and others, life revolved around St. Anne’s. “It’s what made the community,” says Bill. “After Mass we’d stand outside and talk for probably 45 minutes. In a small parish, you know everybody. Of course my parents and all the other kids my age were involved with the church; that’s how society was.” But things were changing as schools moved elsewhere, membership declined and the shortage of priests hit home. “For a while we didn’t have a resident priest, and my dad and mom, who lived right by the church, just kind of took over,” managing the bookkeeping and maintenance, doing whatever was needed.
Left, the statue of St. Anne that stood in the entrance to the church; below, the cornerstone with the time capsuleGregory BramlageAgnes BohmanFrancis
For Century Art Glass of St. Louis, a firm that had designed hundreds of windows around the country since its founding in 1908, St. Anne’s was not a huge project. The two largest windows would be 44 inches tall. But it was a job they would remember.
They started as usual with sketches, says Bill Sumner, who worked on St. Anne’s windows with his brother Matthew and Rick Loveless, the main conceptual artist and painter. “My brother would cut the glass pieces and glaze them together; we would both install them,” says Bill, who made two trips to Hamburg to put the designs in context for the contemporary church. He recalls Stained glass artist Bill Sumner“driving through those rolling hills” in search of St. Anne’s. When sketches were approved, they submitted glass colors and color renderings to the priest. “Matt remembers we worked all night to finish those stained glass windows before either Christmas or Easter.”
Once installed, “The windows were very pretty,” says Catherine. Six went into the nave; the vestibule featured St. Francis on one side, and the Good Shepherd on the other. But the Sumners’ carefully crafted work remained in place for little more than a decade.
Numbers – fewer parishioners, fewer priests – finally sealed the fate of St. Anne’s. “For 30 years they had been saying, ‘You’re so small you might figure that you’re gonna close,’” Cindy says. But when the decision came down in 2013, “It was such a blow.” For the 60-plus families who remained, “It was rough at first,” Bill says. “I cried at the last Mass, I’ll admit it. My youngest daughter said, ‘Where am I gonna get married?’ My other kids were married in Hamburg.”
Families sponsored windows like this one of St. Therese.When St. Anne’s closed, “The thing they lost was the sense of community in this little neighborhood,” says Richard Moeller, who was baptized at the church and had returned to Hamburg with wife Pat after he spent years away, pursuing his work as a veterinarian. “It was a nice, friendly parish and we all worked together,” Pat says.
Assigned to Holy Family in Oldenburg, “Parish members kind of scattered like a bunch of quail,” Richard says.
After that, “The St. Anne’s church building was sold to a family that converted it into a home,” says Pastor Carl. Most of the furnishings and fixtures – the pews, the tabernacle, sanctuary lamps, angels that flanked the altar, stations of the cross and the venerable Blessed Mother statue – were sent to Holy Family, where many were installed in its weekday chapel. On April 3, 2017, it was dedicated as “St. Anne’s Chapel” by then-Pastor David Kobak to acknowledge parishioners and the history they shared.
It seemed the saintly windows were forgotten. Removed from St. Anne’s, they had been stored in the old refectory at Holy Family Friary. “They were leaning against the wall in the dining room when I got St. Faustina Kowalska with a picture of Jesus of the Divine Mercy.there” in 2017, Carl says. Encouraged by former St. Anne parishioners like the Moellers, “Eventually we decided it might be nice to do something with them.” Size-wise they seemed perfect for the windows at St. Anne’s Chapel. But first, they needed framing.
For that, Carl called master woodworker Jim Bertram, who donated his labor to the project. It was “a tedious job, but I like a challenge,” says Jim, whose brother is friar Norbert Bertram. “You have to be careful with stained glass windows because they break easily.” Tom Schrank, a lifelong parishioner at Holy Family, donated lumber from his sawmill because “I’ve been treated good by the Lord and I try to give a little bit back.” Five of the newly framed windows have been mounted in St. Anne’s Chapel. “The others are being installed in the side entrances of the church,” Carl says.
And there’s more. According to Bill, “The people who bought St. Anne’s Church and turned it into a house found a time capsule in the cornerstone.” It now sits at Holy Family in a cabinet made by Richard Moeller with the notation, “To be opened in 2037.”
For Cindy and others who will never forget St. Anne’s, “It’s very comforting when we’re able to go to Holy Family and see the chapel and those artifacts. It gives you a nice feeling.”
Bill and his family have settled in at Holy Family. “Life goes on,” he says. “Faith shouldn’t matter where you go.” But he admits, “I miss the camaraderie” at his old parish.
Sadly, the company that produced the stained glass windows for St. Anne’s was forced to close in 2008, after 100 years in business, a victim of a tough economy. The Sumners, who consider their work both art and ministry, are pleased that the windows were resurrected. “Long after you’re gone, your windows are ministering to other people about the word of God, and I really like that,” Bill says. Now that St. Anne’s windows are at Holy Family, “They’re still telling the story.”
PHOTO BY ISTOCK.COMKeeping our distance for safety’s sake
But there are other stresses – many of which are self-imposed. A part of the job of Provincial Minister is to successfully plan for our Provincial Chapter. Together with the Council we have been around and around the best estimates about when it will be safe to gather together a group of men who are largely in the “at-risk” category, older than 60. Speaking with Dan Anderson one morning, I became more and more agitated that I could not plan appropriately. Dan smiled and said, “Do you think that because you’re the Provincial, you can control the spread of the coronavirus?” “Yes!” I said, then started laughing. I had unconsciously made the ability to plan for Chapter the indicator of doing my job well.
PHOTO BY ISTOCK.COMSo close and yet so far: Getting together means staying apart.
Perhaps you’re like me, hoping the disease will soon hit its peak and slowly we can go back to our normal lives, when our creature comforts and privileges will return to normal. As we celebrate this Fifth Week of Easter, we may be starting to see that resurrection isn’t about returning to normal. It is about transformation. Sr. Mary Pellegrino, CSJ, from Plante Moran put it this way: “Will our experience of fear, uncertainty and powerlessness help us to identify with the undocumented and the impoverished whose suffering does not end after a few months of quarantine? Will we become grateful for things that we take for granted? Will we find new reverence for our Earth that sustains us with water, food and, yes, even toilet paper? Will we learn that hoarding doesn’t give us control, it only deprives others?”
As we continue in our Easter, let’s allow the Risen One to teach us with this time how to live a Risen life.
–Mark Soehner, OFM
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PHOTO BY CARL LANGENDERFER, OFMThe windows from St. Anne’s have found a new home at Holy Family.The story of St. Anne’s has come full circle, starting with Franciscans who initially helped staff the parish, and ending with the friars currently stationed at Holy Family. “Almost all the churches around here [southeast Indiana] were Franciscan-started,” Cindy says. Founded in 1869, St. Anne’s Church was the center of a farming community 5 miles northwest of Oldenburg. According to Carl Langenderfer, pastor of Holy Family, friars served in Hamburg from 1869 to 1884, beginning with Bonaventure Hammer, ending with Bede Oldegeering.
Left, the statue of St. Anne that stood in the entrance to the church; below, the cornerstone with the time capsuleIn 2002 when diocesan priest Gregory Bramlage came to St. Anne’s, “They talked about having stained glass windows in church because we just had the clear glass after the tornadoes,” says Catherine. Asked to fund the project, parish families stepped up to sponsor eight windows depicting, among others, St. Faustina, St. Therese, St. Joan of Arc and St. John Vianney. Catherine and her sister, Agnes Bohman, donated a window in memory of their father, Francis. To inspire the artist, they submitted a black and white image of St. Francis from their mother’s 1878 copy of Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints.
PHOTO BY ISTOCK.COMKeeping our distance for safety’s sakeThis time of pandemic social distancing has its pluses and minuses for me. As someone who does not like to travel (I know! For a provincial, travel is a regular feature of the job), it has helped me stay rooted in Cincinnati. I’m able to connect to the fraternity of Pleasant Street Friary, which means more time for sustained meals and prayer. I’m becoming reacquainted (while socially distancing) with our neighborhood. I don’t wake up and wonder what city I am in today.
PHOTO BY ISTOCK.COMSo close and yet so far: Getting together means staying apart.I believe that I’m not alone. This pandemic has interrupted our ways of doing things normally. Some are very important: the opportunity of couples getting married to celebrate with lots of family and friends or the ability to grieve someone who has died with people gathering at funeral homes and church to say “goodbye”. It is a time of trial.