By Barb Arland-Fye
For sentimental reasons I wanted to attend Mass in Clinton at Prince of Peace Parish last weekend. Our family had belonged to the parish when it formed 20 years ago as the result of the merger of five parishes.
St. Patrick, one of the five, had been our faith home when my husband and I were married there 25 years ago. Our first-born son, Colin, was baptized at St. Patrick’s 23 years ago.
Merging parishes had been a painful, grief-filled process for Clinton Catholics. Gradually, many of them came to terms with being one parish and pitched in with time, talent and treasure to build a new church building in the northwest part of town. It is a vibrant amalgamation of modern and traditional elements: contemporary architecture enhanced with treasures from the five former parishes: St. Mary, Sacred Heart, St. Patrick, St. Boniface and St. Ireneaus.
Parishioners have now paid off the mortgage on the new church through their generosity and that of deceased member Clair Adams, who bequeathed $1.4 million to Prince of Peace. On June 12, the parish celebrated with a mortgage-burning ceremony outside the church after the 5 o’clock Mass. My family was there to witness the momentous event. Their presence was a blessing. My husband, Steve, was awaiting a call to catch a train and didn’t know if he’d be able to make it to Mass with us. But the train he had to catch would be arriving in Clinton, and it had been slightly delayed. He slipped into the pew at the start of the Mass, a wonderful surprise for me and our two sons who had traveled to Clinton in my car.
Even though we moved from the Clinton area 18 years ago, I feel a sense of kinship with its Catholic community because of the important milestones in faith that I experienced there. Earlier in the week, during the Annual Clergy Institute in Iowa City, I heard presenter Mark Mogilka speak on the subject of collaboration and cooperation among parishes. He observed that ritual helps people deal with the deep and profound matters of the heart and soul, guts and emotions that often accompany change.
While it’s been 20 years since Clinton’s parishes merged, the mortgage-burning ritual seemed to me to be like the phoenix rising from the ashes or, in this case, a parish reborn.
Prince of Peace Parish will experience change again, next month, when Father Tony Herold — pastor for the past 11 years — and Father Thom Hennen — parochial vicar for five years — leave for new assignments in the diocese. Fr. Herold will be pastor of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington and Fr. Hennen will be half-time parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City and half-time priest campus minister at the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City. Prince of Peace is planning another ritual — a farewell and thank you party on June 27 at the church for the two priests.
Fr. Herold referred to his move in a lighthearted way when he said another pastor will have to oversee the next big project for Prince of Peace: a gathering space/parish hall that parishioners hope to build adjacent to the church.