Wednesday, November 05, 2014

All Saints' weekend at Sacred Heart (Part 3)

I'd intended to write more Monday about the fascinating glass that fills the windows of Sacred Heart Church, then was sidetracked by electioneering. So this is the piece that should have appeared then.

It's important to remember that Sacred Heart's imagery, although beautiful, was not intended principally to be decorative. Each item, and each window, tells a story --- preaches a short homily if you like. The observer, however, sometimes has to be attentive to discern it.

The window at the top, in the west wall of the Sacristy, is another of my favorites. It is a mate to the west-wall window in the south ante-room, but the striking circular blue panel here contains an image of the Sacred Heart while the south window's blue panel contains lilies. The background colors are more successful here, too, than the combination used to the south.

The north Sacristy window, with Lamb of God imagery, contains a dedicatory panel, "Donated by Mrs. Lizzie Lyons in memory of her uncle Michael Smith."

That panel and other clues here and elsewhere suggest that the Sacred Heart windows date from two periods. All of the windows visible in the nave and chancel are similar in design --- unique central images are surrounded by  glass frames in the form of stylized candlesticks and candles. These windows probably were commissioned for the new 1915 church building.

Most if not all of the smaller windows in the chancel anterooms and church tower probably were removed from the original St. Mary's Church after it had been deconsecrated and sold to Samuel Neptune and brought here.

Michael Smith, for example, died in Chariton at age 68 on Nov. 29, 1897. A native of Ireland, he had moved to Chariton some 15 years earlier from Melrose. His niece, Elizabeth Smith, joined him in Chariton, where she met James Lyons. They were married in Melrose during 1896 and lived west of Chariton until his death in 1943. When Michael died, Elizabeth (Smith) Lyons was a principal heir and it seems likely she commissioned this window for St. Mary's not long his death in gratitude for his life. Although Michael was a faithful member of St. Mary's, his remains were taken to Melrose for a funeral Mass and burial in Mount Calvary Cemetery.

There are five large windows along the south side of the Sacred Heart building. The most westerly, St. Cecelia, is located in the south chancel anteroom; the other four open into the nave.

The window nearest the side altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary is a depiction of her in stained glass.

the remaining three window all depict scenes from the life of Christ (my favorite is the St. John the Baptist window).

The most easterly window is partially blocked by the balcony at the rear of the nave.

It is possible that there originally were four large windows along the north wall of the nave, too, and that nearly all of the most westerly was removed and the opening blocked so that a door could be cut to provide access to a newer north entrance to the church and the elevator. Only a portion of the top arch of that "ghost" window remains --- if it were ever there at all.

The remaining three windows also are depictions of Christ and, as on the south side of the nave, the balcony partially blocks the east-end window.

The Confessional screen at the rear of Sacred Heart is among the building's most interesting features although it no longer functions as originally intended. The screen has been modified to serve as the west wall of a small but comfortable confessional room accessed by the middle, grilled door. Originally, the priest would have been seated in a small area behind the grilled door and penitents would have knelt in small spaces behind the solid doors to the left and right. Those flanking doors now are sealed.

The Confessional in its original form was a gift to Sacred Heart by Edward Freel in memory of his parents, Dennis (who died in 1903) and Elizabeth (who died in 1913), both natives of Ireland. Dennis was a bridge-builder and railroad man, working as a conductor of the C.B.&Q. line until his death. The family arrived in Chariton during 1879 and was a mainstay of St. Mary's Church.

Edward followed his father's footsteps into railroading and was an engineer on the Illinois Central Railroad at the time of his gift to Sacred Heart.

There's a close tie between the Confessional and one of three Sacred Heart windows that I'm willing to wager most who attend Mass at Sacred Heart never have seen. These are located on the second level of the building's towering steeple and most likely came, too, from the old St. Mary's Church to the new Sacred Heart.

The north tower window with beautifully detailed cross and crown imagery was a gift (to St. Mary's I'm fairly certain) by the Freel family in memory of their son and brother, James. James, or Jimmy, was the bad boy of a highly respectable family and he came to a very, very bad end during 1898. You can read more about Jimmy and other members of this very interesting family, long vanished from Chariton, here in a post from 2012 entitled "Saints & Sinners among the Freels."

Another tower window contains a depiction of St. Patrick with the blank dedicatory panel suggesting that it was purchased by the St. Mary's parish rather than an individual donor.

The third tower window was donated by Ellen Foley in memory of her parents, but I ran out of time before tracking down more about Ellen and her family.

Well, this is the end of the Sacred Heart visit --- for this time at least. Hopefully I'll get back during late December when the chancel is decorated for Christmas.

No comments: