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St. Patrick Catholic Church in Imogen, Iowa

"Bless Our Heritage" Celebration

Summary of the Celebration

The Lord opened the skies and watered the green countryside around Imogene, Iowa, last week. After all, “Little Ireland” needed the most brilliant shades of green to welcome the guests attending the “Bless Our Heritage” Celebration at Saint Patrick Catholic Church. He awakened the sun on July 9, 2022, painted the sky a brighter hue of blue and fluffed up the clouds. At 8 a.m., the hills surrounding the church came alive with walkers and runners participating in the Sons and Daughters of Imogene’s 5K. The church hall tables were brightly decorated with three-dimensional shamrocks, beads, and candy. The historical displays captured the essence of Saint Patrick Academy, 50 years of religious education, the evolution of our three church buildings, and the life of Father Edmond Hayes. Newspaper articles dating back to 1899 and scrapbooks chronicling 140 years as a parish awaited the guests. Therese (Martin) Sunderman was the first attendee to arrive at the 9 a.m. St. Patrick Academy All-Class Reunion. Marilyn (McGargill) Skahill from California came the farthest distance and Ed P. Laughlin had the honor of being the oldest graduate (90 on July 13). Mannequins depicting SPA football players, a nun, and an Army veteran proved to be photo ops for many. A video honoring more than 250 military service members from St. Pat’s played all day. The Souvenir Shop bustled with activity as T-shirts, crocs, medallions, books, postcards, and raffle tickets were purchased. Pastries and beverages were available for the guests who continued to visit the hall until 4 pm.
More than 60 people were transported back in time as they followed along in their booklet at the 10 a.m. Mount Calvary Self-Guided Cemetery Walk. It honored the 11 founding families of St. Patrick parish in 1880, 4 priests who have served here (Fathers Ryan, Hayes, Delehant, and Doyle), the Calvary Grouping, and Margaret Laughlin, long-time historian and designer of The Heritage Garden. Flags waving in the wind marked every military service member’s resting place, reminding us that freedom can be fleeting if not for these brave men and women.
Little ones flocked to the east side of the church where a carnival took place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. More than 40 children bounced in the Mermaid bounce house and played Plinko, Lucky Ducky, Sucker Ring Toss, Football Toss, Tee’n Off, Basket Toss, Shooting Hoops, Lawn Bowling, Sack Race, and Corn Hole. Festive St. Pat’s totes held their prizes.
At the 4 p.m. Mass, Dan Kinsella welcomed the packed church as only he can do; eloquently, humorously, and heart-felt. The Eucharistic Feast was celebrated by Bishop William Joensen and concelebrated by Fathers Lazarus Kirigia, William Leahy, Ken Gross, and Eliud Mwenda. Beautiful floral arrangements on the altars and side windows, as well as the glow of candles on all three altars added to the beauty of the sanctuary. Goosebumps could be felt as the bagpiper and drummer began the procession down the aisle. One sensed this was a special Mass. The Knights of Columbus from Shenandoah, Red Oak, Glenwood, and Council Bluffs followed, forming their solemn sword salute as the clergy passed beneath. Joyful music accompanied the sacredness of the Mass.
Breaking with the tradition of a group photo on the church steps, a group photo was taken by a photographer in the choir loft. With eyes lifted towards the stained-glass window of St. Patrick in the choir loft and the click of a camera, a new tradition was born. What a beauty the picture turned out to be.
The many families harkened to The Heritage Garden where Jake McGargill welcomed the crowd. Frank Laughlin, representing the Marty and Margaret Laughlin family, stood near the statue of Saint Patrick. The white life-sized statue was donated by Margaret, in memory of her husband, Marty. Frank read, “Why a Heritage Garden and Rosary Walk?” Honoring our priests, our sisters, our families, our faith, and our future, the garden encompasses engraved bricks and pavers of current and former parishioners. After giving the blessing, Bishop Joensen dedicated the garden and christened it with holy water.
A meal of roast beef, chicken, cheesy potatoes, green beans, fruit salad, roll, dessert, and drinks, catered by Lu and Al’s Catering, followed in the church hall and under the tent north of the church. 340 were served. Following the street auction, the crowd was entertained by emcee, Dan Kinsella, whose costume changes throughout the evening included a leprechaun, a patriot, a nun, and Saint Patrick himself. The father-daughter duo of Greg Goodell and Jenny Burkhiser show-cased their tight harmony with their set of Everly Brothers tunes. They were followed by dancers from Dowds Dance Academy in Omaha. Led by Marty Dowds who danced with Riverdance for 14 years, the high energy Irish dance style wowed the crowd. The Singing Sundermans, with Grandpa Dave and Grandma Therese on guitars, included their many grandchildren, all dressed in their red, white, and blue. They performed a musical salute to our veterans. A cello and violin were played by a couple of the children. Two young trumpet players played “Taps”. The Dominicans, also known as Sister Peg Brand, Sister Rose Welchans, Sister Tara Doyle, and Sister Judi Wischik, reminisced about their days as teachers at St. Patrick Academy. Mother Superior Peggy Martin gave a short history lesson about the Dominicans,
before they sang a rousing rendition of “I Will Follow Him”. Spiritual Director and choreographer Sister Rita Laughlin assisted. Raffle winners were drawn in between acts. The lucky recipients were: Kenny Hughes – Autographed Aaron Rodgers jersey; Madonna (Clark) Henson – Painting of St. Patrick in the Heritage Garden; Gerard Brannen – Framed autographed Aaron Rodgers jersey; Mary Anne Johnson – quilt; Sharon (Clark) Young – week-long stay in vacation home in College Station, TX; Eileen (Laughlin) Heller – quilted flag.
Loved ones were remembered at the poignant Memorial Lantern Launch at the ballfield. Though the lanterns drifted skyward into the night, the memories of loved ones shine bright within our hearts. The Sons and Daughters of Imogene hosted the 25 minute fireworks show, deemed by many as “the best fireworks show” they had ever seen. Many stayed to watch the championship softball game.
The Coronavirus Pandemic may have canceled the 140th Jubilee, originally slated for 2020, and then again in 2021, but July 9, 2022, was the perfect day to celebrate our heritage and our oneness as a church family. Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.