The Helix Staircase of the Loretto Chapel

In the center of Sante Fe, NM stands a former Roman Catholic Church, known as the Loretto chapel, that was constructed in the popular Gothic Revival style by French architect Antoine Mouly. To Bishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy’s dismay, Mouly didn’t live to see the chapel completed. The renowned architect passed away when the chapel was nearly done, leaving the chapel unfinished.

Despite the beauty and craftsmanship of the chapel, it lacked a critical component, a staircase. As the story goes, the chapel was completed in 1878, but there was no way to get to the choir loft, which is 20 feet off the ground. The Sisters believed this to be a test of faith and set out to find a new carpenter to finish the work promptly.

Legend of the Loretto Chapel Staircase Miracle

According to legend, which has since been made into a movie called “The Staircase” (1998), the nuns didn’t want the staircase to be big because it would take up too much space, so they went to get advice from the local carpenters.

Unfortunately, they met with many carpenters, none of whom could provide a solution that worked for the Sisters. Some said it couldn’t be done, while others quoted an outrageous price. The only option was to use a ladder, which was deemed inappropriate due to the sister’s attire.

In 1880, the Sisters started praying to the patron saint of carpenters, St. Joseph. They asked for a solution to their dilemma and prayed for over a week. According to the historical account, on the 9th day, a man arrived on his mule with some tools. He revealed to the Sisters that he was a carpenter by trade, and they eagerly invited him in.

This carpenter was unlike any who had come before him, and shortly after viewing the problem, he admitted that putting a staircase in was possible, even ones that wouldn’t take up too much space or be an eyesore.

But he asked to be alone in the chapel for three months and, with only simple tools including a saw, T-square, and a hammer, he built the ‘miraculous’ staircase. It is a spiral staircase making two complete 360 degrees rotations but without using a central pole and without using any nails, only wooden pegs.

The bannister of the staircase is perfectly curved, a remarkable accomplishment considering the basic tools that were used. The shape of the helix is not a stable weight-supporting structure, and without the middle column it shouldn’t be able to withstand the weight of people using the staircase.

When the man finished the staircase, he left without asking for a cent. The nuns tried to find him but they could not. They did not know who he was or where he got the wood. Ten years later the railing was added to the staircase by Phillip August Heasch for safety reasons.

The order decided to honor the carpenter’s deed with a banquet, but when it was time to feast, they could not find him. He had disappeared without a trace; he did not identify himself during his time there or ask for payment. Because his identity remains a secret, the Sisters believed him to be St. Joseph, answering their prayers. The number of steps is of religious significance because it was Jesus’ age during his crucifixion. This realization only further convinced the Sisters and fueled the story that St. Joseph had come to their rescue.

With the staircase finished, the chapel was finally complete, but the mystery of its construction was impossible to ignore, and many pondered how the carpenter accomplished the job. The manager of the privately owned chapel (1991-2006), Richard Lindsley, took a piece of wood from the staircase and sent it for analysis. When the results came back, they showed that it was spruce, but of an unknown subspecies. This specific wood was very strong with dense and square molecules – which is something that you usually find in trees that grow very slowly in very cold places like Alaska.

However, there was no such wood in the area and no local trees grow in the Alpine tundra in the surrounding area. The closest place that he would find this density in trees was in Alaska, but of course back then transport was not the same as it is now and wood was not transported over such long distances.

Were the Stairs Created by a Man from a French Secret Society?

Santa Fe New Mexican offers an alternative explanation for the amazing staircase. It’s said that when historian Mary J. Straw Cook researched the stairs for a book she was writing, she “found information in an 1881 nun’s daybook that a man named Rochas was paid for wood.” Francois-Jean Rochas, an alleged “member of a French secret society of highly skilled craftsmen and artisans called the Compagnons, which had existed since the Middle Ages” has been named as the skilled woodworker who apparently “came to the U.S. with the purpose of building the staircase with wood shipped from France.”

When a group of stair-building professionals convened at the Loretto Chapel a few years ago to see the staircase they were shocked at the beauty, design, and engineering of the stairs. A couple of their comments on the workmanship after analyzing the stairs are:

“We all like to think we create creative stair designs and nice curved staircases, but to think how they did it that long ago and still attain the same quality is breathtaking” and

Later, Cook found a newspaper article mentioning Mr. Rochas and that he was a skilled woodworker who built the staircase. Rochas was a member of a secret French society of skilled artisans known as the Compagnons and had come to the U.S. to design the Santa Fe staircase specifically; the wood came from France.

Even with all the advances in technology and engineering, no one can determine how the staircase was built. The stairs are a beautiful and mysterious element of the Loretto Chapel, regardless of the facts around its construction.


By Larry Schweikart @ UncoverDC on 12/13/22

I want to take you back…

…to periods that reflected much of who we are, who we have become, and who we can be. Back to events that affected all of us today but were almost imperceptible to those living them. Perhaps with one exception. It was Christmas time. The nation had been at war for almost two years. Things had not gone well. News of early defeats had streamed into the nation’s Capital. Richard Rush wrote to his old friend John Adams about the mood in Washington D.C. in December 1813. The nation was fighting, to be sure:

Richard Bush

But it seems to fight for nothing but disaster and defeat . . . and disgrace. What, sir, should be done? The prospect looks black. It is awful. Is not another torrent rolling too fiercely upon us to be turned back? Where shall we find [leaders]? And may we not be doomed to pass yet another and another and another campaign in the school of affliction and disgrace? [I] am sick at heart at the view of our public affairs. Have we, sir, even seen worse times and survived them? And how?”

The aging ex-president John Adams agreed with Rush. “The times are too serious to write.” He didn’t know what prevented the White House—not called that yet—or the “proud Capitol” from becoming the headquarters of the British. The country, Adams said:

Must have a winnowing, the chaff must be separated from the wheat. The real . . . genius and experience have been neglected [while] froth and ignorance have been promoted.” But, said the aged patriot, “don’t be discouraged. In our Revolution, we had seen infinitely more difficult and dangerous times.”

John Adams

What stands out about that exchange—and Adams’s comment about the British being in the White House and the Capitol—is that it came just eight months before that very thing occurred. In August of 1814, British troops landed, and though badly outnumbered and utterly embarrassed, an army was sent to stop them at Bladensburg, New Jersey. They marched on to Washington, with the President, James Madison, on a horse just miles ahead of them. Indeed, the defeat at Bladensburg was so humiliating—referred to this day as the “Bladensburg Races”—that Madison couldn’t find his own Secretary of War, John Armstrong, who was in command of the army in the field.

As the War of 1812 neared its conclusion, British forces torched the White House, the Capitol, and nearly every other public building in Washington. In the darkness, Madison, Attorney General Richard Rush, and John Mason, having watched from a distance as American forces threw down their weapons and ran had ridden back to find the White House deserted.

Dolly Madison had left their supper on the table, then left at three in the morning carrying some papers, a few books, and the full portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. Everything else—silver, valuables, clothes, thousands of dollars worth of fine wines in the cellar—was abandoned.

Among the most familiar images of Dolly Madison is this fanciful scene of her heroic rescue of George Washington’s portrait from the fire set by the British in 1814.)

Madison urged everyone out. The British were literally right behind them. According to one account, he “cooly mounted his horse and rode off to the ferry across the Potomac.” He needed to find Dolly, and he needed to find the army or what was left of it. Already the British were burning the Capitol and soon reached the White House and burned that. British General Cockburn planned to capture Madison and “carry him to England for a curiosity.”

Madison and his companions didn’t find Dolly across the river. She had left much earlier and, due to her husband’s unpopularity, had to disguise herself. At one tavern, she was refused admittance. When a friend offered her refuge at his country house, the cook refused to make coffee for her, saying, “I don heerd Mr. Madison and Mr. Armstrong done sold the country to the British.”

The President rode on to Great Falls and, not finding his wife there, continued during a vicious wind storm that only fanned the flames back in Washington. But then he learned that the Secretary of War and some of his army were at Rockville, Maryland, 15 miles north of Washington, so he rode there, only to find them gone to Baltimore. Having been in the saddle for 18 hours, Madison rode to Brookville—another 10 hours away, where finally he was able to sleep.

When he finally returned to the White House, it was “in ashes, not an inch, but its cracked and blackened walls remained.” Other public buildings were burned. Dead horses lay all over the grounds. The people were terrified. Many wanted to quit.

Library of Congress Summary Cartoon showing President James Madison and probably John Armstrong, his secretary of war, both with bundles of papers, fleeing from Washington, with burning buildings behind them.

Mr. Madison wasn’t a quitter. He finally caught up to Secretary of War Armstrong—and fired him on the spot, throwing him out of Washington. In his stead, he appointed another great future president as the new Secretary of War, James Monroe. When Madison and Armstrong had both disappeared on horseback, Monroe simultaneously held the acting position of both President and Secretary of State. Now James Monroe was Secretary of War as well. He said, “I never went to bed for an entire month.”

A portrait of James Monroe (1758-1831), the fifth President of the United States made during his Presidency. He served from 1817 – 1825. Image by Bettman/CORBIS

As if to add one more coal to his head, a group of northeastern elites from the Federalist Party had come very close to forcing a secession by several states—right in the middle of a war against a foreign enemy.

And then, a quiet change. Sunlight, almost instantaneously. A peace treaty was negotiated in Belgium; General Andrew Jackson defeated a major British invasion at New Orleans, and just like that–-right around Christmas—Madison and the United States—had survived. The ensuing decade was called . . . the era of good feelings.

Era of Good Feelings

Jump ahead with me for 127 years…

My story does not take place at Christmas this time, but in the summer of an equally dark period, 1942, when America had been rocked by defeat after defeat in the Pacific by the Japanese. America’s Christmas in 1941 had been one of the bleakest in memory. People were still in shock over the attack at Pearl Harbor, over the fall of plucky Wake Island, and over the steady drumbeat of losses of General MacArthur’s men in the Philippines.

The key to everything was the Japanese navy, and the key to the navy was its strike force of four large aircraft carriers. At the time, the United States could only put to sea three, one of which, the Yorktown, was so badly damaged from a previous battle that it was being repaired while at sea in a frenzy of engineering and construction genius of 1400 men working around the clock.

Yorktown Below-Decks

Through superior codebreaking, the Americans, for once, knew where the Japanese would be—right off Midway Island—and when they would be there. But the Pacific Ocean is a big place. Being “in the vicinity” still can put you off by over a thousand miles. America’s carriers knew roughly where the Japanese fleet was—but not exactly. When the enemy finally showed up, the Americans sent over 100 aircraft from Midway Island. All these attackers failed to land a single bomb on a single enemy ship. But the force kept moving, and now the American carriers, themselves moving to intercept them, had to locate this fleet.

Armed with evidence of roughly where the Japanese were and generally in which direction they were moving, the American carriers launched nearly every ship-killing torpedo plane they could in the general direction of the enemy. The planes arrived haphazardly, completely out of normal practices for attacking ships. One by one, then several at a time, the American torpedo planes were shot down—more than 50 of them fell into the sea! Only three made it back to their carriers. Not one had scored a single hit.

The Battle of Midway in 1942 was one of the most important naval battles and a turning point in the Second World War

This was indeed desperation. America was down to about thirty dive bombers against a fleet of 100 ships and at least 100 fighter planes. And the dive bombers had not been given clear coordinates as to where the carriers were. They were searching, like almost everyone else. They were low on fuel. No sign.

Then the smallest of changes…

At the outset of the battle, a single American submarine, the Nautilus, had found the Japanese fleet. It patiently worked its way inside the protective screen to fire three torpedoes at one carrier. Only one hit. It was a dud. Nautilus had utterly failed. Or had it?

USS Nautilus

A Japanese destroyer was on the Nautilus in minutes, forcing her under. The Nautilus ran. The destroyer followed. Hours later, the Japanese destroyer, convinced it had chased off the sub, turned and headed back for its main fleet and the carriers.

In the skies above, the desperate dive bombers, nearly at their maximum range of fuel, having failed to find the carriers all day, saw a single Japanese ship. A destroyer. This was unusual. It would normally be with a fleet. Was that where it was heading? Out of options, they followed. Soon, the horizon was dotted with Japanese warships and the four big carriers. And all the Japanese fighter planes? They were either out of gas or off chasing the hapless torpedo planes, men who had sacrificed themselves for this miraculous opportunity.

It was literally over in five minutes. Coming out of nowhere, American dive bombers so thoroughly damaged three of the carriers that the Japanese themselves had to finish them off, and the next day, a return visit sank the fourth. The War in the Pacific had been won—oh, it would demand an enormous amount of blood and treasure over more than three years to force Japan to surrender, but after Midway, they simply couldn’t win.

All because of a failed mission and a little change of a lone destroyer following the Nautilus.

I think about that submarine a lot. It failed spectacularly. Just like those courageous torpedo bombers who gave their lives, apparently for no reason. And yet. It was the Nautilis that enabled the dive bombers to find the carriers. It was the torpedo planes that pulled away the protection. It was nerdy, unseen codebreakers that had learned where the Japanese would be.

We may have had a difficult election, but no one knows what the ramifications of it will be. None of us know if we are the Nautilus, performing a task that appears to have failed, only to lay a brick in a massive foundation of victory. None of us know if we are with Mr. Madison, barely ahead of the barbarian hordes in August or walking back into glory at Christmas. But we know this. As John Adams says, we have seen worse times, and such times produce a winnowing.

And we know this. There are always quitters. Those never enter the history books as legends. Rather it is those who took us from the steam engine to the search engine, from the first step on the North Pole to the first footprint on the Moon, from mastering the Mississippi to navigating hyperspace and quantum physics. A handful of thuggish, mouth-breathing, World Economic Forum malcontent minions, backed by all the crypto from Sam Bankman-Fried’s funny-money computers and all the digitally-concocted money in Communist China, do not get the privilege of leading this nation. True genius is beyond them, true patriotism is anathema to them, and true goodness is repellant to them.

This season…

…celebrate what at the time was a seemingly small change that affected a tiny few. Another baby was born in the Middle East. Outside His family—and those who knew the prophecies—no one knew His Name. Yet the little change of His birth overturned the entire world, changed how we mark our calendars and gave hope to billions. One little change named Jesus the Messiah.

This Christmas, America merely awaits the new spirit of change, the spirit that demands not a return to yesterday but a march toward tomorrow. America yearns for both that spirit of good and the spirit of great. That spirit that says mediocrity is no longer acceptable, that decline is unavoidable, or that social decay is inevitable.

Instead, this new spirit of Christmas starts today. It starts here. It starts now. It starts in every heart and hearth, every home and RV, every mansion and apartment. Be a Nautilus. Do your job with courage and conviction, with certainty that even if you fail in what you think was your mission, you have played your part, that the Creator of the universe will play His. Your ripples are noticed. Your faith is rewarded. And your patriotism is appreciated. Celebrate the change of the world.

Merry Christmas, and God Bless America.

A Trip to Heaven

When Charlotte’s heart stopped, her amazing visit to heaven began

By Sue Ann Jones, posted 12/26/19 (

(I have edited this a bit – go to the link for the entire true story.)

Charlotte Holmes, who has lived with Danny in Mammoth for 48 years, was admitted to Cox South Hospital in Springfield after she went for a routine checkup with her cardiologist and was sent directly to the hospital when her blood pressure spiked at 234 / 134.

Charlotte Holms

“I’ve always had trouble with my blood pressure, and I’ve been in the hospital two or three times before when they put me on IV medication to bring it down,” she said. “That time, in September, I’d been there three days, and I was hooked up to all the heart monitors. They had just given me a sponge bath in my bed, and they were putting a clean hospital gown on me when it happened. I can’t remember anything about that moment, but Danny said I just fell over, and one of the nurses said, ‘Oh my gosh. She’s not breathing.”

Danny told her later that her eyes were wide open, and she seemed to be staring. The nurse ran out of the room, and called a code, bringing a crowd of medical personnel rushing into the room. One got up on the bed and began the chest compressions. That was the moment, Charlotte said, when “I came out above my body. I was looking down on everything. I could see them working on me on the bed. I could see Danny standing in the corner.”

Stock picture

And then came the wonderful fragrance. “The most beautiful, wonderful smell, like nothing I’d ever smelled before. I’m a flower person; I love flowers, and there were these flowers that had this fragrance you can’t even imagine,” she said.

The flowers were part of a scene that suddenly unfolded before her. “God took me to a place beyond anything I could ever have imagined,” she said. “I opened my eyes, and I was in awe. There were waterfalls, creeks, hills, gorgeous scenery. And there was the most beautiful music, like angels singing and people singing with them, so soothing. The grass and trees and flowers were swaying in time with the music.”

Then she saw the angels. “There were several angels, but these were humongous, and their wings were iridescent. They would take one wing and fan it out, and I could feel the wind on my face from the angels’ wings,” she said. “You know, we’ve all imagined what heaven will be like. But this … this was a million times more than anything I could have imagined,” Charlotte said. “I was in awe.”

Then she saw “the golden gates, and beyond them, standing there smiling and waving at me, were my mom and dad and sister.”

Charlotte’s mother, Mabel Willbanks, was 56 when she died of a heart attack. Charlotte’s sister Wanda Carter had been 60-something when she too had a heart attack and died in her sleep. Her dad, Hershel Willbanks, had lived into his 80s but then died “a very sad death” due to lung problems, she said. But there they were, smiling out at her from just beyond the golden gates, looking happy and healthy. “They had no glasses, and they looked like they were in their 40s. They were so excited to see me,” Charlotte said.

Her cousin Darrell Willbanks, who’d been like a brother to her, was there too. Darrell had lost a leg before he died of heart problems. But there he was, standing on two good legs and happily waving at her.

A blindingly bright light streamed from behind her loved ones and the huge crowd of people standing with them. Charlotte is sure the light was God. She was turning her head away to save her eyes – the light was so bright – when something else caught her eye. It was a little boy, a toddler. “He stood there in front of my mom and dad,” she said.

For a moment, Charlotte was confused. Whose boy was that? she wondered. But as soon as the question came into her mind, she felt God answering it. It was her and Danny’s son, the baby she had miscarried nearly 40 years ago when she was five and a half months pregnant.

“Back then, they didn’t let you hold the baby or bury it when you miscarried that far along. They just held him up and said, ‘It’s a little boy.’ And that was all. It was over. I went through a long, deep depression after that miscarriage, wishing I could have held him,” she said. Seeing her little son standing with her parents, she said, “I couldn’t wait to hold him. I had missed that.”

It was all so wonderful, heaven was. And, from beyond the golden gates, she felt God saying, “Welcome home.”

“But then, I turned my head away from that bright light again and looked behind me. And there were Danny and Chrystal and Brody and Shai,” she said referring to her and Danny’s daughter Chrystal Meek and her adults kids Brody and Shai. “They were crying, and it broke my heart. We know that in heaven there is no sorrow, but I hadn’t walked through the gates. I wasn’t there yet. I thought how I wanted to see Shai get married and Brody get married to make sure they were OK.”

At that moment she felt God telling her she had a choice. “You can stay home, or you can go back. But if you go back, you have to tell your story. You have to explain what you’ve seen and tell my message, and that message is that I’m coming soon for my church, my bride,” Charlotte said.

About that time, as Danny was watching the emergency responders continue the chest compressions, he heard one of them ask, “Paddles?” apparently referring to an electro-shock defibrillator.

He heard the person in charge answer no and instead order some kind of shot. “And then he said a guy comes running in, and they give me the shot, and he could see on the monitors that my blood pressure was going down,” Charlotte said. And then, Danny told her afterward, he saw one of Charlotte’s eyes blink, “and I knew you were coming back to me.” Charlotte had been dead 11 minutes.

When she came to, she started to cry. Danny asked her, “Mama, are you hurting?” Charlotte shook her head no. And then she asked him, “Did you smell those flowers?” Danny had messaged Chrystal the moment Charlotte had stopped breathing, and Chrystal had rounded up her kids and they all rushed to Springfield, arriving at Charlotte’s side just as she was being taken to ICU. When she saw Chrystal coming toward her, the first thing Charlotte said to her was, “Did you smell the flowers?”

Chrystal turned to her dad and said, “Huh?” Danny shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “She keeps saying she smelled flowers.”

Charlotte was in the hospital another couple of weeks, and during that time, “I couldn’t stop talking about it. I’ve got this burning in my life and my soul. I got to see something so amazing, and I’ve just got to tell people about it. Heaven is a million times better than you can imagine. I stop people in the grocery store. I even stopped my mailman and told him. I’m not bashful. I want to share this story wherever I can.”

When she was in heaven, she felt God telling her that, when she went back, she would see angels. “And just in the last month, I’ve started seeing them. I can see people’s guardian angels behind them,” she said.

Charlotte has always been a devout Christian. She and Danny are part of the band that provides the music at Mammoth Assembly of God. “But now, more than anything, my favorite thing to do is pray with people. Danny even built me a prayer closet. He knows if he wakes up at 3 a.m. and I’m gone, that’s where I am. It’s so important to me, and in doing this, I’ve heard from so many other people with their testimony.”

(Caption: Charlotte Holmes, center, and granddaughter Shai Meek, left, delivered Christmas cookies Wednesday to Century Bank of the Ozarks, where employee Lowana Collins accepted the treats from Gainesville Health Care Center. Times photo/Norene Prososki

Charlotte has told her story at several churches and meetings of other groups in the area. “I just can’t keep from talking about it. And there’s so much more to the story. I don’t want people to think I’m crazy – well, I don’t care if they think I’m crazy. I know what the Lord showed me, and I can’t quit saying how wonderful and merciful God is,” she said.

History of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church

I was unable to find a picture by itself of the current church/school but you can see it in the opening picture in this video. Overhead view of the current church, with the school I attended on the right; I was baptized in this church in 1953 and was confirmed in April 1967. The entire wing on the left and the parking lot was added after I left the area.

In the year 1865, a group of members of the Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul congregation at Ixonia, WI gathered together with the desire to raise their cildren near a church and school. This caused them to consider emigration. Pastor Hoeckendorf, the minister of this congregation, at that time had relatives who lived near West Point, NE. So they got the idea to send scouts into this area. They wanted some trustworthy people to check everything out right there on location.

The info in this post was taken from this booklet.

They entrusted this important matter to “Father” Braasch, “Father” Wagner, and John Gensmer. These men departed for NE and, since the area surrounding West Point was already more or less settled and the whole group couldn’t possibly also settle there, they ventured further north over the wild plains of Nebraska until they came to the area which is now Norfolk.

They found that the land was fertile, the water drinkable, and wood was also found on the North Fork and the Elkhorn rivers. Very pleased with their finding, they joyfully returned to Ixonia and delivered the good news.

Pic from internet

On May 23, 1866, it was time for the old pioneers to leave their homes and strike out toward their new destination. It was a difficult time since many heartrending goodbyes were required – parents to their children, children to their parents, brothers and sisters parted, relatives and friends shook hands for the last time. The long journey was made in “prairie schooners” pulled by horses and oxen. In 3 caravans, 53 wagons moved through the uncultivated terrain, accompanied by cattle and sheep. Along the way, they encountered great difficulties, such as crossing rivers without bridges and maneuvering through swamps. Some days they had to stop to wash clothes and bake bread and on Sundays, they observed regular church services, which were led by Father Braasch, the leader of the whole train.

Around the 12th of July 1866, the members of the new German Settlement arrived in close proximity to the present-day Norfolk. After the land was measured and raffled off, everybody moved onto their allotted properties from 17-20 July.

Note: You may need to enlarge the pic to see – on the left just over half-way down, you will see the name “William Duhring.” (My brother inherited the farm and now his children have inherited it from him – Chris gets the land in order to keep it in the Deering name, ‘Nette gets the house.) That was my birth grandfather, Arnold Deering’s Father (Grandpa changed the spelling of his last name in order to appear less German, probably due to WWII, I expect). If you look up further towards the center, close to the river, you will see the name “Martin Raasch,” my adopted great-great-grandfather.

I’m not sure when this picture was taken – clearly not in 2007 – but these were the 4 remaining founders still alive at that time. August Raasch, my adopted great-grandfather, was the first postmaster in Norfolk. He was wounded at Gettysburg and carried shrapnel in his back until he died; in later years, he was basically an invalid but with 12 children (mostly boys), he had plenty of help on the farm.

Of course, it took time to build homes and barns so, in the meantime, they either built one-room log cabins or sod houses.

The first services of this new settlement took place in a shed on the North Fork of the Elkhorn River. Shrubs and branches covered the roof to provide shade and the dirt floor was covered with hay. For the rest of that first summer, they held church services in this shed. I don’t know when the first real church, a log building 24 X 30, was built – there was no altar or chancel and the benches consisted of boards which were laid on wooden blocks. Occasionally the boards would fall over when the people rose during the service. This church was used until the year 1878; in 1876, the congregation had bought 12 acres from Pastor Hoekendorf for $120.

The first parsonage was built in 1878 and at the April meeting that year, the congregation decided to build a new church. The new one would be 36 X 50 and cost approximately $1,405. The number of school children increased significantly so the congregation found it necessary to hire a regular teacher and build a school house. Since they already had a teacher, a house for him was also required, which was constructed in 1884.

Although the church building was finished, the interior was bare – no chancel, altar, benches or organ. Father Braasch made the initial contribution when he paid for an altar and chancel for the church, providing an example for the wealthy people among the members. The congregation bought the benches and, in 1884, they acquired a pipe organ (the organ still remains in the current church, as you will see in the interior picture). Since the church did not have enough seating for the attendants and the school also needed another classroom, the congregation voted unamimously to build a new church. During a meeting on January 21, 1907, the decision was made to build a brick building.

Architect Stitt created the plans and specifications for the beautiful building, which was designed in the gothic style of the 13th century. The cost of the building and interior came to about $24K. The cornerstone was laid in August of 1907 and the dedication took place on May 3, 1908. The old church was remodeled to serve for school functions and weekly catechism.

In July 1916, it had been 50 years since the founding fathers of our congregation arrived on these grassy plains. Since the congregation did not want to let this day pass without an expression of gratitude to God, they decided to celebrate their 50th anniversary on July 16, 1916. For this event, they had the interior of the church painted – the finished work is a credit to the master, Mr. Art Reiman of Milwaukee, and is a perfect work of art.

At the end of the 1st row is my birth grandmother, Marie Deering (she loved Hitler, btw); in the 2nd row, you will see my grandfather, Arnold, as well as Ernest Raasch, my adopted grandfather.
Esther Raasch was my adopted grandmother – Ernest died around the time I was born. He was a Nebraska State Senator. My birth mother lived with them for a period of time while she was in HS – she and my adopted Mom were close friends.

The Light and the Spirit

I do not honestly remember sitting in church when i was a child, but my mom claims pictures of the four of us, her and my dad, my older sister and I dressed in our Sunday clothes is proof that we did. When I was 5, two things happened simultaneously: my brother was born and we moved in with my great grandmother to care for her.

It was at this point, our church going stopped. We still said grace at every meal, still said our evening prayers, but no formal religious instruction. Instead, we learned about God through our parents and He was always a loving, patient Father.

Perhaps that’s why i ignored Him for the most part till I was 17. My first “real” boyfriend asked me one weekend to accompany him to church and I did. I sat enthralled in the church pew, listening to the sermon, singing the hymns…I wanted more! After the service, greeting the Priest at the door, I asked where could I learn more and he talked to me about adult catechism classes. After taking those classes, he explained, I could take another step in my journey towards God…taking my First Holy Communion on Easter Sunday.

I took the classes in earnest, learning about my faith and the sacraments, and prepared to take the final steps–meeting with the Priest one on one, making my first confession and doing my penance. The meeting with the Priest was relaxed, comforting, and welcoming and he guided me in making a good confession which was to occur on Good Friday.

That morning, entering the confessional, I was nervous. The class instructor provided a printed confession process for us, so the basic mechanics were covered…the rest was up to me. I made my confession, received my penance and went into the church. Part of my penance was to recite so many “Our Father’s”, “Hail Mary’s” and “Glory Be’s” which I did all the while concentrating on how sorry I was to have offended God.

When I entered the church that morning, the sky was cloudy, but now as I left the church, a beam of sunlight broke through. I looked upward and felt the sunshine on my face as expected, but what i did not expect was the enveloping feeling of warmth and love. I felt it from my feet all throughout my body–it was the Holy Spirit of this i have no doubt!

Days later I was describing the feeling to my aunt and we were talking about the entire experience. I told her I wanted to question the Priest the coming Sunday about my penance…saying Our Father or Hail Mary x amount of times seemed silly. She asked me–you said the entire prayer each time, right? My mortified face told her no, I did not! (Our classes centered around beliefs, but not basic things they assumed everyone knew.)

I left work early that day and drove straight to the church to see the Priest. In tears I told him about my mistake and was so upset that I took my Holy Communion under false pretenses. I was afraid I would never be allowed to participate again, but he assured me I could confess again IF I felt I needed to, but it’s not just the deeds that God pays attention to. It’s also what’s in our heart…our intent. When I was doing my penance, my intent was to be sorry for my sins and the Priest said that was quite evident.

His attitude, along with my parents’ own views have helped shape my view of God. I am not in the fearful of a vengeful God crowd…I believe in a loving, patient, welcoming Father.