Story by S.L. Hansen
LAWRENCE (SNR) – During their annual smörgasboard Sunday, Nov. 5, parishioners and friends of Sacred Heart Church in Lawrence took a walk down memory lane, reminiscing more than 70 years of personal histories with the parish and school.
One of the highlights of the gathering was a scale replica of Sacred Heart Church, made by then-10-year-old parishioner Glen Beyke back in 1947.
Glen was raised in Sacred Heart Parish, the son of Oliver and Emma Beyke. In December 1945, when he was in second grade, he and his brother Gary tragically lost their father, who was only 35 years old.
Two years later, Glen collected scraps of lumber and wooden crates from the local grocery store and used his father’s tools to make a model of Sacred Heart Church in his honor. He had a bit of experience – he had already built a two-story dollhouse, which he had fitted with miniature appliances and everything else a household needs.
Glen gave the replica details beyond what one would expect from a fourth-grader. He carefully fitted real glass in the windows, and installed a bell in each tower, with ropes dangling down the interior. Inside, he included the organ loft and a small organ. He built the sacristry and added religious statuary, as well. That August, Glen was awarded a blue ribbon for his church model at the Nuckolls County Fair.
The church and dollhouse became treasured family possessions. They found their way to the attic playroom of Glen’s paternal grandparents, where generations of children enjoyed them both. Throughout 70 years of children’s playful wear and tear, the card from Glen’s father’s funeral remains respectfully untouched where Glen placed it in the organ loft.
On Oct. 24, Glen and his wife, Joann, brought the church model back to Sacred Heart’s parish school building for the last Mass to be celebrated in the building. The model was then taken to the Nov. 5 smörgasboard so that even more people could enjoy it and reminisce. From there, Glen’s replica will be displayed permanently at the Nuckolls County Museum in Superior.
Related item: Slideshow of photos
It is an especially poignant time for reminiscing at Sacred Heart as the parish prepares to let go of their school building. After extensive investigation and concerted effort to keep it open, school operations were suspended after the spring semester in 2015.
Initially, the plan was to keep the school building to reopen at a later date, but the cost of keeping the building has proven to be impractical. The 50-year-old boiler is temperamental, and the roof needs repair. Asbestos was identified on the exterior, which will require up to $3,000 to be removed.
“It’s sad, but it’s a result of demographic changes,” said Father Thomas Schultes, current pastor of the parish.
In preparation for demolition, Father Schultes and a team of parishioners have been going through the building to determine what has value. Some things have found a new purpose in the parish. Parishioners were also offered the opportunity to take filing cabinets, shelving or other items they might need in exchange for a nominal donation.
Quite a few items have also been taken by other CCD programs and schools throughout the diocese. This includes St. Cecilia in Hastings, the Cathedral of the Risen Christ, St. Joseph, St. Michael, St. Peter and St. Teresa parishes in Lincoln, St. Patrick in McCook, and St. Leo Parish in Palmyra. Everything, from the windows to the gym floor, has the potential of benefiting another school, home or institution.
This process has earned the parish more than $10,000 so far to use toward ongoing and future expenses, including providing minimally-required heat to the building through the coming winter. Bishop Conley released the funds in the Sacred Heart School endowment to cover the cost of demolition.
Wooden baseboards from the school are being turned into crucifixes by a parishioner. Each crucifix will feature a metal corpus made in Italy and a medallion of the Sacred Heart to commemorate the school. These will be used for funerals of parishioners, and possibly offered for sale.
The parish also recreated a May 14, 1923 photo of parish kids taken in front of the school on May 14 of this year. The 1923 version has been displayed in frames and scrapbooks in many homes in the community, so the new photo will pair nicely. Additionally, parish secretary Barb Janda is creating a keepsake history book.
Father Schultes said it’s important to preserve the memories of the school, even though the building has become obsolete.
“It was part of our parish life. A lot of this parish community’s financial resources were invested in the education of children, intellectually as well as their faith,” he said. “Many people went all through that school and stayed here.”
When the school is taken down – no decision has yet been made as to when – Father Schultes also intends to use the cornerstone and the cross from the top of the school in some sort of outdoor Fatima shrine.
“The date on the cornerstone is 1917,” he explained. “I don’t know if they knew what Fatima was when Msgr. Charles Becker built the school, but there is that significance.”
Sentimental as he is about the removal of the school building, Father Schultes knows that it’s not the bricks and mortar that people remember, but the experience.
“One of the greatest things about Lawrence is that it is Catholic by origination,” said Father Schultes. “There are a lot of people from here who loved their faith and moved on to other places. They are benefiting from the Catholic education they received here and are doing God’s work somewhere else, but they still love their Lawrence roots.”