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Pilsen church to celebrate century mark

Building is open for viewing every day

Staff writer

St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church, Holy Family Parish, in Pilsen likely will be packed Sept. 27 as the congregation gathers to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the church edifice with a Mass of Celebration and catered noon meal.

Terry Klenda, a member of the planning committee, said they decided not to make it a big thing, as they did when they celebrated the congregation’s centennial in 1988.

“We’re just going to sit around and reminisce,” she said.

Carole Sklenar is preparing a booklet on the history of Pilsen to give to parishioners on that day. She said the church, the third in the history of Pilsen, was “beautiful, but much less vibrant than it is today.”

She said her father-in-law and grandfather-in-law helped build it.

Bricks and cement were hauled to the site from Lincolnville by horse-drawn wagons along deeply rutted roads. Stained glass windows from Munich, Germany, 20 in all, survived a rugged ride from the Florence train station.

The basement walls were double thick white native stone, upper walls were white stone and red brick. The roof was red tile and the 111-foot tall bell tower was covered with copper shingles.

Altars, frames of the Stations of the Cross, a preacher’s bench, and a podium were hand carved out of dark English walnut by a Wisconsin craftsman. Additional furnishings and statues came from the former church building.

The church was dedicated Sept. 28, 1915, and stands as firmly and soundly today as it did 100 years ago. It cost $30,000 plus many hours of donated labor.

A cross in the pavement in front of the church commemorates two men who died during construction when scaffolding gave way as they adjusted a truss on the tower.

In 1930, lightning struck the bell tower. Embers flew onto the roof of the church and rectory.

“I remember that day because it was my first day of school,” Sylvia Bezdek said. “We didn’t have school because the nuns were busy carrying things out of the church.”

But the roof tiles were fireproof, the bell tower floor was cement, and the tower door was heavy steel, preventing the fire from spreading to the main church body.

In the fall of 2001, a massive $250,000 renovation began. Everything moveable was removed from the church, and the entire building was repainted, carpet replaced, and a sound system installed.

Churchmen renovated the pews, statuary was redone, many embellishments were added, and gold highlights were placed on trim, furnishings, the ceiling, and wall edges.

The first Mass after the renovation was on Easter Sunday, March 31, 2002.

The church is open for public viewing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Pilsen is located 7½ miles north of U.S.-56 on Remington Rd.

Last modified Sept. 17, 2015

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