The bells of St. Mary ring at St. Joseph Parish

By Barbara Lhommedieu
One would not think that Muscatine, Iowa and Pueblo, Colo. would have very much in common. However, these two cities are united in faith and in the chiming of bells. On June 19, the church bells that chimed at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Muscatine, Iowa, will sound permanently in their new bell tower erected at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

The three bells were cast in the late 1870s and were a part of St. Mary’s church since 1889, 13 years after the church was constructed to serve the German immigrant population in Muscatine. The largest bell measures 43 ½ by 30 inches. It is dedicated to Sanctissimo Cordi Jesu and weighs approximately 2000 pounds. The second bell measures 34 by 27 inches and will be dedicated to St. Joseph as it presently bears no inscription. The smallest bell measures 27 ½ by 22 inches and is dedicated to Beata Mariae Semper Virgin.

Father Joseph Vigil had a driving vision to procure bells “to remind us of the voice of God.” Parishioner Barbara L’Hommedieu began looking for ways to fulfill this vision and found that the parishioners of St. Mary’s were selling three bells. Negotiations began with Tim Nelson from Muscatine. The Muscatine parishioners’ main interest was selling the bells to a Catholic parish that would keep them together and care for them in the same loving way as the Muscatine parishioners. St. Joseph parishioners proved to be the exact match for the bells.

Tim Nelson, Robert Bolton and Bob Gochee delivered the bells on September 9, 2015. The bells held a special meaning to Tim Nelson. There was a period of time when the bells did not work in Muscatine. In 1976, Nelson’s father got them working in time for Tim’s marriage.

The Muscatine parishioners made the 940 mile drive to Pueblo pulling a trailer with the three bells. Along the way, many travelers inquired about the bells, and the three men shared the history of the bells and their joy in finding a home for their beloved bells in Pueblo.

Corsentino Construction was awarded the bell tower contract and the St. Joseph parishioners revel in watching the bell tower take shape. Bishop Berg will bless the bells and tower on June 19 after the 11 a.m. Mass.

The parishioners’ excitement and commitment to the purchase of the bells was evidenced within one month,  by raising donations in honor of their loved ones which almost covered the cost of the bells.  They have continued their commitment by donating for construction of the bell tower.