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St. Lawrence OToole Parish closes after 133 years of fellowship

Fri, Jun 6th, 2003
Posted in Features

St. Lawrence OToole Catholic Church was built in 1927 for $30,000. The 14 familes that attend St. Lawrence OToole will now go to other parishes in Lanesboro, Preston or Chatfield. During the program following the final mass on Saturday, May 31, Winnie Klockman and Alvira Klockman (inset) were honored for being members of the Fountain parish since 1950.

By Juliann L. Mueller

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3 verse I.

"It is with heartfelt disappointment that this church closes," said Bishop Bernard Harrington as he commenced with the final mass at St. Lawrence OToole Catholic Church in Fountain on Saturday, May 31. Because of the growing shortage of priests in the diocese, it was time to close yet another small parish and combine families with other area churches.

"This is the Ceremony of Remembrance, we will walk around to different parts of the church and recall fond memories", stated Bishop Harrington, as he explained how the ceremony would progress. The choir, accompanied by two flutes, a guitar and organist combined with parish voices to reach the vaulted ceiling one last time. The churchs pews were filled, extra chairs were set out and the upstairs choir loft was also full as families and friends came back to pay their last respects to a church whose roots dated back to July, 1856.


The first mass was said at the home of James Mulroy in July, 1856 with Reverend Father Kinsley officiating. The old Ned Cummings home, which was later owned by Andrew Healy, acted as the first church. Prior to 1870, mass was celebrated in Fountains hall owned by D.D. Farrell of Chatfield, and also in the blacksmith shop owned by H.E. Walker.

In May 1870, Rev. William Riodon acted as the first pastor. Two years later he built the first church, which served families from Wykoff, Spring Valley, Carimona, Preston and Lanesboro.

On July 22, 1927 the corner stone was put in place, concealing a box of items for future generations to find. The completed church, with a seating capacity of 400, was dedicated on Nov. 25, 1927. The structure cost just under $30,000 to build and was entirely paid for by local families.

The parish received its name from a patron saint, Lawrence OToole; Lorcan Ua Tuathail, born in the early 1100s. The Irishman lead a very public life, living out his dedication to the Catholic Church, including becoming a bishop. He died Nov. 14, 1180. Because of the many miracles reported to have happened at his tomb, his relics were moved to a place of honor before an altar. His heart was removed and returned to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland.

The Carrolton Cemetery is located in sections 7 & 8 in Carrolton Township. Fountain and some neighboring parishes have ancestors buried there. The cemetery is maintained through a perpetual care fund.

The Remembrance Walk

Following communion, Bishop Harrington started to walk toward the most significant symbols of the church including baptismal font, the reconciliation chapel, stations of the cross, pulpit, and altar. Parishioners were encouraged to share what they remembered about different events through the years, memories bringing on laughter and smiles. Father Francis Galles, a retired priest said he thought the collection was smaller when he gave a shorter homily!

"We relinquish our hold onto this building and cling to you (Lord)," said the bishop as he concluded his walk. It was time for the fourteen remaining families of the church to travel a new path, but not alone.

Father Thomas Loomis called on different members of St. Columbans of Preston, St. Patricks of Lanesboro, and St. Marys of Chatfield to receive articles from the Fountain parish in order to "continue the journey of faith" as the parishes welcome the Fountain families. These communities have also "shared" Father Loomis the past six years, who will be transferred to a parish in Rochester at the end of June. The articles included the altars crucifix, statues, candles, and chalices.

Program following the mass

Gary Hahn, Fountain, was the Master of Ceremonies for the short program following the mass. Special acknowledgements were given to several individuals.

The Bishops Medal was given to Winnie Klockeman and Alvira Klockeman, sisters who married brothers, and have remained in the Fountain parish since 1950. The medal is given to those who have served their church for at least 30 years.

"Its people like you who make the parish so vital and strong," stated Bishop Harrington.

Father Thomas Loomis received a special acknowledgment for his service to the parish since 1997 and his efforts to help move the parish into the transition stage of the Ceremony of Remembrance. Bob Petrillo was credited for his musical gift of the guitar, which has been included in the mass the last four years.

Special acknowledgement went to Lynn Larson and the history book committee including Joan Clement, Mary Kelly and Paul Klockeman. (The Journal also used these resources for parts of this article.)

When the current church was built, a time capsule was placed inside the corner stone. Passed on from one generation to the next, its existence was kept alive. The capsule was reclaimed from its honored spot and opened for all to see during the program. An extremely fragile picture of the church, a bottle of evaporated holy water, a newspaper depicting a bishops death, and 150 Indian heads and wheat pennies were found.

After the program guests were served croissants filled with ham or turkey, fruit and potato salads, chips, pickles, drinks and cake were served to 170 people. Following the lunch, the families of the parish were encouraged to walk through the church and pick out keepsakes.

Footnote: The possibility of selling the church is being reviewed.

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