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Archives Sacred pieces of St. Michael’s Church in Antwerp find new homes
Keeping the memories alive

Aug. 2, 2017

By Kristina Dean
Staff writer

ANTWERP  -- At an unfortunate time of church closures, parishioners, pastors and former pastors of parishes in Northern Jefferson County have worked to keep memories alive for one small community.

Pieces of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Antwerp, sold in 2015, have been relocated to the parishes of St. St Michaels AntwerpMary’s of Evans Mills, St. Theresa of Avila in Theresa, and St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia.

In 1998, St.Michael’s became an oratory, used only for funerals for members of the small community.

Two years ago, deteriorating building conditions prompted the decision of then pastor Thomas Kornmeyer and the parish council to sell the rectory and the church.

Prior to the sale, members of the Indian River Knights of Columbus No. 7471 as well as parishioners and Father Kornmeyer moved the religious pieces from the Antwerp church.

Philadelphia resident and past Grand Knight Jerry Perkins said the goal was to honor St. Michael’s and the community.

“We wanted to keep it in the hearts and minds of everyone,” he said. “Everyone loved that church.

“So, we put a piece of St. Michael’s in each church,” Perkins said. “It keeps the memories alive.”
Originally, St. Michael’s began as a mission parish, as did St. Joseph’s and St. Theresa’s churches.

The pastor in residence covered Masses at all four churches, living in the rectory at St. Mary’s.

While originally the idea to split up the sanctuary from St. Michael’s came from the previous pastor Father Mark Reilly, (2008-2012), Perkins said Father Kornmeyer (2012-2016) spearheaded the project and “kept it alive.”

The last part of the project took place after the diocese announced Father Kornmeyer’s transfer to churches in Fort Covington and Bombay. Prior to his leaving in July of 2016, the priest had the high altar cleaned and oiled, Perkins said.

“As far as keeping it alive, I honestly would say Father Tom played the biggest part,” he said. “He was adamant about it.”

The high altar and side altar were placed in the Evans Mills church while the, Stations of the Cross and the other side altar (now being used as a back altar to support the tabernacle) have been moved to St. Theresa’s. Finally, the main altar and a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, were moved to St. Joseph’s.

“My goal was to preserve the church legacy of St. Michael's by incorporating the beautiful wooden side altars and main back altar into the three remaining churches,” Father Kornmeyer said. “The parishioners of St. Michael's seemed very pleased with the results.”

Preparations needed
To prepare for the very tall back altar, St. Mary’s underwent significant renovations. The church needed drywall work to fill in arches and vaults so the high altar could rest against the back wall.

After renovations, the altar, freshly cleaned and oiled after being transported in 60 pieces from the Antwerp church, was installed. It fits inside the ceiling with approximately two inches to spare, Mr. Perkins said.
A six foot spire topped by a cross that previously sat at the top of the altar was given to an Evans Mills historical museum for display.

Antwerp resident Frank Laverghetta remembers attending Mass at St. Michael’s after his family moved to Antwerp in 1944. He and his wife, Cindy, were married in the church in 1966. The main altar, sitting now at St. Joseph’s, has a unique carving of a lamb in the front of the wooden altar. Mr. Laverghetta remembers being married in front of it.

“After the church was sold, I was concerned about what was going to happen to the religious parts of the building,“ Mr. Laverghetta said. “When the church closed, we were devastated by it, like any other parishioner that’s had their church closed.

“When the (main) altar went to Philly, it was really good that someone took the initiative to move it somewhere else,” he said. “For me, it’s good that they pulled it all out of there, cleaned it up, and are using it. It looks really good.”

Philadelphia resident and parishioner of St. Joseph’s, Joe Drake attended the Antwerp church as a child.
“I can remember as a little boy staring at that lamb every Sunday in church. Now with the altar being in St. Joe’s, it brings back fond memories of my childhood,” he said.

The current pastor Father Christopher Looby attributes the project’s success to Father Kornmeyer.

“It was totally my predecessor’s idea to install the altar from St. Michael's Church in Antwerp into St. Mary's Church in Evans Mills,” he said. “Not only has it changed the look of the church, but it is also the perfect way to preserve the history of the Catholic heritage of Antwerp.

“I can't tell you how many times people from Antwerp or folks who grew up there have come to St. Mary's and seeing the altar here have expressed gratitude for preserving this beautiful altar piece,” Father Looby said.
St. Mary’s will celebrate its 170th anniversary on Aug. 13 with a Mass and parish picnic. Bishop Terry R. LaValley will attend and formerly install Father Looby as pastor.

St. Michael’s was originally built in 1816 by David Parish, an early Antwerp settler and land developer as a non-denominational community meeting house. It became a Catholic mission church in 1849, and eventually an oratory in 1998.

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