Because the organ is such a treasure, the group is hoping to save it by raising $50,000 to have an organ specialist “take it apart, fix what needs fixing and move her” to an entity that will use it, Anderson said.
“A pipe organ is a living and breathing thing,” he explained. If it is not cared for and played, “it will just die and get to the point where it won’t be affordable to fix.
“All we need is a new home for her.”
For both the concert and Mass, Fillmore Street in front of the church will be closed so that there can be seating on the grounds and in the street to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.
For the Mass, an altar will be brought out onto the steps.
The goal is to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord,” Anderson said.
“We don’t want to leave St. Mary’s in sadness. We want to leave in joy.”
Bishop made decision to close
Announcement that St. Mary Church was going to close was made in October 2019 to a meeting of about 20 parish leaders by their pastor, the Rev. Chris Young.
The reason was because of a growing shortage of diocesan priests, he said.
Two days later, the Diocese of Davenport issued a news release that closing was being considered but that the decision was not made and that Bishop Thomas Zinkula wanted to meet with the various constituencies of the church first.
That includes legacy members, the Hispanic community and the traditionalist Latin Mass group.
Church members asked if priests could be invited in from elsewhere, such as Mexico, Steve Nolan, secretary of the parish council, said.
In February, the bishop announced his decision, effective July 1, and wheels were set in motion to sell the property.
“None of this went through the parish council,” Nolan said. “not the selling, not the merging.”
Although St. Mary was the third-smallest parish in the Davenport deanery (a geographic area used in church governance), it was in good shape financially and attendance was actually increasing, Rev. Young said in October.
“This is not about a declining parish,” he said. “We are a stable and growing parish.” Attendance is growing in the Spanish, Latin and bi-lingual Masses, with an average Sunday attendance of 550-600 among four services.
“Financial giving has been increasing because families have been joining. St. Mary’s is paid up on all its bills — vendors, utilities, the diocese — and we have increased support to our schools,” he said, referring to Assumption High School and All-Saints elementary school.
“We have almost three months’ of expenses in our checking account and we have a professionally managed portfolio of investments that we can use for major emergencies.
In making his announcement to “merge” the parishes, Bishop Zinkula said he had “reviewed the parish and diocesan sacramental, financial and parishioner records related to St. Mary Parish and found that these records support my decision.”
In the closing, all funds, all the grounds became part of St. Anthony.
While St. Mary has merged with St. Anthony and pastor Rudy Juarez celebrates a Mass in Spanish at noon, the Latin Mass is celebrated at Holy Family.
History of St. Mary’s
The cornerstone for St. Mary was laid in 1867, making it Davenport’s 4th oldest Catholic Church.
Some of those who helped lay the bricks were undoubtedly Civil War veterans.
The parish was to serve a growing number of Catholics in west Davenport in what was known as the Mitchell’s Addition after Judge Gilbert C. R. Mitchell who had purchased an 80-acre tract in the area in 1840 from the U.S. government.
Just two blocks away was St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, but services there were in German, and English-speaking people, including a large number of Irish, wanted their own church.
The Gothic-style brick church opened for public worship on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1869, accompanied by a procession from St. Anthony’s with a full band. In the procession were 100 little girls and 100 little boys, marching two by two, members of the three other churches in Davenport, according to a church history compiled in 1967.
The church altar was carved of solid walnut and the interior was richly decorated with stained glass windows, statues and paintings.
A brick rectory, or priest residence, was built in 1868.
A school was founded that year, too, in a small wood frame building. Today’s two-story brick building — converted to a parish hall after the school closed — is the third school, completed in 1901. It was constructed under the supervision of noted Davenport architects Claussen and Burrows.
A convent — now converted to parish offices and some classrooms — also was built in 1901.
The school was staffed by sisters from three different orders: Sisters of the Holy Cross, Sisters of Mercy, and Sisters of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary.
Notable benefactors through the years included Judge Mitchell, a founder of the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad and one-time Davenport mayor; Nicholas Fejervary, a Hungarian nobleman whose estate became Fejervary Park; Patrick T. Walsh, founder of a world-wide construction company whose projects include the Hotel Blackhawk and Sacred Heart Cathedral, both Davenport; and Henry C. “Hummer” Kahl, founder of a company that developed the 10-story Kahl Building at 326 W. 3rd St.
In addition to its organ and art work, church treasures include its 3,000 pound bell cast in Baltimore in 1880.
In 1942, the church was redecorated.
About five years later, on Christmas Eve, 1947, fire broke out in the church and most of the original stained glass windows were destroyed, leaving only two in the chancel.
The church, rectory, school and convent were all re-roofed in 2017 as part of a Diocese of Davenport insurance settlement after a storm caused damage to numerous churches. The roof work permit for St. Mary’s was for $742,832.
The cross at the top of the steeple is about 150 feet above the sidewalk below. In doing the roof work, the steeple was embellished with multiple patterns using gray and terra cotta-colored slate, outlined with extensive copper flashing.
The campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.