75 years of faith

Published 10:54 am Friday, August 24, 2012

Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Austin is celebrating its 75th anniversary. A special Mass will be held this Sunday. — Matt Peterson@austindailyherald.com

Queen of Angels celebrates milestone

Keep a church like Queen of Angels around for three quarters of a century, and it starts to serve as a landmark in peoples’ memories.

“I still vividly recall the day my dad, Merrill Frisk, asked me and my sister, Marcia, if we wanted to visit a new Catholic church,” said Colette Chaffee.

Now is a better time than ever to reminisce. The church will celebrate its 75th anniversary at a special 11 a.m. service Sunday. The bishop will lead the Mass, after which the congregation will enjoy a picnic lunch to follow. Various types of music, games for children and a prize drawing for all in attendance are scheduled for the afternoon.

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“We lived on Austin’s west side and belonged to the other Catholic parish,” Chaffee said.

Though she mainly attends Mass at St. Augustine, Chaffee still occasionally goes to Queen of Angels. She said it may have been March 1956 when she went to the church for the first time.

“As we entered the church, Dad told us that if we prayed for something special … our prayers might be answered,” she said. “He also proudly pointed out the huge, arched beams that he told us were made in Albert Lea, at the Rock Island Lumber Company where he was employed.”

Sally Michels, who has been going to the church since 1954 and helped organize Sunday’s festivities, said she expects about 300 people to attend.

T-shirts sales will take place outside the building Sunday to raise funds for the church, with shirts that someone offered to make for the church at a discount.

“He didn’t charge me for the screen printing or the shipping,” Michels said of the person who made the shirts. The man said he went 12 years to Catholic school and could do this favor to the church, she added.

The picnic will also have an inflatable “bouncy house,” face painting and other types of entertainment for children. Several musical performances are also tentatively planned for the afternoon.

Inside the church, easels will be set up with items from the church’s archive. Visitors can go in and take a look into the parish’s history.

“I did the archives,” Michels said. She started helping with them 25 years ago. “You’d be surprised about the interesting things you find in there.”

In the past 75 years, the church has suffered through its fair share of natural disasters, including wind damage, four cases of flood damage and a 1972 fire in the bell tower.

In preparation for the anniversary, the church had the prayer statute of the Virgin Mary that stands on the lawn outside the church repaired. The statue was originally at St. Augustine’s Convent, and has since moved to Queen of Angels.

“They just redid that whole thing, and built it up because the water used to get around it,” Michels said. She has pictures of the statue surrounded by water.

About 16 charter members of the church are still alive today, the oldest of whom is 101 years old.

Michels said many of her friends and family members go to the church. Some of her daughters went to school there, and her nieces attend Masses.

“It’s getting to be the younger crowd now,” she said.

Members of the congregation can use the event to share the different memories that have accumulated as the years passed. For Chaffee, one of the strongest is that first visit to the church with her father, who helped build those arched beams.

“I often think of that day and of Dad when I look up at those beams,” she said.