08 December 2015
The Bells are Back in Town
Just in time for the Feast of Our Lady, the long-silent bells in the tower of St. Francis de Sales Oratory are set to ring again. STLToday has a nice story on this today (photo above is theirs). Excerpts:
Halfway up and inside the 300-foot steeple, wind swirling, the fourth-generation bell mechanic held deep respect for the ledge.
“Safety is paramount,” James Androuais, 29, said from a brute steel platform. “It’s not the fall that will kill you, it’s the immediate stop.”
Sure-footed and on deadline, he focused on a broken assembly of four bells, ranging from 400 to 3,000 pounds each.
The bells haven’t formally rung in years.
In 2005, clergy and congregants at St. Francis de Sales Oratory started breathing new life into the old Roman Catholic church. The group had longed early on for the bells, cast in St. Louis more than a century ago, to be restored to their former glory. But bids for the work were too expensive.
So they shoveled uncounted pounds of pigeon droppings out of the belfry and did other tasks on their own. Then they sought a new estimate for the technical bell and clock work and were pleased with a $25,000 bid.
Tuesday became the first realistic deadline to get the bells to peal once again.
For observant Catholics in the United States, such as those at St. Francis de Sales, Dec. 8 is a holy day of obligation in honor of the Immaculate Conception, the belief that the Virgin Mary was conceived in her mother’s womb without original sin.
Mary is also the patroness of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a religious order founded in 1990 in Gabon, Africa, that runs St. Francis de Sales, which attracts about 600 faithful each Sunday for its traditional style. The special Mass will be celebrated at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the church, which worships in Latin, accompanied by Gregorian chant.
“The bells will be ringing,” the Rev. Canon Andrew Todd, 28, said last week, “God willing.”
The gold clocks, in view of Interstate 44, work for the first time in decades. Three of the four bells function on command. Androuais will come back after Christmas to finish the fourth bell and dress up the whole project with a small remote control to run it.
Until then, Todd and his colleagues can unleash the bells by a computer in a room to the side of the altar.
They will ring for the Immaculate Conception on Tuesday night.