By ANDREW HANSEN
St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Quincy has a rare distinction as it was designated a historic landmark by the city in 2000. Known for its impressively large, detailed, and richly colorful stained-glass windows that depict the life of Christ and images of various angels and saints, the church was built by the Irish community of Quincy and dedicated in 1912.
“Spaciously it’s very high,” said Father Joseph Portzer, FSSP, pastor. “In church language, that is lifting of you to God. You walk in and immediately you look up just to see how high it really goes. Then you look around and see amazing stained-glass windows and you can’t help but look at them. I love the stained glass the most. The stained-glass windows are a catechesis because they are so good. Sometimes, I use them for my sermons. Sometimes, they are better than my sermons!”
Despite its beauty and landmark designation, the church has not always been available to the faithful over the last 100-plus years. The church closed in 2005 and most of the contents were either moved to other churches or sold. Then, in 2007, then-Bishop George Lucas of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, gave permission to re-open the church for the traditional Latin Mass. It was reopened in 2008 and has been staffed by priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. On Jan. 1, 2014, St. Rose of Lima became an official parish of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois under a decree issued by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki.
“The pews are original — for some reason they hadn’t been sold off,” said Father Portzer. “Everything else, they bought it again, and it looks a lot like the old. I think they wanted to make sure everything fit architecturally with what had been here so it’s a deliberate style choice.”
That includes three marble altars, taken from Barat College near Chicago, as well as the matching altar rail and pulpit. The original cross from St. John the Baptist Church in Quincy now hangs in St. Rose of Lima Church.
As you walk around the church, your eyes cannot stop looking around as beauty awaits in every corner. If you visit St. Rose, pay special close attention to the stained glass. Besides the beauty, there is rich Catholic symbolism in the scenes depicted.
“Particularly, I like the scenes over the confessionals,” Father Portzer said. “Over one of the confessionals, we have Mary Magdalene who is down on the floor and using her hair to wipe our Lord’s feet. Jesus has his hand out over her, which is not in the story in the Bible. But it shows absolution. It shows the motion of the priest’s hand giving forgiveness to Mary Magdalene while she is weeping for her sins. It is really a beautiful thing.
“The opposite confessional has perhaps a less clear message, but when you look at it, it has the same message. There is the young woman, age 12, who is dead, and Christ comes to her and says, ‘Young woman, I say to you rise.’ His right hand is up the air. His left hand, he is holding her and bringing her back to life. The right hand is meant to be the hand of absolution, so He is showing a dead person being brought to the spiritual life by the work of the priest.”
Whether it is statues of saints, the Stations of the Cross, a domed ceiling, the altar, or the stained glass, the elements inside the church come from the Gothic, Romanesque, and Byzantine styles which together make up the style known as Venetian Gothic — making this church one of a kind.
“There was a man who came here for a blessing for his son who had cancer,” Father Portzer said. “I didn’t realize they were not Catholic. I gave them the blessing, and then I walked them through the church, and they were so fascinated by the church. I walked them all around and explained all the stained-glass windows, and they left. Only later did I hear from one of my parishioners who met up with them and how thrilled they were, how welcomed they felt, and the man said that he would like to come back to the church to just pray sometime. That is the impact this church has on people. It should do that. Every Catholic church should lift us up like that.”
Box: In the next edition of Catholic Times we will explore Immaculate Conception Church in Mattoon.