Oshkosh parish’s new tabernacle has long history

By Jaye Alderson | For The Compass | January 29, 2015

Inscription on refurbished tabernacle memorializes World War I soldier

OSHKOSH — The ties that bind have taken on special meaning at St. Raphael the Archangel Church. As part of “Renewing Our Space … Renewing Our Faith,” a broad refurbishing project for the building’s 20th anniversary, St. Raphael found itself in need of a tabernacle to add to the worship area of the church.

The newly installed tabernacle at St. Raphael the Archangel Church in Oshkosh dates back to 1938. It originally was used at the former Sacred Heart Church. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)
The newly installed tabernacle at St. Raphael the Archangel Church in Oshkosh dates back to 1938. It originally was used at the former Sacred Heart Church. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)

“Our existing worship site was built with the tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, visible and adjacent to the worship space,” says Fr. Doug LeCaptain, pastor of St. Raphael. “It’s a nice little prayer spot. But the bishop asked that a tabernacle be front and center in the church.”

He put out the word that he was looking for a tabernacle and Fr. Matt Simonar, pastor of St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Oshkosh, responded. He offered a tabernacle that had been in storage at the former Sacred Heart Church site since the current church building was constructed in 1938.

The tabernacle was used at Sacred Heart when it was on the second floor of the school, located on the same site. It is dated 1918 and inscribed to the memory of Leonard B. Cherwinski, a private in the U.S. Army during World War I, who is buried in Romagne, France. It was donated to the parish by his mother, Valerie Putz, who now is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Oshkosh. There are no known surviving relatives.

Since the current church building was constructed, the tabernacle and other liturgical items have been in a basement storage area.

A new wooden frame was built for the tabernacle to match the wood of the altar and new cross which also was part of the refurbishing project at St. Raphael. Lighting is built into the box so that the tabernacle is properly illuminated.

Restoration of the metal bronze casing, gearing and mechanism was done by T.H. Stemper Co. Inc. in Milwaukee. The third-generation business sells and restores religious items. “They had us do the metal refinishing and we made it shine,” says John Stemper, one of five brothers who operate the business founded by their grandfather 103 years ago.

“I like seeing how the old can be restored and keep the original quality. We do a lot of metal refinishing,” said Stemper. “St. Raphael’s did a very nice job with the wooden box. I’ve never seen built-in lights to a box like that, which is a nice touch. I’ve seen the tabernacle behind the altar and incorporating a very old piece, in a modern setting, ties the old with the new very well.”

Fr. LeCaptain says he appreciates the significance of the tabernacle’s history. “It comes from our mother parish,” he says. “It’s neat to have a piece of that tradition and history. It’s a good connection. It’s a great use of the sacred tabernacle for holding the Blessed Sacrament.”

Fr. Simonar says he is happy that the tabernacle can be used again.

“Some of the older parishioners said they remember seeing the tabernacle down there in storage,” he said.

The newly refurbished tabernacle was blessed at St. Raphael on Epiphany weekend and and Fr. LeCaptain says he has received many positive comments from parishioners. “They say it fits into the worship space very well and looks like it has always been there.”

Work on “Renewing Our Space … Renewing our Faith” continues. Next up are new cameras and multimedia equipment and a new electronic sign in front of the church.

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