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Our Lady of Lourdes brings back memories
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Jean Moore knew what Father Wallrath looked like, since there were photos included in the history she and others had done for the Church of Annunciation in Williams.
So she was delighted on Sunday to see some of his handwritten letters on display during the grand opening of the new Lady of Lourdes Museum in Colusa.
"It was like bringing him to life," she said.
The letters date back to the late 1800s when Wallrath was instrumental in establishing Catholic churches throughout Colusa County.
"It is amazing they have found so many old artifacts and things," Moore said.
Many of the items featured in the new museum date back to the earliest years of the church, some going all the way back to when Our Lady of Lourdes was The Church of Immaculate Conception.
Established in 1868, although services date back to 1863, a new church with a new name was dedicated in 1880.
Wallrath came to Colusa to help build that church, the history states. While the history certainly intrigued some, such as John Morton, a member of the Colusa Historical Preservation Commission, others had their own favorites.
Abby Maciel, 6, of Colusa, liked the ornaments most, and Bridget Walsh, 12, of Colusa, said her favorite part were the outfits.
"It's pretty cool," said Walsh, who attends Our Lady of Lourdes School, as does Maciel.
"My favorite part are the relics because my saint is there — St. Rita," added 14-year-old Isabella Delgado.
Of course, it wasn't Our Lady of Lourdes until 1956, when a new school was built. Prior to that, it was the St. Aloysius Academy, and it was operated by live-in nuns.
The school was re-opened in 1978.
For Lucille Imhoff, whose daughter, Talyn, provided the music for the event, it was just listening to so many people talk about the memories the artifacts and other material brought back for them.
"What I enjoy the most is a lot of the people are saying, 'I remember this, and I remember that.' It brings back so may memories," Imhoff said.
Ladybug Doherty said the museum brought back memories of Father Vaughn and Father Stack, her parish priest when she was growing up near Arbuckle.
She still owns an Irish hunting saddle given to her by Stack.
"I think it is great. It brings back a lot of memories," Doherty said.
Morton brought some material to be included at the museum, including photos of the current church and other landmarks in the city.
"It's great," said Morton, noting that it adds to the historical ledger in the county, which includes the Sacramento Valley Museum in Williams and the Stonyford Museum.
It was Father Arabel Cabasagan's love of history that got the project rolling.
Cabasagan actually worked in the Catholic archives in San Francisco prior to becoming a priest.
He came to Colusa two years ago, and quickly discovered a treasury of artifacts, documents and other material that needed a proper home.
Some were found in a broiler room, others stashed away in one place or another — at the church, the parish offices, just about everywhere.
A committee of 13 was formed, and a call out to church members brought a rush of other material.
Perhaps most amazing is a marriage certificate, dating back 127 years ago as of last Saturday.
The certificate was discovered all rolled up after Dorothy Livermore had found a picture of her grandparents, Julia and Joseph Highstreet.
On the certificate, however, it reads a marriage between Julia Rose Dausey and Joseph Francis Hochsrat.
He would change the name to Highstreet later.
"They were married Aug. 18, 1885, right here, and had a great big party in Williams afterward," said Livermore, who attended the local Catholic schools, and remembers very well the nuns and how much more disciplined the classroom environment was than it is today.
Several of the nuns are still alive today, but work in Ventura, the last school with nuns in California, Cabasagan said. One of those, Patty Riley, grew up in Colusa before becoming a Holy Cross nun.
Jerry Steidlmayer brought a painting she had rescued from the garbage many years ago, and a beautiful marble-topped table that was also earmarked for the trash, but given to her by Father McGarry.
It took more than a year for the committee to compile, organize and finally put together the museum displays — working right up to the final days before the grand opening.
They too were caught up in the history, and since most had long histories with the church, the project brought back a lot of memories.
Eileen Davies remembers there was quite the debate about building a new church in the late 1970s, but instead a restoration of the existing church was completed.
She noted that above the false ceiling in the church are paintings on the original ceiling, but it was too costly to restore those.
However, there are places in the church where people can look up and still see the paintings.
Alma Hickel's late husband, James, did much of the woodwork on the frames around the 14 stations of the cross, paintings completed as part of the restoration by well known artist Dianna Hockanseon, who also painted the mural.
For Berniece Castro and Becky English, the project reminded them of how welcomed they felt by the congregation when they first joined the church.
"It's not any thing, but it's the church itself," Castro said, "and how involved they were in the community and how active the parishioners were."
Vince Garafalo of Princeton said his mother and her two sisters were actually bordered at the old school with the nuns because the family lived in the Winship area near Meridian and it was too far to come and go each day.
Remember, it was still very much a horse-driven time back then.
Cindy Steidlmayer said she has just tried to absorb all the stories.
"It's just been fun, and to realize the history and that we are part of that history," Steidlmayer said.