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US congregation holds dedication ceremony for organ from former Sackville United Church


Published on July 4, 2017

David Shrader, a guest organist, left, and Andrea Bartolomeo, St. Paul's organist, talk to an aspiring young organist following a dedication ceremony for the former Sackville United Church organ at Saint Paul of the Cross Catholic Church in Park Ridge, Illinois. PHOTO SUBMITTED

PARK RIDGE, ILL. – “The world is filled with extremes of sounds and silence … we have to learn to listen for the voice of God.”

These were Bishop Francis Kane’s words to parishioners and guests attending St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church’s pipe organ dedication on June 11 in Park Ridge, Illinois.

It was a day of celebration, including a Mass, luncheon, and organ recital performed by organist, David Schrader, was devoted to the dedication and blessing of the Casavant Opus 1279 organ from Sackville, N.B.. This event was just the first in a series of year-long dedicatory events that will be held to celebrate the pipe organ at Saint Paul’s.

The pipe organ, Bishop Kane told all those assembled, has a “special voice” and has been traditionally considered the “king of instruments, because of its power”. For this reason, Bishop Kane explained, “it has always been the preferred instrument for the most solemn and sacred rituals of the church. Listen for the voice of God”, he advised those assembled, “as this great instrument is played.”

Father Britto Berchmans, pastor of St. Paul’s, expressed gratitude for the organ.

In this year which Pope Francis has designated as a Year of Christian Unity, an organ from a tiny historic Methodist Church in the Maritime Provinces of Canada comes to us in Park Ridge, Illinois. What a natural and beautiful expression of ecumenism that the breath and song of the organ continues with us here.

Andrea Bartolomeo

”It is beautiful that we can still make music to the Lord,” he said. “This organ will be a great boon to us.”

Ed Eicker, director of music, and Andrea Bartolomeo , associate director of music and organist, are also thankful for the installation of the Casavant Opus 1279 from the Sackville United Church, which, amazingly, fits their space as if it had been built for it.

Bartolomeo said they had just presented need for an organ project to their council, when they learned that there was an organ that would fit their space perfectly in Sackville. The initial demolition date of Sackville United Church, however, was slated for Bartolomeo’s daughter’s birthday, and there was concern that they would not receive approval in time to acquire and remove the instrument it housed.

At the same time, however, SPLASH, Sackville People Leading Action to Save Heritage, in an effort to save the United Church, had successfully initiated legal action to delay the church’s demolition date and this action gave St. Paul’s the time they needed.

“While the Sackville society was unable to raise funds to completely avoid the demolition of their beloved church”, writes Bartolomeo, “their efforts bought time to save an instrument we thought had been lost.”

Andrea Bartolomeo, organist and assistant music director at St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church, plays the 1928 Casavant pipe organ that once stood in the Sackville United Church. PHOTO SUBMITTED

Developer John Lafford decided to offer the organ to St. Paul’s at no charge, and David Summerby-Murray and the Nova Scotia Organ Rescue Project, along with the help of others in the community, protected the organ by keeping the church building heated and systematically dismantling and removing it from the building.  Thanks to the efforts of these and other individuals, from Sackville to Park Ridge, the Sackville United Church Organ, Casavant Opus 1279, was successfully collected by organ builders from the Casavant factory in Hyacinthe, Que., restored, and installed in its new home in Illinois.

Bartolomeo would like to do what she can to bring the history of the Sackville United Church and its organ alive through the documentation and sharing of stories of its history. As Bartolomeo wrote in the organ dedication program, “While we were joyful that this organ would have new life and speak again, we could not help but consider past parishioners of the Sackville United Church. Memories are filled with music, and this organ had faithfully served their weekly services and sacraments, births, deaths, marriages, and other rites of passage.”

“In this year which Pope Francis has designated as a Year of Christian Unity,” writes Bartolomeo, ”an organ from a tiny historic Methodist Church in the Maritime Provinces of Canada comes to us in Park Ridge, Illinois. What a natural and beautiful expression of ecumenism that the breath and song of the organ continues with us here. How will it inspire us in our Catholic-Christian Living?”

Bartolomeo would welcome stories, memories, and archival information regarding the Casavant  Opus 1279 and its beginnings, life and service in the Sackville United Church. She may be contacted at: andreabartolomeo@spc-church.org.