Coming centennial prompts St. Leo's renovations

Jenny Gessaman
A man dressed in the black suit and white collar of a priest stands by a columned wood gazebo containing a gold box.

Father Samuel Spiering stands next to St. Leo’s tabernacle and baldachinno, or ceremonial wooden canopy, Friday.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

Saint Leo the Great Catholic Church has housed the same religion for almost 100 years, and Father Samuel Spiering hopes some fall renovations will help it last another century. Spiering says four projects are going ahead at the Lewistown landmark.

“We’re working on getting the big things done right now,” he said.

One renovation will be obvious to church members and bystanders alike: the front steps. The 20-year-old stairs are structurally sound, according to Spiering, but have had their smooth finish worn off. He said they are currently being resurfaced and then sealed. Spiering thought the repair would be good for practical and spiritual reasons.

“It’s also kind of symbolic to the community,” he said. “The steps really represent our spiritual life because we’re going to up the steps to worship God. They’re also very symbolic of our going to heaven.”

Even more relevant to the congregation’s spirituality will be the movement of its tabernacle back to the center of the main sanctuary. Spiering described the tabernacle as a special box that, in the Catholic faith, is made of gold, covered in wood and holds the Eucharist.

“It has been in a side chapel for 10 or so years, but we’re building a platform in the center of the church,” he said. “We are moving it out in the main church and making it high enough so they [the congregation] can see it.”

While the current arrangement provides a more private environment for prayer, Spiering believes the tabernacle’s move will provide greater inspiration. He says it will give church members a chance to pray to the Lord as soon as they enter the main church, and its new highlighted position will be a visual reminder of the role the Lord plays in Catholic life.

”Most importantly, and most obviously, Christ is the center of our church and of our lives, of everything we do,” he said.

The tabernacle’s new platform will be made from oak by a local craftsman. Spiering said the wood would match the oak accents in the rest of the church, as well as the wood used in the tabernacle.

While Spiering hopes to have the platform and the steps completed mid-October, there are two more projects that may stretch a little longer he wants to finish in time for the church’s Nov. 12 centennial.

One is a retaining wall holding back dirt from an entrance to a church commons area.

“We’re just going to replace that completely,” Spiering said.

The other is the church’s parish center gym.

“We recently had somebody donate new backboards and basketball equipment,” Spiering said.

Lewistown’s Knights of Columbus will help St. Leo’s repaint the gym, refinish the floor and install the equipment. They also raised funds for the work. Spiering is happy to make the gym a more welcoming place. Although he sees kids using the court while waiting for religious education classes, Spiering wants it to be a resource for the community. He hopes local teams needing a gym, especially for youth games, will consider the church’s court once it’s renovated.

“This is a way to kind of revitalize it and make it usable again,” he said.



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