History Wall Reveals Resilient Life of St. Patrick's Church

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Although the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church parish was founded in 1891, its rebirth after the Flood of 2008 leads off the four large display cases of its new history wall unveiled Sunday. Among photos of the flood is a T-shirt proclaiming "St. Patrick’s is back!"

You’ll also find other interesting memorabilia, from a 75th anniversary plate, to a photograph when the roof had been removed for updating in the late 1940s (the rededication was in 1951) to old catechism books to a bright green jacket with a Celtic cross representing the St. Patrick’s High School that closed in 1963.

"There’s a lot of history in this parish," says Cindy Koczo, office manager and pastoral minister who came up with the idea for the history wall. "After we lost everything, people kept bringing stuff in, pictures. plates, old pictorial (membership) directories, cookbooks ...

"Obviously," she adds, "the history of this parish is important to people."

That history is particularly meaningful to Bob Campagna, a Loveland, Colo., freelance photographer/graphic artist who grew up in Cedar Rapids and finished eighth grade at St. Patrick’s. He graduated from LaSalle High School in 1967.

"I am a son of St. Patrick’s Church," Bob says as he assembles the wall. "There’s incredible excitement as people come through and see it going up."

Yes, Bob’s family came to church every Sunday and sat in the same place — "Fourth pew, left side as you face the altar," he says. "My mom just turned 96. She still sits there."

That connection prompted Cindy to contact Bob, who began working on the wall a year ago. With his local knowledge, photographs he’d taken in years past (including nine years ago before the school was torn down) and information from Cindy, he would assemble proposals on his computer. By sending them to Cindy via email, they had the history wall planned out when Bob arrived early last week.

"We’re trying to tell a story without it just being an artifacts collection," Bob says. "We had a pretty good idea before I got here, but we’re improvising a little as we go along."

As a man eager to share the credit, Bob quickly points to the church members who helped, from Cindy to Marv Hoffman who built the display cases, Jim Kruger who stained them and Mike Jasiewicz who did the electrical work. A lot of volunteer help came from Jim Bell, Jean Bell and Sam Krumbholz with significant photography contributions by David Byrnes and swift photo reproductions by Photo Pro and mounting by Modern Gallery.

"As an art piece, this church is phenomenal," Bob says. "We wanted to do it right."

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