Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Crosses atop St. Aloysius’s spires shine with renewed brilliance
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Dec. 4, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Workers prepared the crosses atop the twin spires of St. Aloysius Church, Spokane, in reparation for the installation of new, energy-efficient lights. (IR photo courtesy of St. Aloysius Parish, Spokane)
The evening of Saturday, Nov. 8, following the 5:15 Mass, parishioners, staff and guests of Spokane’s St. Aloysius Parish gathered in the darkness outside for a unique ceremony. One hundred sixty-five feet above ground level, topping each of the church’s two spires, is a cross nine feet high and six feet wide. Re-wiring and other renovation work was recently completed on the crosses, the first phase of a restoration project on the entire structure to be completed in anticipation of the church’s centennial in 2009. In November, St. Aloysius Parish launched a capital campaign to pay for the work needed on the church.
At about 6:30 p.m., parish administrator Don Weber read two passages of Scripture with the theme of “light out of darkness.” Then Jesuit Fathers Dick Case and Charles Barnes – pastor and parochial vicar of the parish, respectively – donned hard hats and climbed into the “bucket” of a crane mounted on the back of a large truck. As the crowd cheered, the two priests slowly rode up, up 165 feet into the night sky until they were at eye-level with the unlit cross on the east side of the church.
Once the upward movement stopped, Father Barnes dipped an aspergillum (the small perforated container with a handle used to sprinkle holy water in a liturgical service) into holy water. He then sprinkled the cross while reciting a blessing he formulated himself, a switch was flipped, and the 120 lights on the cross came on.
The crane then moved the two priests slowly over to the cross on the west spire. Father Case repeated the ritual and the lights on that cross came on, too. Father Case generated some excitement among the crowd far below when he accidentally lost his hard hat, which fell 165 feet to the ground.
Simultaneous with the blessing and lighting ceremony, parishioners Bill and Pam Small served dozens of cookies they had baked, some in the shape of the church, spires included, others in the shape of a cross. Apple cider in paper cups completed the snack enjoyed by the large crowd.
Weber said that there are now 60 light bulbs on each side of both crosses, for a total of 120 lights on each cross. “The amount of electricity burned now is the equivalent of five of the old bulbs,” he said. Each of the new LED (light emitting diode) light bulbs has 10 LEDs in it and uses about two watts of electricity. “We’ve been told that we shouldn’t have to replace any bulbs for about 10 years,” said Weber, “and that’s with lighting the crosses every night of the year, which will be our practice now.”