There will be a new tone to the pealing of church bells over Easter weekend in downtown Naperville.
For the first time in nearly 37 years, the chimes coming from Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church will be produced by the real thing and not an electronic facsimile.
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The 167-year-old church has restored two long-silent bells and added a third to commemorate what former Pope Benedict XVI deemed the Year of Faith. The new 990-pound bell and a refurbished 250-pound bell were hoisted by crane and installed Thursday in the church's 130-foot-tall bell tower.
The Rev. Tom Milota said the new bells will peal for the first time "at the Gloria" during the Easter Vigil around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 30.
"For the first Mass, we'll bring them out Easter morning. We won't ring them before the 6:30 a.m. Mass because we'll wake up all the neighbors," Milota said Thursday. "But we will be ringing them before the 8 a.m. Mass on Easter Sunday and all of the other Sunday masses as well."
It's been nearly four decades since any of the church's bells have chimed, he said, and 50 years since they rang together.
Steve Doerger, a representative of Verdin, the Cincinnati company that refurbished and forged the bells, said Thursday's installation was precarious because workers had only 5 inches of wiggle room to squeeze the new 990-pound bell into the tower. The real work however, won't be completed until Friday.
"Now that they've been hoisted into the tower, they need to have the yokes installed and then be placed on the platform," Doerger said. "And there's not much room up there to get all of that done, so it's going to take some time."
Funds to repair the bells came from a "generous gift" bequeathed to the church by two longtime patrons.
"Bells are an interesting and very ancient practice of calling people to worship God. And they, in some way, reflect the voice of God," Milota said. "So many in the community are looking forward to hearing our new bells ring out, once again, into the community."
A 1922 fire destroyed the church and its original bell, but Milota said it is believed that bell is still part of the church.
"The large bell fell into the body of the church and was quickly destroyed," he said. "We believe the bronze was cleaned and reforged into bells in the tower now. It's a symbol of the resurrection and endurance of people as we move forward."
The bells were restored, but in 1976 the church moved toward an electronic system that mimics the bells' toll. When the congregation decided to move back to the real bells, Milota said the gift from sisters Cecelia and Magdalen Hatch seemed like the ideal revenue source.
The large bell, which weighs 2,500 pounds, bears a Latin inscription that translates to "I, having been destroyed by the terrible fire, rose in honor of the princes of the apostles to call the faithful." The bell. named "Ss. Peter and Paul," was recently restored while in place in the tower.
The smaller bell, named "St. Bernard," weighs about 250 pounds and is inscribed in Latin and translates to "Time flies. Death comes. Come Ye Faithful."
The newly forged bell, named "Mary Mother of God," has an inscription commemorating the Year of Faith.
Beginning April 1, the large bell will toll every day and the medium-sized one will toll three times a day for the Angelus Prayer. The three bells will always peal together for important events including weddings and funerals.