The 8 a.m. Easter Sunday Mass started off with a special sound at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Naperville -- the chime of real church bells.
The parish, the oldest established in DuPage County, has been without those unique tones since the mid-1970s, when it began using an electronic facsimile instead.
"A beautiful sound for a beautiful holiday," one parishioner said as she hustled into the packed church.
The Rev. Thomas Milota, pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul, stood in front of the church before the 8 a.m. Mass on Sunday to make sure everything went well with the bell's first chime of the day. The church tested the bells during the previous night's Easter vigil Mass.
"There's something about the nature of bells that people really like," Milota said. "Their sound reminds us of the best of humanity, of the presence of God in our lives. They remind us that even during difficult times like we're in right now, we're not alone."
A recent financial gift from two parishioners allowed the church to refurbish two existing bells and add a 990-pound bell to the church's 130-foot-tall tower. At least one of the three bells will chime every day, and all three will peal together for important events, like weddings and funerals.
Milota said the parish has been uniformly positive about bringing back the live-bell sounds.
"I think that's because there's a real appreciation for history in this parish," he said. "We actually have descendants of some of the original founding families as active members here."
Ss. Peter and Paul was founded in 1846. The original church building, including its bells, was destroyed by fire almost 80 years later, in 1922. The parish immediately went to work on getting a new church constructed, and that's the building that stands on north Ellsworth Street today.
Though the church was built with a bell tower, the parish moved to an electronic bell system in 1976.