May 26, 2005 - (Lagro, IN 11/12/04)


By Eric Olsen

June 18, 2010 Updated Jun 8, 2007 at 12:19 PM EDT

There's a joyful sound being heard in a corner of 21Country that's been without one for many years.
This is a story about faith...faith that inspired Irish canal workers to build St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lagro 140 years ago, just after they completed the Wabash-Erie Canal.

Faith, too, that compelled them to ship all the way from New York, via canal boat, a luxury even for big city churches at the time...a pipe organ built in 1840 by famed organ builder Henry Pratt.

The little organ accompanied St. Patrick's congregation in song for more than a century, until vandals broke into the church in the 1940's, and smashed the instrument's pipes.

Last year, the faithful of St. Patrick's hired Canadian organ builder Hal Gober to restore their treasure.

Gober took the organ apart, hauled it back to his Toronto shop and spent two-thousand hours replacing parts, reshaping all the damaged pipes, and putting Henry Pratt's organ back in like new condition.

Last month, the organ was returned to the choir loft of St. Patrick's, and a voice silenced for sixty years filled the little church once again.

Congregant Peggy Koppler says, “It was sort of overwhelming. You just sort of, you were transformed when you heard it in this church.”

The restored organ was dedicated during mass last Sunday, the first Sunday in decades the instrument played any part in worship.

Peggy Koppler was part of the group that raised the 42,000 dollars it cost to restore the instrument.

She says the organ's new voice has inspired the congregation to restore the entire church.

Koppler says, “We're turning our efforts to some brick work that needs to be done, and the furnace. To maintain the building is a primary importance now, so this is sort of a catalyst to get a lot of alteration to the church.”

Those Irish canal workers couldn't have known how precious their church would remain to parishioners 140 years later, or how the little organ brought in by canal boat in the 1800's, would guarantee St. Patrick's survival, well into the 21st Century.

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