A light in the dark. It may not have been the intent behind the installation of lights on the bell tower of St. Benedict Cathedral, 1328 Lincoln Ave., but it certainly has become a welcomed outcome.
“I think in a way, the tower plays a bigger role symbolically than it does physically,” says Fr. Godfrey Mullen, cathedral rector of St. Benedict. “It notifies people we’re here, and sometimes they come looking for help. It calls us to do what we’ve been called to do by Christ.”
The tower and cathedral were built in 1927 and dedicated in 1928. Like many churches in the area at the time, the parishioners did not have enough money to complete both the church and bell tower. Walter Henning, a young man in the congregation, was tasked with raising enough funds for the structure, which he accomplished with the help of the community.
“The church resembles several structures in Italy,” says Mullen, “where the tower appears to be a separate building, but in fact it is not.”
The bell that resides in the tower originally sat in front of what is now called St. Meinrad Hall. For 90 years, it has continued to mark the hour as well as the start of Mass, other occasions at St. Ben’s, and the Angelus prayer. The bell was rung by hand up until the 1950s, when an electrical system was put in place. In 2015, the Hennings continued their family’s connection to the bell tower by rejuvenating the ringing mechanism of the bell in honor of Walter.
“It provides a lovely little continuity in the parish,” says Mullen.
Though the bell tower is iconic to the church’s parishioners and neighbors, it mostly sat unseen once the sun set in the evenings. However, in 2014, an opportunity that Mullen was eager to capitalize on presented itself.
“It always seemed sad to me that this beautiful building sat here at night, almost completely in the dark,” he says.
During roof renovations on the church and the tower in 2014, Mullen approached Mel-Kay Electric owner Scott Hartig about the cost to fit lights on the tower. Hartig, a St. Ben’s parishioner, volunteered his company to do the work and by the end of the renovation project, the tower was lit for all to see.
“It’s amazing how many comments we’ve gotten on the beauty of the tower at night,” says Mullen. “One of the things I find fascinating is many identify the lit tower as a symbol of comfort.”
Though it may not be a practical way to help keep time, Mullen does believe St. Ben’s bell tower — along with its lights — call people back to the church. It shows stability and commitment to the community, he adds, as well as calling back parishoners to a mindfulness of God’s presence.
“It’s almost like a pulse for the life of the community,” says Mullen. “It marks the time for us and reminds us that it keeps going.”
For more information about St. Benedict Cathedral, call 812-425-3369 or visit saintbenedictcathedral.org.