Metal voices ready to call faithful to Mass

A worker watches the end of a cable as he prepares to hoist another bell into one of the towers of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Wichita. Slideshow below. (Advance photos)


St. Catherine of Siena’s bells will soon command the attention of the neighborhood. The new church’s twin towers already dominate the landscape of northwest Wichita.

“Bells have one function, that is to call people to prayer,” Father Dan Spexarth said in the parish’s current gathering space. “We need to pray more. We need to pray harder. We need to pray longer. We need to pray with greater intensity.”

The church’s five bells were hoisted and installed June 30, four of increasing sizes in the south tower and a single, huge bell in the north tower.

South tower bells represent the people

The four bells in the south tower represent the people, the pastor said. “Some of us are big. Some of us are little. Some of us are in between.”

The smallest bell at 150 pounds was named Lucy by the donors who named it after a granddaughter who is blind. “And so every time Lucy rings, it rings, not just for their little granddaughter Darby, but for all who have disabilities.”

The next larger bell is 250-pound Jonathan, Father Spexarth said. It is named after a young man who died of leukemia at age 13. “Jonathan rings not just for him but for all people who are who are sick, especially with serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease.”

The 500 pound bell is named after Clara, a granddaughter of the donors. “They named the bell Clara because their first granddaughter was stillborn and they never got to hear her voice,” Fr. Spexarth said. “And so they believe that when Clara rings for the first time, they’ll hear her voice.”

Clara rings for voices of the unborn

Clara also rings for all the unheard voices of children who died because of miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion, he said. “Clara rings for all of them.”

The fourth bell in the south tower weighs 1,000 pounds and is named Mary, Our Mother because of the great love the donors have for the Blessed Virgin.

“So do we here at St. Catherine,” he said. “St. Catherine was a Dominican and Dominicans love Mary. Dominicans are the ones who gave us the rosary. And we have prayed the memorare every single Sunday since we began this work.”

The largest bell, the 2,000-pound Michael, hangs in the north tower. It is named after St. Michael the Archangel because of the devotion its donors have to the leader of the heavenly hosts.

Largest bell represents God

“Michael represents God,” Father said. “The bell is called the ‘vox dei,’ the voice of God.”
There is a spiritual battle going on today, he said. “We need Michael the great archangel to defend us, to help us through all the difficulties in our lives.”

Father Spexarth said the four bells in the south tower will ring five minutes before Mass begins. “They will ring for all of us – little, big, medium. This is us. That’s what prayer is. It’s a conversation. Not just God talking to us, not just us talking to God, but communication, we speak, and God responds.”

He said the small bells call the faithful to Mass to hurry and to get their seats.
“And then Mass starts,” he said. “God responds with bong! bong! bong!”