History of Immaculate Conception Parish -- Part 3

 Part 1 -- In the Beginning         Part 2 -- Early 1900         Part 3 -- A new Church is Built          Newspaper Articles         Videos

Bishop Alfred M. Watson of Erie was long aware of the need of a new church in Clarion, and his approval of the Siegel sale was one of his many affirmations to come towards the fulfillment of the goal.  Father Meisinger retired in May of 1972 after completing over 16 years as pastor.  He remained in Clarion where he assisted until April 28, 1978, when he became ill.  To have that priest return to his home parish to bless the scenes and friends of his boyhood from the fullness of his pastor-heart is complete recompense and high reward.

Father Edward Q. Franz was assigned to Clarion on May 26, 1972, with the intent of building a new church.  Father Franz’s first Sunday in the pulpit brought forth the proclamation of building a new church and rectory.  Dreams, all of us know, face many obstacles and are often a long time in gestation.  The greatest challenge facing the congregation was to meet the financial obligations in this undertaking.  Father Franz went about the formation of the first Parish Council here, and the parish representatives on Council became more and more involved with participating in the workings of the church.  One of the main problems was that of whether to renovate the old church or erect a new.  The first Council officers were: William Brochetti, president; John Stahlman, vice president; and Dorothy Martin, executive secretary.  The first committee members appointed to take up the question of whether to build or renovate were Barry Garbarino, Don Schmader, Hank Zacherl, and Bob Donahue.

Father Franz was transferred to Our Lady of the Lake parish in Edinboro at the end of May 1973, and the new pastor, Father John A. Kuzilla, assumed his office here on June 2.  The Parish Council sub committee on the study of the building problem had consulted Father Conrad Kraus, a former architectural student and liturgy expert, and architect Herman Weber of Erie, and the proposals to renovate indicated the costs of remodeling the old structure would run as high as $300,000.  In the proposed renovation, over 100 seats would be lost to meet modern day building standards and specifications.  The consensus on council was that for an additional $200,000 a completely new building could be built, and at the Parish Council meeting on April 25, 1974, the proposal for remodeling the old church was scrapped.  On Wednesday, June 26, 1974, Weber and Murphy, an architectural firm of Erie, were selected to design the new church.

During July of 1974, First Seneca Bank notified Father Kuzilla that I. C. Parish was remembered in Mike Rapp’s will.  The proceeds of the sale of his 255 acre farm, which had been in his family since 1869 was left to the church in the names of Peter and Susan Rapp and their twelve deceased children.

A new building committee was formed in September consisting of Barry Garbarino, Harold Seigel, Jane Gallagher, Bob Burns, Bob Kerr, Bob Donahue, Bill Laughlin, Mike Krevda, John Stahlman, Daryl Rhea and Pete Chernicky.  It was the committee that honed most of the decisions relative to the planning and execution of the new church in its earliest stages.

The significant dates in the construction of the new church were:

Sept. 22, 1973 -- Petition Bishop Murphy to build a new church

Aug. 12, 1974 -- Contract signed with architectural firm Weber and Murphy

Aug. 12, 1975 -- Contract signed with Max C. Strickland & Son, General Contractor

Sept. 28, 1975 -- Groundbreaking ceremonies held after the 9:00 Mass

Nov. 13 & 14, 1976 -- Move in day to the new Church

Oct. 2, 1977 -- The formal dedication of the new church

The financing of the new church came largely through the $550,000 from the Rapp estate and the sacrifices of the parishioners who contributed to the building drive.  The drive brought forth pledges of $335,000 from the parishioners for not only the church but for the renovation of the former convent as the new rectory and the building of parking lots on the site of the old church and the former old rectory.  The general construction of the church and tower cost $641,430.  To equip and furnish the building cost $111,108.  The tower in the new church was named “The Rapp Tower,” as a fitting and lasting memorial to this legacy to Immaculate Conception.