Summer Summary

Like every summer before – times flies!  Visible work at the chapel has slowed only to accommodate professional responsibilities and family life.   Efforts will pick up again as we head into the fall and winter. 

z altar platform

wood floor

Unfinished White Oak planks and American Cherry risers were custom milled by Hardwood Floors of Hillsboro and will be installed on the altar platform. An eager crew was waiting and ready to unload the materials.

20220816 limestone blocks

Retaining wall

Limestone blocks are ready to install as a retaining wall. Cement pads will then be poured and the air conditioning units will sit on top.

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Thank you to all the willing men and young men who have been mowing and trimming this summer!

Maximilian'S Birthday

Maximilian was born one year ago on August 19, 2021. His mother, Elizabeth, posted a reflection for his special day. Please click his photo to read the Caring Bridge update.

zz pilgrimage with banners


Several souls will be taking the chapel intentions on pilgrimage next week. Please pray for them as they pray with their bodies. A Saint Irenaeus banner is being created to process with the faithful.

zz group june 9

Prayers and Penance

As Father Fullerton encouraged in June, please keep praying and offering penance.  Also, please pray for Alexander as he discerns with the Society of Saint Pius X beginning in September.

If you continue with prayer and penance, God will reward you.

We were blessed to have Father John Fullerton, SSPX US District Superior, visit on June 9th as he traveled through the area. Father offered Holy Mass for the Thursday during the Octave of Pentecost and a few words of encouragement. We offered a tour, brunch and fellowship.

"St. Irenaeus (Catholic) Church is the finest edifice in the place.

It is the largest Catholic Church in Iowa, and is built of dressed stones. The interior finish of this church is elegant — grand. It seems that the builders have undertaken to see how much grandeur could be put upon a building of this character. It is constructed so solidly that years and ages shall pass away and it will remain as permanently as the day it was built — an enduring monument to the faith of its projects. Rev. F. C. Jean is pastor.”

Lyons Mirror, Saturday, June 25, 1870

May 27, 2022

The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time

The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

May 18, 2022

Be assured there are piles of progress continuing at the chapel, though the transformation is harder to see.  The electrical work continues and cement will be poured for air conditioner units to sit on.

Plus, there is a swing of fun and splash of color these days!  

May 16, 2022

to this week’s volunteers!

May God reward you!

To volunteer a turn mowing and trimming,
please contact Keith at (563) 503-6377.

May 9, 2022

April 27, 2022

Find The Differences

Look closely. Can you find the five structural differences?

April 16, 2022

Peeking in on a family workday during Holy Week.

April 6, 2022

April 3, 2022

Project Progression

March 24, 2022

Confessional floor

The room at the bottom of the choir loft stairs is intended for the confessional.  The chimney that took up the corner has been removed and the floor was ripped up to install ductwork.  Floor joists were touching the dirt all these years and caused the wood to rot. Those weakened joists were cut out and the dirt was dug, carried, jackhammered, vacuumed and hauled away.  (It was a lot of work!)  New floor joists have been secured and a sub-floor was laid down. 

Attic near choir loft

This space was hard to get into; however, it is a necessary zone for continued electrical work. It is also where an air circulator will be placed to keep the choir loft comfortable.  Surprisingly, this attic space is set at head’s height – above the choir loft floor.  The space between joists was thoroughly vacuumed and sheeting was laid down so men have a surface to work on. 

Altar Platform

Our Lord will have a solid surface on which He will be adored and glorified!  The old altar platform was torn out a while back.  Recently the new, top level of the platform was constructed using laminated veneer lumber. (LVL) The HVAC duct work was run for supply and return air, and the subfloor was secured.  Now the two steps that ascend to the altar can be built.  Additional stairs will ascend to the high altar, someday.

March 17, 2022

LED Lightbulbs

Switching to LED bulbs saves us 654 watts per main fixture. (12 fixtures)


Secure Mailbox

Send us mail! We'll get it here.

Old detail

Aluminum wrapped around the stone.

New Detail

Now shingles to match the roof.

March 15, 2022

Chimney removal has cleaned up nicely. Work in the confessional area has now moved to the floor. Dirt is shoveled out below floor level to make room for ductwork.  The joists that have been in contact with the ground need replacing. 

The ductwork can now be installed around the new altar platform.  A lot of planning has happened to make this all work. Return and supply vents are pictured here.

Progress on north side of the roof is looking good!

March 10, 2022

The altar platform is carefully and prayerfully being constructed using laminated veneer lumber. (LVL)

March 4, 2022

This week in numbers


dollars as a down payment for roofing labor.


burnt sienna-colored shingles nailed onto the south side of the roof.



square feet of double-walled chimney brick knocked down over five days.


sheets of plywood nailed onto roof. (south side only)


of boom to reach the top of the chimney.

54' telehandler to lift materials to the roof.


scissors lift to transport men up and down.


mats used to cover the lawn and allow the heavy equipment to move on soft ground.


decks of stairs now completed in the south and north towers. (190 stairs total)



men on the roof.


staples applied in the emergency room.

(It was an innocently dropped tool that hit a head. He is well. Praise God!)


sets of keys placed in the hand of Our Lord by the work crew.


dumpsters of debrìs hauled away.


dedicated electrician new on the site.


days to spare before the first rain on the new, south roof!

February 26, 2022

Smiles and Singing

A youthful crew came in to freshen up the workspace today. They were caught singing in between tasks!

20220226 update (6)
20220226 update (4)

Some more of the same . . .

More concrete floor was removed (for ductwork installation) and more vacuuming was cheerfully done this week!   New are the holes cut for the vents and the different doorways for the bathrooms at the back of the church.  The bathrooms will now open into the entry, not the sanctuary. 


The old, scrubby trees on the south side were cut down today.   A roofing crew will arrive on Monday and this will give them good access to the top.  The inside of the church is much brighter now, too!

In the lower left photo you can see the existing damage on the steeples from the 2020 derecho. Fixing these gaps is a priority, but will require a different contractor. (It will not be done with the shingling.)

20220226 update (1)
20220226 update (2)

Gutting the Sacristy

More lathe and plaster were removed from the other sacristy.  These rooms will be insulated, drywalled and rewired.   Revealed below is an original stencil detail.  (Perhaps resembling steamboats?)   According to the 1907 photo, the Mary & Joseph sacristy windows were once on the interior walls next to the altar. 

20220226 update (7)

Coming up next . . .

The main chimney will be removed from the top down.  The interior wall shows stress fractures from compression of the bricks.   Removing the chimney will also add space to what will be the confessional area.   

February 19, 2022 

Fueling Up

With temporary heat, a cold day requires refueling. 

Taking Down

The plaster and lathe are coming down in the  side sacristy next to the south tower. The walls were in bad shape. Deconstruction showed different eras of church history.

Reaching the Heights

Scaffolding was needed to reach the top of the twenty foot walls. Most of these walls were from the 1907 era.

Hauling Out

The floor in the sacristy was cut out around the cabinetry.


New Door

An attic entry was installed to the steeple tower to close off the space and conserve heat. This first flight of stairs in the side sacristy is temporary. In the future the stairs will fold up into the ceiling.


Old Door

A lot of work was done to reinforce the floor under the altar.  Shown here is how the weight is carried. Rather than put all the pressure on the keystone above the main basement door, a frame was built around the door to carry the load.

Reinforcing the Joists

The floor under the altar was reinforced with  laminated veneer lumber (LVL) on either side and in both directions.  Before and after are shown at right.

Sitting Ready

The large bridge beams on the basement ceiling will be framed up now and finished with drywall later. 

December 2021 – February 2022

Engineering HVAC

Eight HVAC units are being installed. A lot of time was spent removing the sawdust insulation between joists and moving pews to prepare for duct and vent placement. Floor joists and beams were also reinforced.  Matthew (at right) contributes his thirty years of general contracting experience to the project. 

Tower Cleaning

A chimney was thrown down in the north tower. Bird evidence, dead pigeons, and one bat were removed. The damage from the 2020 derecho left these structures exposed to the elements.

Stairs Going Up

Stairs are being constructed in both the north and south towers. These will allow steeple materials to be carried up in the spring, and will save the expense of renting scaffolding and lifts for an expanded period of time.

Preparing for Insulation

Stud walls are going up in the basement, and spray foam insulation will be used to help conserve heat and energy costs.

Eliminating Dust

A lot of effort has been put toward keeping a clean work site.  All surfaces have been vacuumed – the fire marshal was impressed! Shown here is above the kitchen ceiling.

Installing the Organ

A used Allen C-6 organ was installed on December 13th – the morning after Maximilian died and before his Mass of the Angels.   The carpet was pulled up in the choir loft and this space will have its own thermostat for controlling the temperature at that elevation. 

Evaluating the Altar

The bare platform revealed the original altar was 16′ wide, and the top stair was shaped for a communion rail.  The floor was settled and sagging.  It was torn out and will be replaced to ensure stability and that is is level.  This will also allow them to run HVAC vents.

Removing the Floor

Volunteers are shown removing the floor in the north sacristy. It was constructed with a mix of concrete and marble and poured over a chicken-wire structure. It is tough! To help with egress, the stairs in this steeple will continue into the basement to serve as an emergency exit and help meet fire code.

Fostering Fellowship

Each workday begins with prayer and invoking St. Joseph the Worker for intercession. There is time for briefings, lunch and camaraderie. As of February 2, over 1670 volunteer hours have been tallied from over 47 individuals and 19 households. Thank you! God bless you all!