Thanks! Mark Meinhart
If anyone other than the Rev. Kevin Lutz were looking for a church bell stolen 45 years ago, I wouldn’t hold much hope for its return.
But the bell came from the old St. Peter’s Church in Columbus — demolished in 1970, with its artifacts scattered at least as far as Arkansas.
Lutz has an almost-mystical ability to retrieve them.
“It’s been an obsession of mine,” he said.
“It’s like stamp collecting: Once you start, you can’t stop.”
One room in the Jubilee Museum and Catholic Cultural Center — at 57 S. Grubb St. in the Franklinton neighborhood — is dedicated to the stained-glass windows, altar, pews, benches, statues and Stations of the Cross from St. Peter’s that Lutz has managed to recover through the years.
He also has two of the bronze bells that rang from the church tower.
The third and smallest (at an estimated 300 pounds) was stolen by thieves, who apparently climbed into the tower and lowered the bell with a rope just before the church’s demolition was completed in May 1970.
Lutz, who was a 19-year-old part-time organist at the church in its last days, is 64 and on a campaign to find the bell. He promises a $3,000 reward, no questions asked.
“The statute of limitations has long expired. . . . I’d like to meet the guys (who took it). I want to give each a pillow so he can sleep better.”
St. Peter’s, built in 1928, stood on E. 5th Avenue, just west of I-71, on a spot now occupied by a Wendy’s restaurant. It had a working-class congregation, with many of the members employees of the old Timken plant nearby.
The Rev. Anthony Schlernitzauer, the priest who served at St. Peter’s for all 42 years that it stood, was known for his compassion and generosity. (In fact, he secretly gave Lutz’s mother a few hundred dollars to help pay Lutz’s college tuition — a fact unknown to Lutz until she revealed it after Schlernitzauer died in 1976.)
Lutz, founder of the Jubilee Museum and pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church in German Village, is working on a book about troubled people who found peace through St. Peter’s and Father Anthony.
“I sometimes think of it as the place where I met God,” Lutz said.
St. Peter’s returns to him in bits and pieces.
He found an ornate bench in a Columbus antiques shop. The new St. Peter’s on Smoky Row Road gave him the bells from the old church. He tracked down the 14 plaster Stations of the Cross after receiving a tip that someone in Florida had sold them to an Arkansas church, which wasn’t using them.
He has made inquiries about the pipe organ, owned by a collector in Newark, Ohio.
In his wildest dreams, all the artifacts that grace the St. Peter’s room of the museum will be installed in a new church, where new people will find peace.
And its congregants will be called to services there by three bells.
« Back to index