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Belfield's St. Bernard's Church: Renovations to house of worship a gift for future generations

Rev. Bill Ruelle talks Wednesday at St. Bernard's Church in Belfield about his taking over as priest while the church is undergoing renovation projects.

BELFIELD -- It will be a gift for future generations when the renovations at St. Bernard's Church in Belfield are complete, said the Rev. William Ruelle.

"This is a great chance to beautify an already beautiful church the best we can," he said. "And if we do the work now, we'll be benefiting all of the people who will occupy this space 100 years from now. I think of it as a gift to future generations."

Many of the projects inside the church -- carpeting, ceiling tile replacements and updated lighting -- began as a result of the carpet replacement, which uncovered other projects that needed attention before Ruelle officially became the priest at Belfield in June.

Ruelle, who has been a priest for almost two years and also serves as the priest at Saints Peter and Paul Church in New Hradec and St. Mary's Church in South Heart, plans to continue with the goal that St. Bernard's former priest had to update the sanctuary before he was reassigned to a new parish.

"I guess I just came at the right time, and I had a great foundation to start with," said Ruelle, who did a little tweaking of his predecessor's original drawing to add his own touch and ideas to the sanctuary.

"We have the presence of Our Lady of Fatima in the sanctuary and I want to keep her presence there, but I want to do it in a new way," he said. "I want to add the presence of our patron saint, St. Bernard, and a cross to the sanctuary, along with the addition of a stone floor and a new altar. I think the beauty of the church will tell people what we believe in a way that words alone cannot."

Ruelle said the concept drawing for the altar was not finished until about two weeks ago, so it has not been approved by the bishop yet.

The project entire church renovation is estimated to cost less than $200,000, according to a July bulletin.

But fundraising for the makeover of the altar has not begun.

It is also Ruelle's hope to remove the heaters from the front of the church, in order to enhance the church's beauty.

From the inside out, the church will be renovated, Ruelle said. The storm windows were replaced after his arrival and, much to Ruelle's surprise, it makes the colors of the stain glass windows shine at night.

"We also started brickwork on the St. Bernard Parish Center," he said. "This building serves as one of the main community buildings in town, so I feel like this is a service to the community."

While a timeline for the project is still up in the air, one thing that Ruelle can guarantee his parishioners is that the Infant Jesus of Prague statue will remain.

The statue is a depiction of Jesus as a child and it sits on a shelf at the front of St. Bernard Church.

"I haven't found anyone that knows how the church got the statue, but I hear from the parishioners that the statue has had miraculous effects in the life of the church," Ruelle said. "People say that years ago the church had financial issues, so people prayed to the statute and the church came out of its troubles.

"It represents the ups and downs the parish has been through and how they've come out of those times. We won't get rid of the statue, I can promise that."