St. Helena’s Catholic Church, Grafton, NE
Address: 172 Jackson Street, Grafton, NE 68365
The towering brick church, designed by a prominent Irish architect from Omaha, was completed in 1923 in an Italian Renaissance styling, with a tall campanile and rounded portals on the façade and for the windows. The lovely interior houses an original high altar and side altars with Daprato statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph beneath a blue-trimmed barrel vault structure. The sacred beauty is enhanced with filtered light from the twelve stained glass windows depicting some less-seen subjects, as well as some traditional favorite portraits in the German style. The parish originated in the late 19th century with faithful of predominantly Irish and German descent as can be seen by the donor names at the bottom of each stained glass window. The parish serves local families in the area, and originally had Sutton and Harvard as missions, but is now a mission of St. Mary’s Parish in Sutton, NE. The annual parish dinner and bazaar continues to draw hundreds to the church each year.
Special things to see in the Church
• Notice the many exterior features of architectural styling of the early 20th century building: the rounded arches over the entrance and surrounding the two stained glass windows above, as well as the over seventy-foot high campanile with vertical ornamentation embedded in the red-brick design.
• Also notice the glow of the red brick on the west-facing façade of the church in the rays of sunshine during the Golden Hour.
• Inside the styling is simpler, but very peaceful, beneath the overhead barrel-vaulting leading to a sanctuary enclosed within the eastern apse.
• Twelve stained glass windows done in the Munich Pictorial Style radiate inside the building and depict subjects dear to the parishioners at the time of installation – and are just as loved today.
Interesting Facts About the Church
St. Helena, the patroness of the parish was the discoverer of the True Cross of the Crucifixion around 320 A.D. She was the mother of the emperor Constantine the Great and enabled construction of many churches over the holy sites of Christ’s Nativity and Crucifixion. St. Helena is usually pictured with a standing wooden cross, and her feast day is celebrated in the Western Church on August 18th.
She is not depicted in painting or statuary in the church, and it is not precisely known why she was selected as the patroness of this parish – please contact us to let us know, if you have a clue.
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