JONESBORO — Father Alphonse Gollapalli calls an Oct. 4 discovery a “treasure” for his parish.
Nabholz Construction workers were removing the foundation stone from the front facade of the former Blessed Sacrament Church when they discovered a time capsule. It included a letter detailing the church’s history and an old newspaper about its construction.
“I was really happy and thrilled to see it,” Father Gollapalli said. “We were not planning on finding it anytime soon.”
The find came three days after the church building’s final Mass Oct. 1 when the pastor and Bishop Anthony B. Taylor decommissioned the building in preparation to move to a new location.
Construction of the Church Street building began in 1932 and ended the following year. It is set to be razed by the end of December. Work began Oct. 2 to remove items, such as the foundation stone, to be restored or stored until a new church building, which will also have a time capsule hidden within it, is constructed at 1105 E. Highland Drive.
The time capsule was found by accident. Father Gollapalli said he and parishioners knew there was a time capsule but not where it was located. He said the discovery substantiates what he and others have been saying about the parish’s past and its future.
Still, he said he was “dumbfounded” to learn what the construction workers had found.
“I didn’t even know they were going to work on this,” he said. “They caught me by surprise.”
The tin box — which had Stewart Bros. Tin Shop, Oct. 1, 1933, scratched onto the inside surface — contained the written history of the parish with a medallion attached to it; a 1931 Ordo, a book providing the calendar of events for liturgical purposes; a 1930 penny, an 1851 Liberty Head gold dollar; pictures of the then-current pastor and bishop as well as the building’s contractor; and the Nov. 7, 1932, edition of the Jonesboro Daily Tribune that contained a front-page story about the church building’s construction.
Father Gollapalli is not yet sure what all he will do with the findings. He said parishioners will be shown the items and then it will likely be deposited with the Diocese of Little Rock to be archived.
Robert Cowles, the church historian, will make a digital record of all the items as well for the church’s records. He said the church has few records and pictures from that time period so these items will help.
Carol Windle, the church’s music director, said she finds the time capsule fascinating. She had not planned to be at the church building that day, but had decided to stop by and move sound equipment.
She stopped to photograph the removal of foundation stone for friends. She said she couldn’t help squealing in delight when the tin box was revealed.
Afterward, Windle and others began excitedly sharing the news with others who began stopping by to see the find. One such visit was made by St. Bernards Development Foundation President Marilyn Hummelstein.
“I’m the one who’s been looking for everything at the (parish) annex,” Hummelstein said as she greeted everyone.
The time capsule is not an unexpected find for a building constructed in the 1930s, according to Adam Seiter, a Nabholz senior project manager and parishioner of Blessed Sacrament.
“You know when we tore the annex down over by St. Bernards, they had the big statue of Mary up at the top and we found coins underneath there,” Seiter said. “They were medallions from I am going to say the nuns that were here. They put them under there.”
In buildings of this age, he said constructions workers definitely expect to find time capsules and other historic items.
“We’ve told anybody doing any kind of demolition out here as much as possible to keep their eyes open for time capsules, things like that,” Seiter said. “We really didn’t expect to find that on the first day.”
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