If one travels out to Sheridan Township, to the grounds where the Maryhill Church once stood, they'll see something new.
A stone block replica of the Maryhill Church tower is being constructed at the sight of the church. This replica of the tower is due to the efforts of longtime Maryhill Pastor Father Gene Sitzmann and members of the former Maryhill congregation to provide a "devotion and education pavilion" on the grounds at Maryhill.
In 2006, a windstorm devastated the church that had stood for over 100 years. It was shortly thereafter that news from the Archdiocese in Sioux City came that the church would not be rebuilt.
It was Sitzmann's wish to see the former parishioners still have a place to come home to when they came to the hallowed grounds of Maryhill. It was that need that led him to build the shelter house and playground, named the Maryhill Welcome Center and Rainbow Playground, in 2009.
The Welcome Center is a shelter-style house for families and former members to come home to. It is designed much like the shelter houses that you find in many of the parks in Cherokee County, but there is something unique about this shelter house.
It was constructed using many artifacts from the old church, including some of the stained glass windows, and is finished with wood from the demolished church.
The shelter house is also home to a small museum, which showcases much of Maryhill's history. It is a perfect site for gatherings and reunions, or just a family-style picnic.
It contains picnic tables and a large grill for use by visitors. Next to the shelter house, there is the Rainbow Playground, built just for kids.
At that time, Sitzmann promised that there would be more to come on the grounds of Maryhill. True to his word, Sitzmann last year announced the construction and completion of a prayerful memorial shrine that reflects on all the themes of the Four Gospel Mysteries and the Rosary.
The memorial shrine was constructed on the exact sight of the fallen church and takes the shape of a Rosary. Visitors can discover for themselves as they walk up the stairs that led to the church that a new vision awaits them.
A devotional site in prayerful support of rural life and its economies is at the heart of the shrine, with a memorial to "Our Lady of the Fields," representing the Virgin Mary.
Directly behind the memorial is a planter where a few ears of wheat, corn, and alfalfa are currently growing. Once again, reflection of rural life and its economy will be on display.
Connecting the entrance walkway with the pentagon, like on a Rosary, will be the Rosary Centerpiece which will be the corner stone of the former church.
The new devotion and education pavilion now sits behind the Rosary and will house a pair of signs that welcomes visitors to "Our Lady of the Fields" at Maryhill and the "Reflections of the Mysteries," along with the "Prayers of the Rosary."
The small pavilion will house some benches where visitors can come and pray while in a peaceful surroundings.
There will also be four stained glass windows installed at the church tower replica. These four windows all once hung in the former church, which at one time housed 16 stained glass windows. However most of them were destroyed in the windstorm, along with the church.
On top of the tower replica will stand a six-foot stainless steel cross that is also a replica of the cross that stood on the original tower.
It is the hope of Sitzmann that Maryhill will still offer a place for devotion, along with education, for many years to come.