URBANA - The Rev. George Remm got a bit philosophical Saturday morning as he prepared to open a time capsule sealed away a century ago at the opening of St. Patrick's Church in Urbana.
"There are certain things in life you can only do once," said the Catholic priest. "I'll never again open a 100-year-old capsule."
The ceremony came after 9 a.m. Saturday, following Mass, and brought the crowd of about 75 parishioners up to the front of the church, some with cameras or videocameras. St. Patrick's Church, 708 W. Main St., U, was founded in 1901, and the current church, with its sharply pitched slate roof, was dedicated on May 23, 1903.
From a 1,000-pound white cornerstone, Remm pulled out a small copper box, part of which was oxidated green. The box was sealed and soldered on the sides, but a little pressure by Remm, using a screwdriver, opened the box.
"It feels like we're going back 100 years, and we are," said the white-robed Remm, who donned white gloves to handle the materials.
Inside the box were a variety of items, some intimately connected with church history, others trinkets of the era.
There was a small portrait of the Rev. John H. Cannon, the first pastor at the church. There was a fading picture of the wooden-frame church, built in 1901 and no longer standing, that was the first St. Patrick's Church.
There was a listing of the clergy present at the laying of the cornerstone on Oct. 27, 1901.
Remm himself was looking for an item of personal interest, a listing of the church's first members. After a few false starts, he finally found what he was looking for - or something close to it.
Not only did the list indicate some of the families that attended the fledgling church, it also listed how much money they donated toward construction.
In some cases, it was a princely sum. J. Robert Hudson and James Cavanaugh, the latter a bar owner, each donated $500. The average family income in 1903 was $540 per year, Remm noted during his earlier sermon.
"This is the oldest list that we have, and I was hoping for that," said Remm, who has served at St. Patrick's for the past 17 years.
Also included in the copper box were two newspapers, a copy of the Champaign Daily Gazette from Oct. 25, 1901, and an Oct. 26, 1901, edition of the Chicago Chronicle.
The Daily Gazette included a front-page story about the upcoming University of Illinois football game with Northwestern.
"Everything Ready For the Great Game of Football ... The Varsity in Condition To Give Northwestern More than Chicago Got, And Thousands Are Expected," read the headline and subheadlines.
Another item that caught Remm's eye was a short story about a man found alive at a morgue in Decatur. It turned out the man had shot himself at a graveyard where his only child, who had died two months earlier, had been buried. The man was discovered to be alive at the morgue, but he died four hours after being taken to a nearby hospital, according to the story.
Also included in the box were three almost uncirculated coins - an Indian head penny, a Liberty nickel and a Liberty dime.
A small cigar was also included in the box, which parishioners speculated might have been included to keep bugs from destroying the paper inside.
Remm said a new time capsule will be prepared and sealed away in coming months for another century, a treasure for future generations to find.
You can reach Mike Monson at (217) 351-5370 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .