Our Churches

29 January 2019

Lately, I have been thinking about the church of my youth, the one in which I was baptized, received First Communion, and was married—Holy Family Catholic Church in Mitchell, South Dakota. The church is a stately prairie cathedral in the Late Gothic Revival style, built in 1908. It boasts an impressive pipe organ, large stained-glass windows, and, as Robert Sebesta says in Early Churches of South Dakota, “three steeples, including a magnificent center tower” (pp. 56–57).

My most important memory of Holy Family comes from my wedding day, which took place at the end of a three-day blizzard many years ago. January 25 itself opened with sunny skies and piles and piles of bright snow. The winter had been memorable for the fact that the snow banks were so deep that we tied flags on our car antennas so that we could see each other coming at the crossroads. My husband-to-be had left Collegeville, Minnesota, four days earlier in his sporty red Karmann Ghia as the weather threatened our impending nuptials. He made it seven miles one day, a few more the next, slept on pool tables and couches. He hung out at truck stops and reported in with his pitiful progress every couple of hours until a cross-country trucker decided the wedding must go on and instructed the would-be groom to position the sporty VW in the semi’s wake—the trucker would plow the road for him, which he did.

The groom arrived at 8:30 p.m. on the night before the wedding. He came in after the rehearsal and in the middle of the dinner. We spent the morning of the twenty-fifth, a Saturday, choosing rings and rousting out the clerk of courts so that we could buy our wedding license. The blizzard had played havoc with our arrangements—the soloist and instrumentalists had shrunk to a lonely organ player. I had my dress and, amazingly, flowers, but the rented tuxedos had not arrived for groom or groomsmen. One of the local stores cobbled together a wedding ensemble for the husband-to-be, and the groomsmen made do with their best suits or sports coats. While we made a somewhat motley crew as wedding parties go, once the organist hit the first chord and we began the long march down the center aisle, the setting—Holy Family Church—and the importance of what we were about to do took over. The day became magical, everything a wedding should be. Churches can have that effect on our lives.

Nancy Tystad Koupal


Image at top: Sebesta, Robert W., "Holy Family Catholic Church," July 2009, in Early Churches in South Dakota (Pierre: South Dakota Historical Society Press, 2018), p. 56.