When entering the church on Sunday or leaving a funeral at St. Michael and Sacred Heart, we are so blessed to hear the beautiful sound of the church bells ringing. Ringing the church bells serves a number of different purposes, including welcoming parishioners to Mass and reminding them that something important is about to take place, as well as offering a final farewell to parishioners who have passed as their families exit the church.
“The tolling after funerals is a sign of reverence for the person that passed away, and all the years that they have been participating in Mass or church things,” says Ron Glaser of St. Michael. “The families are walking out and getting into their cars, and it is a reminder of their participation in the faith and in our faith community.”
At St. Michael, there are two big bells up in the tower. About five to six minutes before Mass, one of the altar servers will go swing the bell. This serves as a reminder that something important is about to take place within the church.
“Some of the altar servers are really excited because they get to ring the bells,” Ron says. “But some kids get a deer-in-the-headlights look on their faces when I ask them. They get nervous and think they can’t do it. But, after they do it once, they typically look forward to that part of prepping for Mass.”
For funerals, there are two other ropes attached to the bells, and these are used for tolling. The hammer hits the bell and allows you to be very precise on how many times, and how far apart, the tolls are spaced. The number of times the bell is tolled after the funeral is matched to the age of the person who passed away.
The bells at Sacred Heart are typically struck on an automatic system that is set to ring at certain times of the day. However, for funerals, they have to be tolled manually.
“At Sacred Heart, it is a final farewell from the Church,” says Jerry Smyth of Sacred Heart. “We want to give some respect to the people who have passed. For funerals, we use the toll button and it goes in cycles of 12 tolls. We typically toll the bells for 12 to 15 minutes following a funeral as the families are exiting the church.”
If you have questions or would like to volunteer to help ring the bells, please contact the parish office at 308-497-2662.