Have performed at Masses for 14 years
By Jill Kruse
Witness Editorial Assistant
CALMAR — As 18-year-old RaeAnn Klimesh heads off to college this fall, her departure will mark the end of an era at St. Aloysius Church in Calmar, where the Klimesh sisters have played a vital role in the parish’s music ministry for the past 14 years.
RaeAnn, who graduated from South Winneshiek High School this spring, began singing at St. Aloysius when she was in elementary school, following in the footsteps of her two older sisters, Kelsey and Allison, who were already involved with music ministry at the parish.
Through the years, each of the three sisters contributed to the music at their parish in a variety of ways. Kelsey and RaeAnn both played piano at least one or two Sundays each month through high school as an accompanist. Allison frequently would cantor or play the violin.
They also all regularly helped with Youth Choir Sunday, which was the third Sunday of each month, singing, playing the violin or accompanying with the piano that weekend too.
“With all of this dedication, I can tell you that their gifts were greatly appreciated by the parish of St. Aloysius,” said Brenda Schwan, who served as the youth choir coordinator at the parish for nearly 20 years. “Without them we would have had Sunday liturgy without music.”
Kelsey, now 26, was the first of the three sisters to join the church’s youth choir. Her older brother, Andrew, was already part of the choir, and she enjoyed the music on the Sundays when the young people sang.
“Their music was fun and they seemed ‘cool’ and I wanted to sing with them. I always looked forward to being old enough to join them,” she remembered.
When Kelsey did join the choir, she felt like she had found her niche. “There were plenty of things in high school I was not good at, like sports, for example, but music was my thing,” she said. “God had given me a talent and the choir gave me a chance to take my gifts and share what God had given me.”
Kelsey’s younger sister Allison also began helping with music at church when she was in sixth grade, a year before young people typically joined the youth choir. “One Sunday I decided to tag along with my sister, and I got involved from there,” she recalled.
Allison, now 21, said joining the youth choir at St. Aloysius provided her with a strong sense of community when she was growing up. “It was a fun bunch of high schoolers. It was a really good environment to be part of, and I got to meet people through the choir that I might not have otherwise interacted with.”
Like her sisters, RaeAnn participated in the parish’s youth choir when she was in high school. Before that, in elementary school, she was part of the children’s choir. “Kelsey organized it. She had me gather some of my friends to form the kid’s choir. We had a lot of fun,” RaeAnn remembered.
When she got a little older, RaeAnn especially enjoyed playing piano at Sunday Mass. She got her start on a winter weekend when she was in eighth grade and an elderly man who helped with music at the parish wasn’t able to be at church. “He called and said he couldn’t make it because of the snowy roads,” she recalled. “We only live a few blocks from the church, so I played for the first time on a Sunday and continued after that.”
The three sisters learned through the example of their mother and father, Connie and Bob Klimesh, the importance of contributing to their parish community. Both have sung in adult choirs at St. Aloysius for many years; Connie has also been a eucharistic minister, Bob a lector.
Each of the sisters appreciates the encouragement their parents gave them in their music ministry when they were growing up. “Our parents were very supportive,” RaeAnn said.
“If there was a weekend I was playing piano and there was no scheduled cantor for Mass, my dad would sit in a pew close to the piano and just sing super loud,” she explained. “It was the small things like that which they did to help that made the difference.”
The sisters said they also received a lot of support from Schwan; as well as from Susanne Twedt, their music teacher when they were in elementary at Calmar-Festina-Spillville Catholic School; and from Father Donald Hawes, their longtime parish pastor before his retirement last year.
Allison said she is also grateful to the parish itself. She remembers when she was first learning to play the piano at Mass, she would occasionally miss a note, but no one in the pews seemed to care. “I want to thank them for singing through the rough patches,” she said with a laugh.
This fall Allison will be a senior at Loras College in Dubuque where she is studying Spanish and biology and hopes to someday be a doctor. “I think it’s important to be invested in your church community,” she said, so she cantors at Mass at Loras and is one of the student leaders of the praise and worship team at the college.
Kelsey (whose married name is Allendes) is active today with music at her and her husband’s parish in Washington, Iowa. She is a music teacher at the elementary school there.
Kelsey said she gained a lot from being part of the music ministry at her home parish in Calmar. “Being involved taught me how to be a leader, how to conquer my fears, to sing out, to play out,” she said. “It strengthened my relationship with God, and it taught me that by serving you always get back more than you give.”
She and Allison still help with music at St. Aloysius when they are home visiting their family. Schwan said the parish misses the young women, but everyone enjoys seeing them, and hearing them sing, when they are home.
“My heart swells with joy, compassion, gratitude and love for these three Klimesh girls,” Schwan said. “My favorite memories of them will always be the joy I feel at Mass when they are providing the music at St. Als!”
(Left to right) – Allison Klimesh, Kelsey (Klimesh) Allendes and RaeAnn Klimesh. (Contributed photo)