by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — As a child growing up in Topeka’s St. Joseph Parish, Father Tim Haberkorn admits there was always a certain sense of mystery to the parish rectory.
“You could only go as far as the inner door at the entrance,” he said. “It’s just the way things were.”
It was only as a seminarian that Father Haberkorn was finally granted access to that mysterious inner sanctum. And that only because he stayed at the rectory during summers and school breaks, assisting at the parish.
At the time, he was struck by the house’s beauty and charming features, particularly the wooden floors and staircases, the stained-glass windows and the fireplace mantels. Completed in 1933, the house is a replica of a Frank Lloyd Wright house.
Never did he dream while growing up that he would one day live in the house as pastor of the now-combined parish of Sacred Heart-St. Joseph Parish, formed in 2006.
Perhaps that’s one reason he enjoys giving tours of the house to anyone who asks for one. Yet, there are other reasons as well. One is simply that he enjoys showing off his collection of religious treasures.
While other boys were busy collecting baseball cards, Haberkorn was collecting holy cards and religious figurines. In fact, the very first thing in his collection was a little brown book about St. Anthony that he still has to this day. And that was just the beginning.
Over the course of his life, Father Haberkorn has collected more than 250 first-class relics of saints, acquired more than 50 statues of saints from around the world and gathered other souvenirs from pilgrimages to religious places such as the shrines of St. Thérèse in Lisieux, France; Our Lady of Montserrat in Spain; and St. Catherine of Bologna in Italy.
Over the years, many archdiocesan priests have also left behind things that were eventually given to him, such as chalices, vestments, and prayer books.
Father Haberkorn’s collection has earned him quite a reputation. And he’s wound up giving tours to everyone from local parishioners to archbishops, visiting exchange students, and even bus tour groups from other dioceses.
“I even had one man visit from Germany who videotaped the entire house,” said Father Haberkorn, adding that many people refer to the rectory as a religious museum. Nearly every inch of wall space is covered, and almost every shelf is filled, with various memorabilia.
This same penchant for collecting religious things meant to inspire and encourage his faith carried over in another part of his life as well — that of celebrating the Christmas season. At the same time he was collecting holy cards, he also began his Christmas collection.
Starting with a Nativity set that he got as a child but “is definitely not a showpiece,” he has collected Santa Claus figurines, Nativity sets and nutcrackers among other items, many gained through his world travels, including his 30 trips to Germany.
Every November, the Christmas decorations come out of storage over the course of at least a week, all in anticipation of one of his now-favorite holiday events — the parish’s holiday open house held at the rectory on a Sunday afternoon in December.
This year’s open house is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. on Dec. 14, and Father Haberkorn said everyone is invited to see the house and enjoy a little food, drink and fellowship.
Last year, approximately 300 people attended. Organizers had to run to the store at least once that day to get more food.
“Every year, it gets bigger and bigger,” said Father Haberkorn, adding that at this year’s open house a painting commissioned by the Topeka mayor will be on display. It features an image of St. Joseph Church that will be on the mayor’s Christmas card this year.
This will also be the second year the rectory will have on display a Fontanini Nativity set of more than 200 pieces given to the pastor.
“It fills one entire room,” he said of the set, which has been enhanced by other pieces provided by parishioners.
The open house, said Father Haberkorn, is something he started when he became pastor eight years ago. That mystery of the house filled the back of his mind for years.
“I felt like I wanted to change that,” said Father Haberkorn. “I wanted the people to know that this is their house — their church.”