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Staff photo by Wyatt Massey / The Rev. Arthur Torres, administrator for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Parish, stands on the parish campus on Feb. 9, 2021. Torres, who came to the East Ridge church in October, helped bring the parish bell system back online.

Note: This story was updated at 10:10 a.m. on Feb. 10 to correct the cost of the bell project.

Church bells are again chiming in East Ridge, more than a decade after they went silent.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Parish gathered funds this winter to purchase the necessary technology upgrades to get its digital bell system running again.

Robert Jones, business manager for the parish, said the system was sitting unused in the church. The digital system, originally gifted to the parish in 2004, had speakers on a rooftop that became weather-worn and unusable. The digital system needed an amplifier, too, Jones said.

"By today's standards, this system is technically way out of date. But it still works," Jones said.

The Rev. Arthur Torres, administrator of the parish, began his work in Chattanooga in October. In the early weeks of his new assignment, he learned about the unused bell system and sought to get it running.

The ringing of bells played an important role in Torres' formation in the Catholic Church while attending seminary in Colombia, he said. Before coming to Chattanooga, he worked in the Diocese of Knoxville as the master of liturgy in the diocese's cathedral, which also featured bells.

"In the Catholic Church we are so used to having bells in our churches," the priest said.

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Staff phot by Wyatt Massey / The old digital bell system at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Parish is pictured on Feb. 9, 2021.

The East Ridge parish bought new, weatherproofed speakers and an amplifier for the old sound system. The project cost around $5,500, Jones said, and was paid for through the parish building fund.

The speakers were mounted on a campus building and rang for the first time on Jan. 15.

Torres pointed to a passage in Exodus to underline the symbolism of bells in the church. In the passage, God tells Moses to use bells to alert the people of the church they are entering a holy place and that it is time to worship.

"The idea is to help people understand that the bells are the voice of God, calling them to worship," Torres said.

The bells toll every hour from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Torres said. The system can play around 2,000 different sounds and the parish plans to change the tune during different seasons in the church's liturgical year. For example, the bell system will change in a week when the season of Lent begins.

The bell system also plays the Angelus, a traditional Catholic prayer recognizing when an angel visited Mary before the birth of Jesus, at noon and 6 p.m. every day, Torres said.

Torres said the reaction among parishioners to the bells' return has been positive, with many happy to hear bells chiming again from their church home.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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