Washington church receiving renovations

By Celine Klosterman

A watercolor rendering shows the planned redesign of the baptistery at St. James Church in Washington.

WASHINGTON – St. James Church is undergoing a $400,000 renovation that parishioners hope will enhance their liturgical celebrations.
The 52-year-old building is getting new flooring, pews, a eucharistic reservation area for adoration, baptistery and a reconstructed predella, the platform beneath the altar. The Stations of the Cross are getting a facelift, too.
The 570-family parish began work in mid-August, after noticing the church’s floors and pews needed major repairs, said Heidi Vittetoe, chair of the renovation committee. “Before we invested money, we asked ourselves whether we were being short-sighted, and whether there would be limitations in just trying to repair the existing situation.”
Parish leaders began listing other improvements that an interior church renovation could include. “For one thing, we have been using a punch bowl to baptize infants on the altar within the Mass, and a stock tank for adult baptisms at Easter,” she said. “While these have been functional, we wished we could better use our unique and beautiful baptistery for the sacrament. But it was separated from the main body of the church with a glass wall, and did not allow for immersion of anyone.”
Construction workers removed the wall and some brick piers that blocked Massgoers’ views of the baptistery and are replacing the font and cleaning the surrounding area. “It will be a very nice enhancement of the already beautiful sacramental experience,” Vittetoe said.
“Additionally, we are eliminating the ‘invisible choir’ behind the screen and permanently having the musicians in the east side as they generally are now. This required moving the organ out front so that area can be repurposed for adoration.”
Since work started, Father Troy Richmond, pastor, has been celebrating weekday and Saturday Masses in the parish’s Tobin Hall. Sunday Masses are at the Knights of Columbus Hall a block north of the church. St. James’ Nov. 6 healing Mass will move to St. Mary’s in Oskaloosa.
The Washington parish hopes to be back in its church by Dec. 1, the first Sunday of Advent.
Most of the funds for the renovation have been collected, and all the money has been pledged, Vittetoe said. An anonymous donor offered up to $150,000 in matching donations. The parish also took advantage of funds that had been set aside for the worship space after Tobin Hall was dedicated in 2009.
“After this work is done, we want to put on some finishing touches, like an updated reconciliation room and an enhanced shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Vittetoe said.

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