By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
COSGROVE — Since 1893, the yellow, blue and red-shaded windows at St. Peter Church have shared the wisdom of their stories, from the crucifixion to the Holy Trinity. But the windows are beginning to show signs of their age.
“There are a lot of broken pieces, rotten lead disintegration, and there is bowing glass pulling away from the lead,” said Dexter Christy, co-owner of Hershey Stained Glass Studios, as he stood over a removed window depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From the empty windowsill at St. Peter Church on Aug. 19, sunlight shone brightly onto the glass. “It’s a safety issue — you don’t want glass (pieces) falling on you, and the lead dust can be a problem.”
Parishioners and friends of the church have decided it is time to take care of the eldest among them by adopting the windows as a way to pay for repairs. For a little over $4,000, donors can adopt a window outright or contribute a smaller amount.
There are many reasons to restore the windows, said parish administrator Father Ed Dunn, one of which is preserving the history of the parish. “The windows are so wonderful at sharing the work of the ancestors,” Fr. Dunn said.
Each window was donated by parishioners, including the two added in the 1912 church expansion, and donors’ names appear at the bottom of the windows as part of the stained glass design. Many of their descendents sit in the pews during Mass today, and in at least three cases, relatives of the original donors have come forward to adopt their ancestors’ window, said parish accountant Curt Barkalow.
Others have donated to the window nearest where they sit in church. The parish worship leader adopted the window behind her organ. Each adopter will be recognized with a plaque next to the restored window, either with their own name or the name of someone to whom they have dedicated the window. Persons donating smaller amounts will be recognized on a collective plaque elsewhere in the church, Barkalow said.
The parish received permission for window repair from Bishop Martin Amos in June and, so far, nine of the 17 windows have been adopted. The Washington Country Riverboat Foundation has pledged a grant of up to $12,000 to help with the window repair, as well.
Six of the windows are at Hershey Stained Glass Studio’s headquarters in Milton, Iowa, receiving new leading and glass repair, among other smaller fixes. “There are about 40 things we look at,” Christy said.
Fr. Dunn said the stained glass windows are one of the most valuable parts of the church and they create a “wonderful atmosphere,” so he isn’t surprised the parish has been so supportive of the project.
Christy said the windows are in decent shape, considering their age, and he is optimistic about his company’s ability to restore the windows. “I’m surprised they’ve lasted this long. It’s nice to see.”