by Joe Bollig
BLAINE — In all likelihood, St. Patrick will never again be decapitated here at St. Columbkille Parish.
A storm in June 2010 sent a piece of the old school roof sailing into the stained-glass window depicting St. Patrick on the west side of the church. The fragment hit the saint smack on head, leaving a void on the poor saint’s shoulders.
But thanks to a recently completed renovation, St. Patrick (who has been beautifully restored) can reside in serenity behind new clear glass storm windows.
The storm windows were part of an approximately $320,000 renovation of the church that largely took place between August 2022 and May 2023.
On May 13, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at a Mass to bless the renovation — both inside and out — of the venerable red-brick church built in 1908. The pastor, Father Anthony Chendumalli, concelebrated. Seminarian Cesar Gomez assisted.
“It’s beautiful,” said Archbishop Naumann in remarks at the beginning of Mass. “Thank you for the great care and love you have for all this to happen.”
In his homily, the archbishop said Catholics take great care to beautify their churches because of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
The pastors and parishioners of St. Columbkille, with 75 families as members, have been working since 2016 to address issues of storm damage and maintenance for the church, said Jim McCormick, a member of the parish council and one of four parishioners who led the renovation project.
Nevertheless, a piecemeal approach wasn’t adequate to address all the problems in the 115-year-old church. A comprehensive renovation was needed.
“The church was in a really bad condition,” said Father Chendumalli. “We felt the renovations were really needed. Finally, we got the funds.”
Father Chendumalli is pastor of Annunciation Parish in Frankfort, St. Monica-St. Elizabeth in Blue Rapids, St. Columbkille in Blaine and St. Joseph Chapel in Lillis.
“Our church hadn’t been renovated for 40 years and we had some structural problems that needed to be addressed,” said Todd Olson, president of the parish council. “It was time to do the renovation.”
There was no general contractor for the renovations, but the parish council and pastor received guidance and advice from Dan Himmelberg, archdiocesan director of real estate and construction. About 11 firms, mostly local, participated in the renovation and some involved St. Columbkille parishioners or Catholics from nearby communities.
The church was roofed with green, high-impact shingles (paying homage to the parish’s Irish immigrant heritage) by J.B. Turner & Sons Roofing & Sheet Metal of Topeka.
Heinen Construction of Valley Falls, led by Dan Heinen, repaired the steeple and installed new louvers, and repaired the storm-damaged cross. In yet another nod to the Irish, bright green trefoil triangles (also known as Borromean rings) were painted above the louvers — a symbol of the Trinity also resembling a three-leaf clover.
Hoefer Custom Stained Glass of Hutchinson repaired the stained-glass windows and installed the clear glass storm windows.
The exterior was tuck-pointed and the interior ceiling was insulated.
Plaster repair and interior painting was done by Tim Linenberger of Linenberger Painting & Decoration, Inc., of Salina. The interior colors include white (the Gothic arches, parts of the walls and the three original altars); cream (for the walls and pillars); gold (for the pillar capitals and lower rings); a dark blue with gold stars above the altar; and pale blue above the pews. There is dark blue stenciling around windows and along the walls.
The new confessional was built by St. Columbkille parishioner Leo Finan, of Finan Construction of Blaine. He also did other carpentry.
Kevin Fox of Fox Ceramic Tile in St. Marys, also a Catholic, renovated the floors. The joists along the walls were rotted and had to be replaced. The floor around the altar has a white ceramic tile that resembles marble. The floor under the pews (the nave) is light gray LVT — luxury vinyl tile.
Onaga Catholics John Koelzer and Paul Budenbender of Epoxy Coating Specialists made a terrazzo-style floor with an inlaid brass cross for the entrance (under the bell tower) and on the bell tower floor above the choir loft.
The HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) was done by St. Columbkille parishioners Bob Murray and J. D. Murray.
The church was rewired by V & V Electric of Manhattan.
Parishioners seem to like the overall effect of the renovations, which makes the interior lighter and brighter.
“The lighter colors make the stained-glass windows pop,” said Andrea Karnes. “It’s beautiful, breathtaking.”
“It turned out beautifully,” said parishioner Lisa Moser. “Like [the] archbishop said in his homily, it’s all for the glory of God.”
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