by Ben McCarthy
Special to The Leaven
LANSING — After two years of planning and construction, a sanctuary renovation is now complete at St. Francis de Sales Parish here. The project concluded with the installation of a large stained-glass window in June.
Bob Maggio, a parishioner since 1991, is a member of the parish finance council and headed the construction committee. He said they embarked on a master plan for the church two years ago, and arrived at clear goals and priorities for the immediate future. The committee decided to tackle renovations inside the sanctuary of the church first, and identified the stained-glass window as an objective. The project began in the spring with renovations to the altar and wrapped in June with the installation of the 20-foot-tall and 20-foot-wide window.
“Everyone worked really well together, from the architects, to the construction, to the parish,” Maggio said. “It was really well-designed, well-managed, and we managed to finish on time — actually a week early. There’s no other stained-glass window like it in the world.”
The project was led by Sandy Cochran and Hollis + Miller Architects (Kansas City, Missouri), Joe Riedel and Straub Construction (Shawnee) and Rich Buswell of Lynchburg Stained Glass Co. (Lynchburg, Virginia).
Lynchburg Stained Glass helped design the window with input from parishioners and was also a part of the installation team. Buswell had already worked on a similar stained-glass renovation project for Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Shawnee.
So when Buswell was contacted by Maggio and explained what the committee wanted Buswell to accomplish, there was only one big question remaining.
“They wanted a window that would beautify the sanctuary,” Buswell said. “[But] they weren’t sure [if] they were going to remove the wall or not, so I told them I would design the window in a way that the eucharistic angels in the lower part would still be there regardless of what direction they went.”
Eventually, Buswell said, the decision was made to remove the wall and now the entire work can be seen. As for the design itself, the committee worked to find and select saints for the stained glass that reflected the parish and community. The finished product brings together a wide variety of saints. Some were canonized long ago, while others are still on the path to official canonization. There are saints who have military ties, and others known for their charity and care of the poor. They searched for saints from both the Old and New World.
In the most predominant spot is St. Francis de Sales and his good friend St. Jane Frances de Chantal.
Father Balachandra Miriyala, administrator, arrived at the parish two years ago, the successor to Father Bill McEvoy. He says he’s very pleased with how the work has turned out, and the “prayerful” atmosphere it has contributed to.
“I’m so happy to see the stained-glass window,” Father Miriyala said. “Now everyone is able to see all the saints, including their favorite patron saint. People have stories about many of these new saints and people who [will] become saints one day.”
Jeannine Edmonds, finance council president, said the renovations have worked to open up the space and allow more natural light and beauty to come through.
The project was funded by donations of parishioners and money rebated to the parish from the archdiocesan One Faith, One Family, One Future in Christ campaign.
“The stained-glass window was paid for by the Robert Martz Estate*, a longtime parishioner,” added Edmonds. “He is who the parish hall is named for (and the stained-glass window is dedicated to).”
Buswell’s team worked through many difficult challenges in recent years just to get their hands on the correct glass needed for the project. Eventually, they had to look outside the country before securing a supply of glass adequate for a stained-glass window of this scale. He said he will be back in town within the next year for other projects in the area and looks forward to returning to see the finished project.
“Stained glass is really a message people today are leaving to future generations,” Buswell said. “It’s a gift to people who haven’t been born yet who will someday worship there.“
*Don and Mary Theresa Medill of Leavenworth are executors of the Martz estate.