By Celine Klosterman
WEST POINT — Parishioners at St. Mary Church have seen the light.
Thanks to a restoration project, stained-glass windows in the church now show the same bright, vibrant colors as they did when installed more than a century ago. The last of the 76 windows were slated to be reinstalled this week, after undergoing repairs to fix more than 20 years worth of damage resulting from a poorly designed protective covering.
Beginning in late spring, Bovard Studio in Fairfield disassembled and cleaned the windows, repaired cracks, rebuilt the windows with new lead and re-glazed them.
“It’s amazing how much brighter it is now inside the church,” said Matthew Garmoe, who helped coordinate the restoration project with fellow parishioners Brian Schmitz and Gary Peitz.
Parish leaders noticed their church’s windows needed refurbishing more than a year ago, when a parishioner brought a decades-old photo of one of the windows to a parish council meeting. By the time of the meeting, the window had become unrecognizable from the church’s exterior, Schmitz said.
Lexan, a protective storm glazing added to the windows in the 1980s, had clouded, obscuring the stained glass. The unvented plastic covering also had trapped heat and condensation, ruining the lead that held window panes together and deteriorating the glass, Schmitz said.
So this spring, the West Point parish invited Catholics to sponsor the restoration of one or more windows. Costs ranged from $164 for one of several 16-inch stained-glass artworks to nearly $12,000 for a circular, 9-foot-wide window depicting Jesus. Expenses totaled about $190,000, 7 percent of which was covered by a grant, Schmitz said.
Likely made in Italy, the windows depict scenes including the ascension, annunciation and nativity, as well as saints such as St. Joseph, St. Anne and St. Elizabeth of Hungary, said Dan Kieler, who is writing an account of parish history. The windows were installed at St. Mary Church in West Point in the 1880s and early 1890s. Two windows came from the former St. Philip Church in West Point, built in 1841.
Since being restored, they’ll last for centuries, said Ron Bovard, founder of Bovard Studio. Father Dennis Hoffman, St. Mary’s pastor, will rededicate the windows during a 4 p.m. Mass on Aug. 13. Former parishioners are expected to participate in that Mass that weekend after returning to town for the annual West Point Sweet Corn Festival, Schmitz said.
Those Catholics will be proud of the windows’ restoration, Garmoe said. “It’s a major facelift to the church.”