Video: Stained glass windows installed at VF Catholic Church
by Sara Peterson-Davis
Few had much to say for the red, blue, green and gold glass panes set in the windows of St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Valley Falls, except that maybe they let in more light than the heavy curtains that had hung there before.
But there was one exception – a priest who would come to the church every so often to celebrate Mass.
“We had one priest who liked them because he said it reminded him of KU (University of Kansas),” recalled long-time parishioner Mary Ann Reschke. “He was the only priest who ever had something positive to say about them.”
Over the last two years, Reschke and other parishioners have watched in awe as the interior of the 84-year-old church has been transformed. The solid colored panes have slowly been replaced with intricate stained glass windows depicting the mysteries of the rosary.
“I never believed it would change the interior of the church so much,” said Larry Heinen, who like Reschke has served on a committee overseeing the design and installation of the new windows. “It is just so much lighter.”
On Dec. 6, the St. Mary’s congregation will have the 10 new stained glass windows blessed as part of the parish’s 150th anniversary celebration. Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, will lead the event.
Seeing stained glass windows installed in St. Mary’s sanctuary was a long time coming. The Great Depression put an end to initial plans to raise money for the windows in the years just after the church was completed in 1925.
Without stained glass, long-time parishioners recall the original clear glass windows were first covered with heavy curtains and then with the colored panes.
Not that the idea of installing stained glass windows was forgotten. Throughout the years parishioners talked about raising money to buy windows to match the rose window above the church’s main entrance and the few smaller ones scattered throughout the building. But nothing was formally organized.
In the late 1950s, Mary Hackett donated 160 acres of farm ground near Half Mound to the church with a request that a stained glass window be erected in memory of her and her husband, Philip. Although there was a memorial to the Hacketts at the church, it was not a stained glass window.
“Everybody always talked about it (raising money for the windows), but they never did anything,” said Alice Frakes, who reached into her pocket one day and gave a $100 donation for stained glass windows. “I gave $100 whenever I could.”
A committee was created to choose a theme for the future windows. The committee’s members recommended that the windows on the east side of the sanctuary be dedicated to the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, which include the Resurrection of Jesus, the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven and the Coronation of Mary. The windows on the west side depict the Rosary’s Mysteries of Light, which include the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor and the Last Supper.
Members of the window committee believe St. Mary’s may be one of the few, if not the only, Catholic church to have windows depicting the Mysteries of Light, which were introduced by Pope John Paul II in 2002. These newest mysteries, which joined the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, were instituted to focus on the public life of Jesus and to reveal his role as the light of the world.
In 2006, the parish and the Ladies Altar Society funded the installation of a stained glass window depicting the Coronation of Mary above the statue of the Blessed Virgin in the sanctuary. The hope was that the window would encourage private donations to fund the other windows.
Eleonora Heinen Pecinovsky jump started the window effort by funding a window depicting the Last Supper on the west side of the church’s sanctuary. The window was dedicated to her and her husband, Albert. Pecinovsky died in August 2007.
“After she died we (the Heinen family) decided to take money from her estate to do the big Assumption window,” said Valley Falls accountant and St. Mary’s parishioner Paul Heinen.
Heinen and his brother, Larry, were Pecinovsky’s nephews.
The Assumption window is dedicated to the Heinens’ mother and father, Anthony and Dorothy Heinen, as well as Lester and Edith Booth.
Paul Heinen then led the effort to collect donations and memorials from parish families to fund the remaining windows.
“Once we’d get one window done, we’d have enough money to make the next one,” Heinen said.
All told, the church raised more than $162,000 in donations, memorials and sponsorships to fund the project.
For all the newer windows the committee turned to Tobiason Studio of St. Joseph, Mo. The group learned about the studio from Paul and Larry Heinen’s brother, Dan, who was working on a project in Hiawatha and saw some church windows Tobiason Studio was installing in a local church.
St. Mary’s opened the window project up for bids and Tobiason won the project.
Tobiason worked with the committee, submitting drawings for each window and working with committee members to make the designs fit their vision for the church.
Since the studio works with the same glass manufacturers that the maker of the church’s original 1920’s era windows used, Tobiason’s artists were able to make the new windows match the style and color of the older ones in nearly every way.
The designs and the workmanship are so precise, parishioners have remarked that when the sun shines through the blue glass that makes the Jordan River in one window it glistens and ripples as if it were animated.
“They (the windows) are meditations,” said Larry Heinen. “Our granddaughter is four and she looks at all of them and thinks about them.”
Frakes agreed that the windows have a way of moving one’s thoughts to contemplation.
“If you don’t have any prayers in mind when you come in, you just have to look at these.”
The committee was so happy with Tobiason Studio’s work they had the company design and build another Coronation window to replace the window installed in 2006.
Along with those already mentioned, each of the 10 windows is dedicated to past and present parish members.
The window depicting the Proclamation of the Kingdom has special meaning for several parish families. Funded by the Frakes, Grollmes and Wichman families, it was originally dedicated to Lou Ann Wichman and Helen Marie Grollmes. The two young girls were killed in a car accident on Dec. 12, 1953, returning from a Christmas program in Atchison.
And what of the Hacketts, whose original gift of farmland was the first significant donation to the window project more than a half century ago?
The church’s window depicting the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River is dedicated to the couple.
“This basically completes what our (today’s parishioners) parents wanted,” said Larry Heinen.
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