July 14, 2010 // Local

St. Michael the Archangel Church gets a face-lift

Unexpected repairs to the front steps brings the entrance back to safety.

By Kay Cozad

WATERLOO — St. Michael the Archangel Parish, one of the hidden treasures of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, is nestled amongst the trees in a corner of Northeast Indiana’s rolling countryside. The beautifully ornate country church built in 1921, the third building for the parish community that dates back to 1880, is spiritual home to some 400 families and has recently had a facelift and a much-needed interior restoration as well.

“We’ve spent the last 20 years talking about this. Then the last four years we got serious,” says Father David Carkenord, pastor of St. Michael. It was in 1980 that the church was last painted says Father Carkenord, who added, “The thrust was to restore the church to more original condition rather than renovate.”

Construction workers renovate the sanctuary of St. Michael Church.

So after much planning, Weigand Construction began their work the first week in January. The interior of the church was near gutted, flooring stripped and the pews removed and sent to Tennessee for refinishing. Chicago-based Daprato Rigali Studios brought in a decoration department led by interior designer Lisa Rigali, who selected colors, marble and other necessities to coordinate the restoration. 

Father David Carkenord stands by the refurbished Baptismal font that now sports a flowing water source.

The interior walls of the church, that boasts magnificent stain glass windows from the 1940s, have been restored with the original stenciling of green, gold and maroon uncovered and redone, leaving a special section of stenciling on the back wall untouched for inquisitive future generations. The freshly painted ceiling hosts newly constructed and stenciled beams that coordinate with the rich wood tones of the new choir loft railing. The center aisle of inlaid terrazzo flooring, displaying St. Michael’s shield and sword in chipped marble, leads to the new sanctuary steps, where the domed ceiling above the altar stands out in a deep sky blue with a sprinkling of golden stars. Marbleized columns adorn each side of the refurbished original altar area as well as the side altars where historical statues of saints will reside. 

An elevator has been constructed on the side of the church for handicap accessibility, in carved wood that coordinates with the confessional directly across from it. And for added efficiency the electrical wiring has been replaced and scone lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs have been placed around the sanctuary. 

St. Michael’s original baptismal font was reworked to have a flowing water source and is situated in the newly formed gathering area in the rear of the church where parishioners will use it as holy water upon entrance. A curious coincidence delighted St. Michael staff and construction crew alike when a Daprato Rigali Studios’ employee discovered that his great grandfather had done the original work on the font many years ago. 

Four-foot plaster Stations of the Cross, cleaned in Chicago, once again adorn the sanctuary walls. 

Jan Blomeke, longtime parishioner and parish office manager, says there was as much construction and restoration going on downstairs as there was in the sanctuary. The old boiler that produced inefficient steam heat was replaced by geothermal heating. Father Carkenord reports that this type of heating and air conditioning is “friendly to the environment” and uses piped in well water to circulate through the system that heats eight delineated zones in the church.

Blomeke says the basement parish hall, where gatherings and religious education classes take place, was spruced up as well. New plaster on the walls, all done by parishioners, paint, trim, new lighting and ceiling tiles give the space a warm and welcoming look.
Outside, the front steps were rebuilt due to structural problems. This was an unanticipated venture but much needed none-the-less says Father Carkenord. Other unexpected restoration expenses included replastering the ceiling and the addition of a new wooden floor under the pews.

The effort has been generously paid for by the parish community, says Father Carkenord. The initial funding, half of the needed amount, began with a trust fund left to the church by two members. “We asked the parishioners for the other half and they came through,”  Father Carkenord says, adding proudly that the needed amount was raised in a mere six weeks.  

As the six months of construction took place the parish community met faithfully in the gym of the Ashley Community Center about five miles up the road for three weekend Masses, with daily Mass celebrated in the St. Michael office youth room. Father Carkenord was pleased that attendance remained steady even with the move. 

Of the long-awaited project Blomeke says, “So many parishioners wanted it to be restored to what their ancestors had. They all are very excited.”

Father Carkenord chimes in, “They’re very proud of it. When a thing is for the good of the people and the glory of God, that’s the only way it makes sense.”

The construction was completed in early July and a rededication Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades will be held on Aug. 29 with the annual parish picnic to follow.

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