Scaffolding and plaster

The restoration of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Lindsay is scheduled to be completed in November. Pictured are construction worker Noe Rojas (left) and project manager Ray Quinn, two stories up on scaffolding, plastering one wall of the church.

In November, the parishioners of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Lindsay hope to gather for Mass in their newly restored church.

Father Raymond McDaniel, pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, said he defines the project as a “restoration.”

“I like the word restoration, because if anything, it is going to be more historically correct than it was since they last worked on it in 1985-86,” he said.

There is a good reason for the huge undertaking at the church.

“This was caused because about a year ago, they thought they were going to fix some minor cracks in the plaster, and we found that as we got into that, there was a lot more damaged plaster than anybody realized,” McDaniel noted. “And then we eventually found that the cause of this was water leaking between the masonry walls and the plaster, for probably at least 24-26 years, since they put on a roof last in 1986. The mortar of the very walls themselves had eroded into the different courses (layers of brick) in the wall.”

McDaniel said they are working “in the spirit of restoring this to more the original. We are doing some changes, actually undoing some of the things they did in 1985 to make it more like the original. Definitely that has been part of our desire. Not only for the historical reasons but for liturgical reasons.”

Like most restoration projects, this one goes hand in hand with a high financial price.

“It will be over $2.5 million,” McDaniel said. “We had some money saved up from years of being frugal. Then we had a very successful capital campaign earlier this spring. We raised around $2.2 million.”

The timeline for the work is approximately one and-a-half years. The work was started in June of 2009 and is scheduled to be completed before Thanksgiving.

Details of the project include work on several fronts.

Starting with the plaster, McDaniel said most of it in the interior of the church had to be chipped out and replaced and repainted.

Because St. Peter’s is a “painted church,” the completion of the structure is more complex. McDaniel said that “painted church” is a term used for these churches built mainly by German immigrants, in which the plaster walls are decorated with designs, ranging from simple to ornate and complicated.

“We have got to replicate what was there before, and in some places actually go back to an earlier design, where we could,” he added.

The last person that was painting the church reportedly didn’t finish, so some of the designs were not replaced and repainted, McDaniel said, but with the help of a color photograph, the church can go back to something more original.

The layered tile roof of the church is being replaced and was apparently the cause of the water damage.

The church’s stained glass windows are also being restored.

“The windows are a big deal because they’re also 1918, original to this building,” McDaniel noted. “We are repairing them where they need it. Some needed to be re-leaded (the material in between the pieces of glass).”

The protective covers on the windows are being replaced with clear tempered glass and the windows are being put in an aluminum frame that has vents built into it.

“People used to think you had to seal up these buildings to protect them against moisture. But what they know now is that these buildings breathe,” he said. “Brick walls need to breathe a little bit. Stained glass windows need to breathe a little bit.”

In 1985, plastic covers that don’t have a very long shelf life and that turn opaque were put over the windows. The restored windows will now have proper ventilation, plus they will bring more light into the church, McDaniel said.

The church tower is not part of the restoration as it is in good shape.

Almost all of the work is on the interior of the building.

“The exterior of the building is in good shape except for the tile roof,” he noted, “along with the guttering and flashing.”

Some of the church art on canvases is also being restored by a conservator.

“We have four panels of the life of St. Benedict and some other art on canvas that she is restoring,” McDaniel said.

Members of the parish have been very good sports and very supportive about the restoration, McDaniel said.

For services and other activities, they are meeting in three different places: the cafeteria, one of the parish halls or Conrad Hall.

“It’s a hassle because some weekends you don’t know where Mass is going to be,” he noted. “But, everybody knows how important this building is and everybody is in spirit with this and people have sacrificed in many ways. It’s about as easy a something like this could be.”

An architect is guiding the whole restoration, though McDaniel said he is ultimately responsible for the outcome.

“I appreciated the importance and history of this building, but I didn’t know I was getting into that, that’s for sure,” he said of his coming to St. Peters around the time the restoration began. “It’s been a learning experience. I’ve had to learn a lot about roofs and gutters and mortar and art. But it’s also been fun and the people here, they love the building and they appreciate what a treasure it is — an architectural and a spiritual treasure.”

 McDaniel said that every day he sees at least one or two cars that are drawn by the tower and come sightseeing.

“It calls you. The tall tower points toward God and reminds you of God, he added. “People are drawn to that and it’s interesting to see.”

For now, visitors who stop by will see a beautiful church, but also a work in progress.

Scaffolding in the interior of the church is still a few sections deep and construction workers are busy at different heights, places and spaces, with different projects.

But, come November, St. Peter’s will open its doors again for the Masses and activities that have filled the church for many decades.