CALHOUN – St. Michael’s getting needed renovations
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By Cynthia Haggitt
Renovation is a good way to maintain the history of a congregation. Congregations continue to face lean economic times and they look for ways to stretch their dollars – particularly as church facilities need to be preserved. St. Michael’s Church has been receiving some much needed TLC this year and there have been a select few members (less than 10) who are in the progress of bringing St. Michael’s Church in Michael, Illinois back into total repair and to its original beauty.
“Many hours of hard sweat and effort have been going on the last year. Some of the workers are descendants of the original congregations,” Robin Hillen said. “As a result of fewer parishioners, less tithing, no picnic and the age of the church, repairs have been very minimal as the parish tries to stay open. However, if it wasn’t for Mary Gilman’s hard work and dedication to the church it would not have been possible to restore. She is the catalyst for all of the organization of workers and repairs. Hillen can see where St Michael’s Church could become a historical site when it is restored to original glory. With the many improvements and the historical value of the Stations of the Cross, it may spark interest for tourists to visit. So how and when did the work begin? ”
Mary Gilman said, “It all started out with a deep cleaning in the church, and then I realized how bad the cry room looked when ceiling tile blocks were falling down and the other rooms had water spots from when the roof leaked. The ceiling in the cry room was repaired with new tiles replacing the falling ones. The ceilings in the cry room, bathroom, and entrance coming into church and going upstairs were all painted.”
“With the roof that was replaced three years ago, it is hopeful that it will take care of the leaks. The original copper gutters were removed and scrapped out to help pay for new updated gutters with covers due to all of the leaves the trees are shedding. The old antique gutters have caused some damage to the church. Shrubs were pulled and new tile was installed along both sides of the church and tied in with the new gutters to drain water away. Plastic and a thick layer of white rock completed this job,” Gilman said. “The church windows were in bad shape and they were washed, reglazed, caulked and painted. A new coat of paint has also spruced up the front of the church over the front door. Original lights are hoping to be restored as well as the ones that stood free on the grounds.”
At the rear of the building there is electrical work that needs to be updated. The main line coming into the building most likely needs to be replaced. It is 400 amp wiring and some 500 amp heavy copper wiring needs updating. The old fluorescent lights inside the church that run down both sides of the church are outdated and need to be replaced with new ballasts to accommodate LED lights. The two central air units have had some repairs and may need updating also. St. Michael’s Church has the old style roof that has been a problem. There is no insulation making it nearly impossible to retain heat or cooling in the building. This also causes a huge problem and no restroom can be used in the winter months. Water is always shut off. Hillen said, “My dad helped put on the original roof back in the 1960.”
The Stations of the Cross that were brought to Calhoun by Lowell and Mary Ann Bailey several years ago are all hand carved wood and framed in shadow boxes. After years of weather damage, they were scraped, sanded, repaired and painted white. They look so elegant now with the tender care received and are all hung now on both sides.
Mary Ann Bailey saw an article in the March 7, 1999 issue of the Catholic Times about a Stations of the Cross in Jamaica, VT. It was called Our Lady of Ephesus House of Prayers. It was located in a two acre area of woods and snowshoers would follow the stations and worship in the outdoors. There was also an area that hosted a walking rosary. After reading this article, Bailey wrote to a lady named Mary Tarinelle of Lady of Ephesus who was the founder and coordinator. Unfortunately, their church closed due to a shortage of priests, and the Stations and Rosary Garden was created to have a location for people to pray. At that time, there was also talk of a closure of St. Michael’s Church as well. Bailey corresponded with her and inquired about how to set up a prayer area such as this to have a place to pray if that came to pass.
In August of 2000, she contacted Sr. Joetta Huelsman of Donaldson, IN of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. They had a set of hand carved wooden stations of the cross that came from a Mother House that closed. These intricate pieces were more beautiful than what was hanging in most churches. They are two feet tall and 17 inches wide. After a price of $1500.00 was determined, the 14 Stations were brought back from Springfield, Ill to Calhoun County.
“After bringing the stations back to St. Michael’s Church, my dad built frames and set them on posts. It was not until 2007, the Stations were erected on the east and west sides of St. Michael’s Church. Bill Poore, John and Eric Baltisburger helped my dad put them up,” Hillen said. “The additional cost of the materials for the Stations was $1700 and all was paid for by donations from parishioners of St. Michael’s Church. Mom still has the list of donors with one family giving a donation of $1000.00.”
Hillen mentioned that as the renovations move forward, it is her mom’s vision to have a Rosary Garden in addition to the Stations.
St. Michael’s Church in its beautiful setting, there are hopes that it becomes a place where visitors near and far seek peace. Most of the renovations so far have been covered by donations by local parishioners. Jobs are done as the money is donated to cover the costs of the job at hand. It will take more donations to complete the renovation and it will be ongoing for quite a while. Mary Gilman is most grateful to all of the volunteers this far for all of their hard work.
“Also, a big thank you to all of the donors for making it possible. The committee thought it would be nice for everyone to get together at Straight Home on Thursday evening, Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. for a dutch treat dinner.” Hillen said.