With the 100th anniversary of Falconer's Our Lady of Loreto Roman Catholic Church community approaching, projects to update and repair the parish buildings have been in full swing. For the century celebration, a wish list was even composed, in addition to the list of necessary work to be done.
The No. 1 job on the must-do list was painting the interior of the church building. Funds had been budgeted for that, as well as for the cleaning and restoration of the painted mural in the sanctuary and for bringing back some of the trim, which enhanced the side altars and other areas. Years ago, the entire building had an ivory white re-paint, which covered deteriorating original detail work and trim in favor of a cleaner, brighter look - perhaps considered the style of the time. It was then that the church's original ceiling, painted a deep crystalline blue and scattered with white stars, was also white-washed.
A third generation painting-restoration firm in Buffalo, Swiatek Studios, was chosen for the project. The kind fellowship of St. Patrick's parish in Randolph (which is also pastored by our Rev. Joseph Janaczek), provided a home for the painters, skilled craftsmen and artists of Swiatek Studios each week, as they worked in Falconer. Their home away from home was the rectory of St. Patrick's Church.
The historical, architectural and artistic experience and expertise of Henry and Brett Swiatek (father and son) guided our parish with the selection of color and details, such as special finishes, stenciling, and gilding. Work began, with careful consideration given to the blueprints of the building and details noted in photographs of old. Our current church building is actually the second structure housing the parish. The parish's stone church, completed in 1951, replaced a smaller wooden church which was built in 1911 and 1912.
Photographs of the church's interior, from 40 or more years ago depict a starry ceiling. Bringing back the stars was a top item on the wish list.
Could the stars shine again in the church? The Swiateks suggested that the blue of the ceiling, remembered by longtime parishioners, could be brought back, this time with stars of gold instead of white. Many early Christian churches are decorated with a star-filled sky. Celestial images, painted on the ceilings of the nave and sanctuary, serve as reminders of God's creation and allude to transcendence and eternal life.
Our pastor, Father Joe, and the project stewards pondered the idea of recapturing the original essence of the church worship area, especially for the new generation of young people and families who are at home in the parish. Of course, this facet of the project - the return of the starred ceiling - was not covered in budgeted funds, although it was on the wish list. After some discussion, Father Joe simply and respectfully presented the idea to the parish. There was no hard sell; just an offering of the possibility and the accompanying price tag. Within a few short months, the amount needed was raised completely by donations.
Now the main worship space of Our Lady of Loreto Church has exposed beam construction supporting a peaked roof. This creates a series of panels along the ceiling, posing a little more of a challenge for star placement than perhaps a domed ceiling. Enter Ryan Glauser, 18-year-old employee of Swiatek Studios and math/science scholar. Glauser calculated where the ceiling's center is and worked from there, designing one symbol for planets and others for stars, the size and shape of which are relative to their brightness in the night sky. Stars which appear more prominent in the sky are painted in gold leaf; others are done in gold metallic paint, with smaller points of light scattered throughout.
Over weeks of painting the walls and restoring the star-filled sky, masses were celebrated with scaffolding looming over the congregation. Plastic sheeting blocked off one section of pews, then another ... our painters helped us to become a cozier parish. Each successive visit to church signaled "oohs" and "aahs," as we witnessed a transformation.
For the parishioners at Our Lady of Loreto Roman Catholic Church, the stars shine again, painted on a ceiling by human hands inspired by the work of the Creator of the Heavens and Earth. Celebrations of thanksgiving will be held over the next few months, including a mass and dinner with the new Bishop of Buffalo, Richard Malone, and previous pastors of OLL.
On July 21-22, the public is invited to join us for food, fun, music and games at a festival to be held on the church grounds, West Everett Street, Falconer. The church will be open for tours. Mass will be celebrated on Saturday at 4 p.m. and on Sunday morning at 9.