Restoration committee preserving church windows
By Mary Giuliano
In 1896, Father J. Welch, the priest from the Oblate Mission of St. Eugene, was given the assignment to construct a church building so as to minister to 200 miners at Coal Creek.
The 1908 fire destroyed this building along with most of the townsite of Fernie.
In 1911, a long mine strike facilitated construction of present-day church in a traditional cruciform pattern measuring 112 feet by 50 feet with bell tower soaring to 100 feet and building completed by 1912.
A decision was made in 2005 to fundraise for church cleaning and painting with late attorney George Majic leading the effort. Donations in George’s memory were directed to the fundraiser by his wife Anne and family with sufficient money raised to invigorate the building by cleaning statues and altars as well as painting interior walls and installing new light fixtures.
In 2010, fundraising efforts replaced the roof. Presently the Restoration Committee is working to get funding to replace the dark protective covers that shield the 27 exterior glass windows mounted in 1912.
These magnificent stained-glass windows include scenes depicting the Last Supper, the Holy Family, the Polish Black Madonna, and a Guardian Angel guiding a child across a bridge.
All windows were re-leaded and re-glazed in 1963. The original cost of each window was sponsored by families, organizations and individuals. In keeping with the tradition of previous sponsorship the Restoration Committee believes that it would be reasonable to place an opportunity to the community and others elsewhere to be involved in making this latest fundraiser successful.
The new laminated glass protective cover to replace current covers is of the type used on the world’s very best and valuable heritage buildings. A test window that provides an idea of final product can be viewed by driving down Fifth Street as it is the first window on the south side of the church.
These shields are costly but will offer the best protection for irreplaceable fine art stained glass windows so the Restoration Committee encourages families, individuals, businesses, contractors and organizations to come together as was done in the past and sponsor a window cover.
Donations are tax deductible and the name of the donor/donors will be placed on a plaque that will be publicly visible.
The Roman Catholic Church is a landmark historical building in Fernie. It was built by love and donations and continues to be maintained by the efforts of parishioners and by the generosity of others in the community and beyond who value the beauty and history of this community.
If interested and want more information please contact Anne at 250-423-1344 or John at 250-430-1012.
Lead image: A before and after look at one of the Catholic Church windows. Photos courtesy Mary Giuliano