June Jones has a passion for stained glass windows. At least the ones that grace St. Pius X Catholic Church in Wallowa.
Jones has been leading the charge to have 100-year-old art pieces restored. Funds have been an issue, but now thanks to a national nonprofit that provides matching grants for such endeavors, work could begin this summer.
“We discovered that restoring stained glass is not cheap,” said Jones, who has lived with her husband, Bob, in Wallowa since 1999.
The tiny congregation’s building at the end of South Pine St. has a total of 13 stained glass windows; three of them on the second story have already been treated at a cost of $7,000.
The $21,000 price tag to finish the remaining windows appeared insurmountable until a high-ranking official in the Catholic church stepped in.
The Rev. Father Liam Cary, who has been a bishop of the Baker Diocese since 2012, has visited several times.
“You don’t appreciate from afar how strikingly beautiful the windows are,” Cary said. “And the congregation has the desire to preserve and enhance them, which is the right thing to do.”
Cary brought the project to the attention of Hope Burke, chief financial officer for the diocese.
“We advocated on their behalf with Catholic Extension,” Burke said. “They specialize in funding projects for mission churches such as Wallowa.”
Catholic Extension is a national fundraising organization formed in 1905.
The organization has committed $14,000 to the Wallowa congregation, which will match it with $7,000 raised locally.
Burke said the diocese had several projects in mind, but with Cary’s support, it worked its way to the top. Several of the projects have been stained glass restoration, including moving and reinstalling windows originally used in a Catholic hospital to St. Francis Parish in Bend.
Jones, who is also active with Wallowa County Search and Rescue, said around $3,000 of the local match has been raised by the congregation of 25 families, which averages 25 individuals at Sunday Mass.
Various smaller fundraisers have been held, and a couple of larger personal donations have come in.
Jones is hoping an upcoming community fundraiser will bring in the remainder, which is due by June 1.
The windows were created and installed in the original St. Pius Church on the opposite side of Wallowa. Over the years, they have deteriorated with the elements taking their toll.
Some of them have major cracks, others have BB holes and all of them lack luster. The difference is immediately clear when comparing the already treated windows with the untreated.
That project was completed by Associated Crafts and Willet Hauser Architectural Glass in Winona, Minn.
“It’s definitely one of our smaller projects, but we have been able to take it on because we have other projects in the area,” said Timothy Hudson, the company’s national sales manager, who lives in Arizona.
The company also worked on similar windows at Joseph United Methodist Church.
The company’s artisans utilize time-tested compounds primarily on the outside of the windows. The cleaners aren’t harsh or acidic. The scope of the work depends on a variety of variables, including how well the windows were constructed.
The St. Pius windows with cracks are treated with a two-part epoxy sealer that is worked into the crevices, the excess removed and finished.
“It doesn’t remove the cracks, but it maintains the historical glass,” Hudson said.
Hudson said a couple of the windows will require new pieces be created at the company’s studio in Minnesota.
Workers there complete that process while the crew is on site in Wallowa. The most difficult part is matching the coloring of the new pieces.
The history of stained glass windows is nearly 1,000 years old. They were originally used to teach parishioners the major themes of the faith in picture form since most could not read.
St. Pius X is a mission parish of St. Katherine of Siena Catholic Church in Enterprise. Both parishes are served by The Rev. Fr. Thomas Puduppulliparamban.