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Croghan Parish Working to Save Ceiling, Artwork

North County Catholic Newspaper – February 24, 2016
By Dave Shampine – Staff Writer

CROGHAN –  A million dollar effort to save St. Stephen’s Church, a landmark dating back to when this village recovered from a disastrous fire more than a century ago, began in December.

The house of worship, erected in 1902, is in danger of suffering extensive damage if renovations are not undertaken.

The ceiling shows evidence of “inevitable collapse,” an expert in church renovations, Brian Baker, owner of Baker Liturgical Art LLC, Southington, Conn., has determined.

The effort to prevent that from happening has been blessed by an emergency line of credit granted by Bishop Terry R. LaValley for the total anticipated cost, $1.4 million, according to Carol Schneeberger, parish administrative assistant and member of the “Restoring our Tradition” drive to raise funds for the project.

“We believe the factors that aided in the deterioration of the ceiling will be corrected and the ceiling will be preserved for many future generations,” Father Daniel l. Chapin, pastor, told his parishioners in a letter last year.

The pastor’s plea to his people – last year’s census shows 512 families – and anybody else who might hear his call, is this: “St. Stephen’s needs your help and support with a very challenging and crucial repair and renovation project.”

For several months, small pieces of plaster have been found on the carpet in a few locations in church, and cracks in the plaster have become more visible.

“The beautiful artwork and canvas murals painted (in 1933) by Professor Louis Carracciolo, who studied in Urlbino, Italy, can be preserved,” Father Chapin wrote.

“The repair of the ceiling will also assure the safety of our beautiful 1910 Moller pipe organ,” he said.

The specialized conservation process that Mr. Baker will use is a system that will stabilize and repair the ceiling. The work entails repairs in the sanctuary, to side aisles, walls, the choir loft and vestibules, with painting and re-stenciling with like colors, and cleaning statues and the Stations of the Cross.

“The willingness and dedication of our parish families, extended friends and family as we move forward in ‘Restoring our Tradition’ is,” Father Chapin wrote, “an assurance of securing the future of our parish for many generations that will follow as a community that God is the source of all that we have.”

His letter reminded parishioners that for many of them, parish members in years gone by “may have been your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or former neighbors. Their support and dedication has helped St. Stephen’s to remain an active and growing parish.”

The building, rising from the ashes left by a conflagration which leveled 21 structures on April 24, 1902, is the fifth in a succession of Catholic churches to be built in the village. A log cabin first served worshipers in 1831. Newer churches were built in 1834, 1852, and 1879.

The Romanesque style building that stands today was built in 1902 under the direction of Fr. Leo Henrichs, who is said to have raised funds for his new church by traveling up to sixty miles a day to beg woodsmen in lumber camps for donations.

Father Leo, whose name was taken for the parish school that no longer exists, was murdered during Mass in 1908 in Denver, Colo. He was once considered for sainthood.

The last significant renovation at St. Stephen’s was in 1966, although smaller projects were carried out in 1975 and 2004. In the latter project, the original church and sanctuary metal roofs’ shingles were replaced.

Anybody wishing to assist St. Stephen’s can call the parish office at 315-346-6958.