St. Agnes Church in Scottsbluff to begin major restoration project

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SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (KNEP) St Agnes Catholic Church has begun a campaign to undertake a major renovation. The gothic-style house of worship was built a hundred years ago. Each window tells a story of the early players in the Christian faith, and the families that built western Nebraska.

St Agnes parishioner Joanne Krieg, jumped at the chance to work on the fundraising campaign to restore the church windows even before the conflagration that destroyed parts of the famous cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris. The whole world watched with the Catholic Church and its members as hundreds of years of history was destroyed on live TV and via live stream on social media. “Notre Dame was a message to me that taking care of our church is very important.”

She said she is grateful that St Agnes Church is being proactive to maintain the building and its historical treasures. “What happened in Notre Dame in Paris brought home to me the importance of restoring these windows now.” She cited architects who had mentioned that necessary repairs had not been made at Notre Dame for years, some said that they were not surprised when the building erupted in flames.

St Agnes Church, in Scottsbluff, is designed in the gothic style. It has 26 stained glass windows and is adorned with plaster of Paris reliefs that depict bible stories, and the lives of saints. Krieg remembers the impact that the beauty of St Agnes Church had on her as a young girl. “When we moved to Scottsbluff and we came to this church, I thought it was the most beautiful church that I had ever seen.” Said Krieg, “I’ve loved these windows since I was twelve years old.”

She talked about the history of the church, which has been a landmark in Scotts Bluff County for over 100 years. It was started by two local farmers, BJ Peeper and George Baltus, who used hand scrapers to dig the one-hundred by fifty foot hole that is the existing basement that the church is built on.

Above the altar, there are two smaller windows that might catch your attention if you stop in. Catherine Nelson is a parish member from Gering. Her grandfather, John Schumacher, was a devout Catholic who homesteaded on the land near what is now the Scottsbluff airport.

“In 1915, he dedicated the window of Jesus the Risen Lord — located above the south side of the altar — in memory of his in-laws, Joseph and Mary Gaugler of Wisconsin.” Later that year, John died of a stroke, and his wife had the glass window of The Crucified Christ installed on the opposite side of the altar in his memory. Each of the 26 windows, in the church, holds historical regional value.

In recent years, clear glass panes were installed to protect the artwork within from hail. But the signs of wear from heat and cold, hail, and aging are beginning to show. Some panes are cracked, and light between the lead and glass, are signs of warping. The Virgin Mary is bowing. If you look from the side, you can see that restoration is needed urgently to protect the artwork.

Father Vince Parsons said that need for restoration was agreed upon after some discussions with parishioners. They kicked off the campaign “restoring our father’s house” on April 6th 2019. It will be the first major restoration project for the windows since they were installed.

Regardless of the aging, Father Parsons said that just about everybody who sees the windows is blown away by the detail and bright colors. ”You don't find this kind of detail anymore, it's a needed process to make sure to keep these windows around for another hundred years.”

The church wants to raise enough money to repair the windows and set up a fund that will take care of future repairs and maintenance. Lincoln based specialists, Architectural Glassarts, took a look at the colorful panes and lead. The windows will be removed piece by piece, four at a time, and taken to Lincoln to be refurbished.

You can contact St Agnes Catholic Church to make a donation or even just to stop by and take in the beauty of the architecture and the serenity of the painted glass.

To contact the church you can call Father Vince Parsons at 308.632.2541 or email pastor@st-agnes-church.com.

A description of some of the large windows in the chapel were provided by the church in a press release. The list includes the scenes depicted in the windows and credits the individuals who dedicated them to their loved ones. We’ve included it here without any alteration:

The Windows of St. Agnes Church
The 14 large stained glass windows on the north and south walls of St. Agnes Church were funded and dedicated by early parishioners as memorials and in tribute to loved ones. Each window serves to portray important people and events in the growth of Christianity.
Saint Aloysius - Patron Saint of youth
Presented by William C. Morrow
Saint Joseph – Patron Saint of workers
Presented in memory of Mrs. Mary Congdon

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Saint Patrick – Patron Saint of Ireland
Presented by Hugo Pieper
Saint Hugh of Lincoln – Patron Saint of the sick
Presented by B.J. Pieper
Saint Gabriel the Archangel – Patron Saint of messengers
Presented by Clyde Fairman in memory of Norine Fairman
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque
Presented by Dr. and Mrs. Frank Morrow
Assumption of the Virgin Mary
Presented by J.C. Schafer and Family
Saint Agnes – Symbol of purity
Presented in memory of Nellie Russell
Mary, Mother of Jesus
Presented by Mrs. S.W. Davis and Dr. Rice in memory of William J. Davis
Sacred Heart of Jesus
Presented by Fred Alexander in memory of George Powers
Jesus, the Good Shepherd
Presented by Mary Arington in memory of Robert T. Pawley
Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane
Presented by Mary Arington in memory of John Thomas Casey
The Crucified Jesus
Presented in memory of John Schumacher
Jesus the Risen Lord
Presented by John Schumacher in memory of Joseph and Mary Gaugler