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Historic St. Columban's Church Being Renovated
Mass moved to Bishop Hogan gymnasium during process
By LAURA SCHULER
Special to the C-T

For more details on the restoration, click here...

After two years of planning, months of fundraising and lots of prayers, one of the oldest churches in Chillicothe is undergoing an extensive renovation. And, according to church officials, after the dust settles and the paint dries at 1111 Trenton Street, the interior of St. Columban's Catholic Church will look strikingly similar to what it looked like more than a century ago. "I would say that it (the interior of the church) will look a lot like it did at its decorative height, in 1910 or so," said Father Benjamin Kneib.

The project is necessary because of extensive water damage in the ceiling and walls of the church, which has occurred over the years.


Photo: LAURA SCHULER, C-T

To stop the flow of water, the parish spent around $400,000 to replace the roof of the structure and the adjacent rectory building roof with a steel model in 2014 during Phase I of the church's multi-year renovation plan.


Photo: Father Kneib

Not long after that, parish members began planning for Phase II, which involves fixing the damaged plaster walls and cracked paint throughout the sanctuary and repainting them. The Parish Restoration Committee, comprised of Mary Triplett, Bill Haynes, Steve and Shelley Tate, Kim Murrell, Mary Pauley and John Marcolla worked to find a company that was not only qualified to do the work, but understood the importance of restoring a historical place of worship to its former glory. According to Marcolla, after much prayerful consideration and discussion, the committee decided to hire Conrad Schmitt Studios, of Wisconsin, to do just that. "If you take the time to look at the portfolio of work they (Conrad Schmitt Studios) have completed on their website, it is impressive. Their references all checked out and the committee decided to start to work with them to see what they could specifically do for us and what the approximate cost would be," Marcolla said.

Father Kneib said that the company, which has a 100-year history of its own, works primarily on churches across the nation and, over the last two years, has worked with the church in drafting what the final product will look like when Phase II is completed. (A rendering of the finished interior is shown here).


Photo: Conrad Schmitt Studios

Once the project's scope was decided, the committee began the process of organizing the campaign and looking for unique ways to make the restoration project something the entire parish could feel a part of. "One of the more unique ideas for the campaign was to do some sort of history of the St. Columban Parish," Marcolla said. He added that parishioner Brenda Anderson O'Halloran headed up that effort and wrote a detailed historical account of the Parish titled, A Duty Sanctioned. The book, he said, relates the efforts made by the parish ancestors to build the current St. Columban's Church in 1879 and links it the efforts of their current descendants in the present work. The book is also available on this website (link above).


The damage to the walls from water over the years is evident in the choir loft of St. Columban's Church.
Photo: LAURA SCHULER, C-T

The goal of the campaign to raise funds for this project is $900,000. So far, Father Kneib says, around $825,000 has been donated or pledged since December 2016. "We've had a lot of support for this project," Father Kneib said. He added that several people who are not members of the church have also donated to the project due to its historical value.

A year ago, parishioners received a life-sized sample of the restoration work Conrad Schmitt Studios was capable of after the company refinished a section of the wall at the front of the church featuring a mural called, "Christ the Good Samaritan." The mural, approximately 8 feet wide and 12 feet tall, was painted by Theodore Brash in 1913. The mural was cleaned, retouched and brightened and the wall repainted to reflect the new, more neutral paint scheme designed to bring out the architectural highlights of the church, which seats about 450 people.


A year ago, Conrad Schmitt Studios, provided the parish a life-sized glimpse of what the interior of the church
will look like once the $900,000 project is completed. The company's artisans cleaned, retouched and brightened
the "Christ the Good Samaritan," mural, which is one of two murals in the church which was painted by the artist in 1913.
Photo: LAURA SCHULER, C-T

Father Kneib says that the company has started the project, focusing on scraping paint and working on the plaster walls and ceiling of the sanctuary. Then, he explained, the company will install a Hallman Lindsey Polymer system on the church's interior which will provide a fresh canvas for the company's artisans to work on. The system, Father Kneib said, is designed to prevent the spider cracks that occur in plaster walls over time; and, it will keep out moisture while providing a fresh surface for paint. "Because the church has been painted several times over the years, the chemicals in the paint have interacted negatively with each other, which causes paint to flake. This (the Hallman Lindsey Polymer system) gives us a fresh wall to work on," Father Kneib said. He added that the last time the church's interior was painted was 15 years ago.


Father Benjamin Kneib, who has pastored St. Columban's Church for four years,
looks at a rendering of what the interior of the church will look like once Phase II is completed.
The project is estimated to cost around $900,000. Photo by Laura Schuler

Currently, the church is filled with scaffolding, which stretches four stories high and allows the artisans with Conrad Schmitt to get close to their work. When work begins in earnest, Father Kneib said, there will be as many as six workers tackling the walls and ceilings at once. Because the sanctuary has become a construction zone, complete with plastic sheets covering the pews and altars, mass has been moved across the street to Bishop Hogan Memorial School's gymnasium.


Photo: LAURA SCHULER, C-T

His parishioners, Father Kneib says, don't seem to mind the temporary move. "There's a lot of excitement in the church," says Father Kneib. "We've been working toward this for two years and people are excited - not only to have a beautiful place to worship, but also to be able to have something to hand on to future generations that they are proud of." Marcolla echoed Father Kneib's sentiments. "We have a true sense of community knowing that the celebration of Mass can take place anywhere and that in a few months we will be celebrating Mass once again inside the newly-renovated St. Columban Catholic Church. The entire Parish is looking forward to the completion of the project," Marcolla said.


Photo: LAURA SCHULER, C-T

Because the St. Columban's Church is now a construction zone, weekend Masses have been moved across the street, to the gymnasium of Bishop Hogan Memorial School. Times for the weekend services have not changed, church officials say. The church will celebrate its 160th anniversary in November.

With your prayers and financial support, the restoration and maintenance of our beautiful church will further beautify and preserve our sacred space for generations to come. Donations may be mailed or brought to the church at St. Columban Catholic Church, 1111 Trenton Street, Chillicothe, MO  64601. Please make check payable to "St. Columban Campaign."

Online donations may be made here!
All contributions in the form of pledges should be paid by February, 2019.

Suggested donation amounts: $25  $50  $100  $250  $500  $1,000  $2,500  $5,000  $10,000  $Your Choosing

If you would like to make a donation using automatic withdrawal or have questions regarding the campaign, please contact the parish office at 660-646-0190. All donations are tax deductible by law and will be acknowledged in writing.

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St. Columban Catholic Church, 1111 Trenton Street, Chillicothe, MO 64601 660-646-0190