Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Nothing was more controversial in the renovation than the black marble.  People either loved it or hated it.  These strong opinions were expressed regularly, some even writing letters to the pastor. The history of the black marble is that it was installed in 1959 during the last major renovation of the church.  The type of marble is called PORTORO and is mined in Italy.  It's very high quality and was quite the fashion at the time of its installation. The black background with gold veins created an elegant backdrop.

On the flip side, it gave the sanctuary a dark and cold feeling. One of our goals was to bring in more light, but we also wanted to respect the history of the church. We contacted Rich Murray Granite and Marble Works (located in central Illinois) and Rich was incredibly knowledgeable.   He thought that the marble could come down so that it could be re-used (we weren't sure how it was attached to the walls).  He advised us that the marble could be fabricated to our specifications. In addition, he could keep the extra marble on consignment and sell it for our parish.

After many discussions, we decided that it would be important to keep some of the marble throughout the church for both aesthetic and historical reasons.  Rich carefully cut and milled pieces to our contractors specifications.  You will find the black marble has been re-used in several locations:  The baptismal font, the Welcome Center, the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine, and the side and back altars in the sanctuary (the back altar and the steps are the original with the back altar getting a new wood surround). The black steps leading up from the church to the sanctuary are actually black tile that was chosen to coordinate with the Portoro Marble.

The results exceeded our expectations!  The marble is especially beautiful close up and works really well as an accent.  Many parishioners have ordered pieces and have had tabletops, counters, trivets, and coasters made as keepsakes. We have received some income from the sales and still have more on consignment.

While the Portoro marble wasn't part of the original church (built in 1892), it has been around for almost 60 years.  Re-purposing the marble was a great opportunity to honor that and to incorporate it into our new design.  We hope you agree!

Monday, November 6, 2017


Early in the process of Project 2017, we knew that a priority would be to restore the presence of a rose window in the space above the altar.  (The St. Francis de Sales window, now in the choir loft, was in the spot above the altar in our original church and moved in the 1950's renovation to its current location)  That space above the altar was plastered over on the inside and looked like a blank hole from the outside, remember?

The discussion of course began about the design of the new window.  Almost immediately, Bishop Jim Schuerman suggested that the depiction should  be that of the Sacred Heart. Our patron saint, St. Francis de Sales, was devoted to the heart of Jesus.  He founded the Order of the Visitation, one of whose members was St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Christ revealed the mysteries of His Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary Alaoque.  It was not coincidental that St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was a member of the Order of Vistation  whose founder, St. Francis de Sales, was the outstanding defender of God's universal love for the human race!  

The Sacred Heart became the theme of Project 2017, even depicted in our logo created by committee member Nick Vorpagel. :

Catholics (and people in general) are visual people.  That’s why in addition to using parables to give us messages, Jesus uses images to convey His messages. Seeing an image of the Heart of Jesus with thorns and the cross and flames certainly grabs our attention and speaks to us. The thorns around His heart are a representation of our sins and how our sinning pierces His heart. The flames and the cross serve as a reminder of the suffering He endured for our salvation and of His burning love for us. The dripping blood represents the blood Jesus shed for our salvation. That’s a pretty powerful message!

Our designers from Conrad Schmitt Studios, also incorporated the design of the Sacred Heart in the stenciling around the sanctuary.

The Sacred Heart window, designed, created and installed by Gilbertsons Stained Glass Studio of Lake Geneva, is a beautiful focal point our our newly renovated church.  Not only does it bring light, color, and life to the sanctuary, it is also a reminder of Christ's love for all!

Here is a lovely prayer, written by St. Francis de Sales about the Heart of Jesus:


May thy heart dwell always in our hearts!

May thy blood ever flow in the veins of our souls!

O sun of our hearts, thou givest life to all things by the rays of thy goodness!
I will not go until thy heart has strengthened me, O Lord Jesus!
May the heart of Jesus be the king of my heart!
Blessed be God.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Here's a good trivia question:  What is the oldest thing on our parish campus?  The pews?  The stained glass windows?  The arch over the door?  Those things are all original to our 125 year old church, but one thing we know actually pre-dates our current building, and that is the steeple bell!

At the very beginning of Project 2017 it was discovered that there was water coming into  the steeple.  Several workers (very thin ones!) crawled up into the steeple to investigate the source of the leak (which was later repaired of course) and took these photos of our bell.  The words on the bell say  "McShane Bell Foundry, Henry McShane & Co.,  Baltimore, Maryland, 1875."

Since the conception of the company in 1856, McShane Bell Foundry has been producing America's finest Church Bells, Ring Peal, Chimes and Carillons, with over 300,000 McShane church bells ringing out from the towers of Cathedrals, Churches, Municipal Buildings, Universities and schools all over the world. The McShane Foundry is still in business today and is the only large church bell manufacturer remaining in the United States. The founder hailed from Dundalk, Ireland, and named a neighborhood in Baltimore for his hometown after beginning the business in 1856.

 Source: The McShane Bell Foundry, Henry McShane Manufacturing Co., proprietors,
Baltimore, Md, USA, catalogue, The Library of Congres
Back in 1874 there was a building that served as St. Francis de Sales church other than the one we have today. A priest named Fr. Zimmer became pastor that year and he was on a mission to make some updates to the building.  He successfully organized picnics, dances, and fairs to raise money to make repairs and improvements.  He collected $1000 and used those funds to erect a steeple, purchase an organ, and build the rectory.  He also bought a single bell (yes the one you hear today!)  from McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland.  The bell itself weighs 1200 pounds and cost 32 cents a pound. There was a dedication in October of 1875, (yes that would be 142 years ago!) and the nine oldest parishioners had the honor of ringing the bell.

St Francis de Sales' bell is automated to ring five minutes prior to all weekend Masses as well as on the hour with a single tone.  At  6 a.m, noon and 6 p.m. there is a special ring in honor of the traditional Catholic devotion of Angelus. Listen for it and say a Hail Mary!

There are some parishioners that remember "ringing the bell" as altar boys.  When Fr. O'Connor was pastor, the church underwent a renovation in 1959.  At that time  the bell was somewhat refurbished and the electric ringer and toll mechanism were installed.  More recently, you might remember that there were several years when the bell was "silent" as it was in need of repair.  About 10 years ago some generous parishioners stepped up and had it fixed.  It's been faithfully calling the faithful to church ever since! 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


You might notice that there is a new wooden sign on the brick wall as you come into the chapel entrance.

The Lake Geneva Historic Preservation Commission presented this plaque to our parish at a dedication ceremony on September 20 in honor of the church's 175th anniversary. Parishioner Ken Etten, who is the chairman of the Lake Geneva Historic Preservation Commission, worked with our 175th Anniversary Chairpersons Millie McCormick and Geri Braun to create this beautiful commemorative plaque. It gives a snapshot of our past to mark this special time in history. (If you haven't yet picked up a copy of our commemorative book with detailed history, there are still a few left in the parish office.)
Ken Etten, Millie McCormick, Alderman Bob Kordus at the Dedication Ceremony

Also recently hung in the chapel entrance is this Papal Blessing from Pope Francis.
Fr. John Baumgardner took on this mission for us and went to the Vatican office in Rome to arrange for a Apostolic blessing from the Holy Father for our Pastor and Parishioners on the occasion of the 175th anniversary. He carried it back with him from Rome just in time for our Anniversary celebration at Geneva National!
Thank you to all who have helped to mark this very unique time in the history of St. Francis de Sales Parish! We hope that these "signs of the time" will help to remind us all of the founders, priests, staff, and parishioners who have formed this wonderful parish community over the past 175 years.... "lighing the way to the future"!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


We've written about the St. Francis de Sales plaster will remember that he was in the garage for a while and in staff office for several years.  Most recently he was at the school on the stair landing.  We were excited to see that he was originally in a niche over the altar in a photo from the around 1958. (marked here by the red arrow)

We had him touched up a bit and he now graces the entrance of the church in front of the historical arch over the original doorway of our church.

But this story is about the OTHER St. Francis de Sales statue.  He is made of fiberglass. He's had a checkered past, once stolen by an overzealous group from a bachelor party who were vacationing at the hotel across the street.  He was damaged in that incident and the bachelor group paid for a new one to be ordered.  He used to be just to the right of the sign by the front entrance, remember?

That one came in and was also placed outside in front of the church property.  This new one turned out to be defective and didn't hold up in the elements.  It was under warranty so another replacement was ordered.  It took a very long time for that one to come in and was finally delivered in July. Because the plaster SFDS Statue is now just inside this door, we thought it would be fitting for our "new" fiberglass statue to go to the school.  He was a little scary looking though!

Principal Gallagher came up with the idea to ask school parent (and art teacher) Marcie Fain to paint the fiberglass statue.  Marcie readily agreed and painted over the summer.  She donated her time and talent to this project and we are so grateful!  He is  now on the stairway at the school, greeting the St. Francis de Sales school kids every day with a warm welcome!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


It's hard to picture now but our "old" Stations of the Cross were square panels of tone on tone wood. We sent them over to Conrad Schmitt Studios last December to be painted and gilded (and later put in frames). Before they left our building they were photographed and canvas prints were made.  We used those photo panels on the walls of the parish center while we held Mass there during the renovation.  They were beautifully done and many of you remarked that you could hardly tell that they were reproductions. Remember this?

It was the intention to donate this group of Stations of the Cross to a church or organization that could use them.  Fr. Beda, who has come to speak at SFDS for the past few years about his missionary work in Tanzania, was contacted.  He is in the process of building a new church and catechesis center in the village of Ngujni. Named St. John the Baptist, it has recently opened but is still getting some finishing touches (see photos below).  When asked if they needed Stations of the Cross for their new church, Fr. Beda enthusiastically said "YES!".  But how to get them there??

Parishioner Amy Amann stepped up and offered to work with her company, SPX FLOW in Delavan, to pack and ship these items (as well as some holy water fonts) to Fr. Beda's new church.  They have very generously donated the shipping costs to Africa.  Their employees helped to get them boxed and ready for shipping.  Our package traveled through Germany and then Dubai, and arrived at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Tuesday, September 5! Thank you to Amy, SPX FLOW, and all who made this possible.  The church will officially open for Masses on Nov. 3 and Molly Druffner promises to send photos of the installed Stations!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only apparition where Our Lady left an actual picture of herself. All other apparitions were drawn from the description given to them from the visionary.   The colors, lines, stars, designs, rays, moon, all have special meanings!

SUN’S RAYS: The rays give the sacred image an aura of light. They appear as though they are emitted from her, based on the direction of the arrows and the wavy pattern – indicating that she’s giving birth to the sun. Since the Aztecs worshiped the sun as the god that gives them life, the image portrays the Virgin Mary as giving birth to god.

HER FACE: Our Blessed Mother’s face is bowed down, looking at everyone tenderly and with compassion. She is gazing slightly to one side as a sign of reverence and respect as native Indians considered it improper to look directly at anyone’s face

HER HANDS: joined in prayer, therefore not a goddess; there is someone greater than Her.

HER MANTLE: Her beautiful turquoise mantle covers her whole body from her head down to her feet and is edged in gold, representing heaven. The indigenous people considered her an Empress since only their Emperor wore this color. Her mantle is covered with 46 eight-pointed stars which are believed to be the stars that were in the heavens during the winter solstice of 1531.

THE ANGEL:The angel supporting the Lady testifies to her royalty. To the Meso-American Indians only kings, queens and other dignitaries would be carried on the shoulders of someone. The angel is transporting the Lady to the people as a sign that a new age has come.

Our Lady is stepping on the moon to show the Aztecs that she's greater than their moon god. With her feet resting on a new moon crescent, we are reminded of her Immaculate Conception, a Catholic dogma that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin which everyone else is born with.

This signifies that she is a noblewoman with child – noble indigenous women tied a black ribbon just above their waist to show they were pregnant. This symbol, together with the symbolism of Our Lady’s hair, confirms her message to St Juan Diego – ‘I am the Always Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God .

Our Lady of Guadalupe, mystical rose, intercede for the Church, protect the Holy Father, help all who invoke you in their necessities. Since you are the ever Virgin Mary and Mother of the true God, obtain for us from your most holy Son the Grace of a firm faith and sure hope amid the bitterness of life, as well as an ardent love and the precious gift of final perseverance. Amen