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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe, is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a venerated image enshrined within the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is hardly a coincidence that in 1945, the year that World War II ended, Pope Pius XII looked at the suffering, fragmented world and declared Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of the Americas.--Wikipedia
If you get a chance, take a minute to look up the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe on the internet. You'll be inspired! http://www.catholic.org/about/guadalupe.php

Our Lady of Guadalupe has always been an important part of the customs and celebrations of the St. Francis de Sales Hispanic community, especially on her feast day which is December 12.
It seemed most appropriate to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe within our new devotional area.  Kathie Murray took the lead on this and worked with many people from the Hispanic community to get it just right. Our statue was custom ordered from Italy and hand carved of wood.  It was delivered as bare wood and needed to be painted.  We hired Conrad Schmitt studios and David, one of our favorite artists, to do the work.

Kathie offered several meetings with the Hispanic group to review what was important with the design of the area so that it would match their traditions. She then organized a group to "visit" the statue in Milwaukee at the studio.  The group had input into the colors and design of statue which is rich in symbolism.  There will be more details on this in our next blog, but even the colors are significant so we had several "consultants" from the Hispanic group who helped to ensure that the statue would be exactly right. 
We are very happy to have worked collaboratively with our Hispanic friends on Project 2017  to help to honor their religious history as well as to enrich our knowledge. More about "Our Lady" and her symbols will be coming soon in our next blog!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Early on in the renovation process, a sub team from the Project 2017 committee decided to research other restorations by actually going to visit other churches.   Why?  We had 3 presentations from 3 different design firms and needed to make a decision.  They were checking quality, form, materials and talking to the pastors that had worked with the different vendors.  It was also a great opportunity to gather ideas for our own project.  We knew this would be valuable research, but to our surprise a few extra things came out of this adventure!

One we called the "Fennimore Coincidence".  Katie Alder came across a church located in Fennimore, Wisconsin while doing internet research that had strikingly similar architecture to St. Francis de Sales.  Called St. Mary's, the renovation there was completed in 2013 by Conrad Schmitt Studios and it was really interesting to see some of the things that they had done. Because it was a recent renovation, the people that were involved were still there and were able to tell our group what worked and what didn't work.  Our team traveled up there (a 2.5 hour drive!) and talked to the staff and volunteers involved in the project.  They told of their experiences with the design work and material choices.
No this is not SFDS but St. Mary's in Fennimore, Wisconsin!

Needless to say, it was really exciting to actually see a similar renovation and not just a rendering on a piece of paper.  We were very encouraged at that point that our project could actually happen and that it would be stunning.  It really helped to validate and solidify our vision.  This was a turning point for our group and we took it as a sign that we were definitely on the right track!

St. Peter's in Volo, St. Patrick's in McHenry, St. Hyacinth in Chicago, St. Gregory the Great in Chicago, St. Raphael the Archangel in Antioch, and St. Josephat in Milwaukee were just some of the other churches that this group took the time to visit.  

The other major thing that came out of these "field trips" was the realization that many churches had a quiet devotional area where people could go to pray.  This was on our "wish" list, and when we decided to take out the glass doors to open up the back of the church, a new space for a shrine became apparent. But that's another chapter!  Check our next blog for the story of our beautiful "Our Lady of Guadalupe" shrine.

It's been said before but it's worth repeating to again say that this could not have happened so efficiently and beautifully without the passion, dedication, and talent of the Project 2017 committee! Thank you!

Friday, June 30, 2017


One of the most dramatic changes in the church was the painting of the walls and ceiling.  Conrad Schmitt Studios did an amazing job of creating a new color palette and custom stencils to highlight the beautiful Gothic architecture of the church. 

Other areas needed to be painted as well.  The entrance off of Highway 50 and the area by the new baptismal font needed to be painted because of the new construction.  Some areas hadn’t been painted in very long time….the sacristy not only needed painting but lots of plaster and wall repair.  Parishioner Matt Huml, along with his partner Antonio, completed this work for us.  This past week they also painted the parish center (lots of wear and tear was fixed and patched) and gave the parish offices a fresh new look as well. Volunteer Madeleine Engerman painted the ceiling in the breezeway, and our maintenance staff painted the walls of the parish library (downstairs). Parishioner Chris Weber stained the concrete in the breezeway to give it a clean, new look. The stucco by the parking lot entrance was fixed and painted.  Everything looks so nice!

You will also notice that in that past few weeks that new flooring was put into all of the offices and meeting rooms of the parish center.  New carpet squares were placed in all except for the Jonah Room (which doubles as the art classroom for our parish school) where a new vinyl floor was installed. Check it out!

Thanks to our vendors and volunteers for all of your work!   

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


You've seen it.  You might have hung your bulletin on it or pushed the button to see what it does. Some people use it to hold their envelope while waiting for the offertory basket.

This vintage item was recently re-installed onto our pews.  They are usually referred to as "hat clips" or "button clips".  They are made of brass or copper, are spring-loaded and say "Dennings" on them with several patent numbers.  According to a recent Ebay posting on the internet of a similar item, these were probably manufactured in the early 1900's and  invented to hold a man's hat during Mass.
As you know, we used a company that specializes in antique pew restoration to restore our church's original (125 year old!) pews.  Of course they had to take the antique hat clips off during the refinishing process and we had to do some convincing to have them put back on!  It was fitting to advocate to keep this little part of history from a bygone era, don't you agree?
We also have had combination envelope/pencil holders (these are new) installed in the pews at this same time.  This is a neater looking solution to have offertory envelopes readily available for the many visitors that come to Mass on the weekends. 
How can you help?  The pew areas tend to "collect" old bulletins and programs.  If you see anything that doesn't belong there or needs straightening up, please help by tidying up your pew on your way out! 


Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Of course one of the main architectural features of our beautiful church building are the original stained glass windows.  The male saints are on the west side and the female saints are on the east side.  If you have been inside at different times of the day you have seen that the sun can really highlight the colors and textures of the glass, creating stunning portraits of the saints. 

During the 1950's there was hope that a school could be built and that dream became a reality in 1952.  The decision was made to construct it on the east side of the property and join the buildings together with a convent.

The connection of  buildings  blocked the sunlight from two of the original windows and one of them was modified to be positioned above the door.  Over the years there has been an attempt to backlight the windows with fluorescent tubes. The light didn't look natural and it was complicated to change the bulbs when they burned out.  And of course, someone had to remember to turn on (and off!) the switches.

Our Project 2017 lighting designer worked on finding a natural looking solution that would mimic sunlight.  Our electrician installed LED rope lighting behind the windows and came up with the idea of putting them on timers so that the light comes on in the morning and turns off at dusk.  


This window is of St. Catherine of Sienna, the patroness of Italy.  She was canonized in 1461 and was named a Doctor of the Church in 1970.  She is holding a feather pen and a book--these indicate her writings and the fact that she is a Doctor of the Church.  The dagger through her heart symbolizes her great love for Christ.

St. Helena graces the window over the door to the breezeway. Born in Bithynia, Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), circa 248, St. Helena was married to Roman Emperor Constantius and had a son who would become Constantine I, also known as Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to become a Christian. St. Helena, who converted as well, oversaw the construction of churches on Holy Land sites. She would later be credited with discovering the cross upon which Jesus Christ is believed to have been crucified. St. Helena died circa 328 in Nicomedia (present-day Turkey).   She was known for her kindness to the poor. 

Each window tells a story.  Would you be interested in learning more about the saints and symbols of our church?  We will soon be offering church tours and literature.  If you would like to volunteer to be a docent or help to work on a brochure, please contact Martha at stewardship@sfdslg.org.

Monday, May 29, 2017


There has been so much positive feedback on our newly renovated church!  Over and over we have heard that you love the new acoustics, that you're happy with the quieter and more comfortable kneelers, that you're amazed with the artistry of the stations, that you're glad that some of the black marble was re-purposed.  You love that the organ has a beautiful sound, that people are using the new handicapped chairs, that you weren't sure about the new font but now you think it's great, that you like the clean and bright look of the paint and the tile floor.  Many of you have said that you never noticed the clerestory windows before or the incredible beauty of our historical stained glass windows.  Many of you have said that it's a heavenly and meditative place to pray.  It's a wonderful thing!

When you look at the "before" and "after" photos of the church looking toward the sanctuary, there are a few things that we'd like point out for you to examine and see.  Both of these photos were taken from the loft during a 9 a.m. Sunday Mass.  One of the comments that we're hearing a lot is that the church "seems bigger".  You can see in these photos that the new decorative paint and stenciling help to fill the vertical space and brings your eye up, expanding the visual area.  The new music area faces the choir toward the congregation (rather than to the side) to encourage better sound and participation.  The organ is now down in the front of the church so that it can be accessed easily in addition to our beautiful piano, creating the opportunity for a variety of music.  The altar and the side altars are the same actual pieces of furniture (and same size) but have been covered in wood.  The old speakers (the square one over the altar and the holes in the alcoves) that were obsolete were removed and patched.  The old carpeting absorbed the sound while the new tile floor creates more "live" acoustics.  The frames added to our stations really highlight Christ's journey to the cross.  The reredos behind the altar was actually re-purposed and had some decorative wood pieces added to it to create more volume.  The new stained glass window over the altar dramatically brings in more light and focus.   Mary and Joseph are our same statues, only painted to bring out their beauty.  You might have observed that Mary has been moved back to the east side of the church. This is traditionally where she belongs with the other "ladies"...notice that all of the saints in the stained glass windows on that side are women, where on the "Joseph" side they are all male saints.  There is so much to see and to learn about in our historical church.  While our parish was founded 175 years ago, this actual church building was built in 1892 which means that it turns 125 years old  this summer!  In honor of this unique time in history, some special celebrations have been planned for Sunday, August 6.  There will be a 3 p.m. rededication Mass by the Archbishop.  It promises to be a beautiful liturgy with some of our former pastors coming back to concelebrate, and music with our choirs joining to sing together.  This will be followed by a gala dinner at Geneva National, with cocktails at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m.  Tickets are $60 per person and are on sale now after Mass or in the parish office.  Please join in on this very special occasion in the history of our parish!