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

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!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Just like in your home or business, first impressions are everything.  While there were a lot of good things happening...the ongoing food drive for the local food pantry, posters of events, flyers, flowers, sign ups, prayer cards, displays, decorations, and more, there were times that our entrance off of the parking lot was pretty much of a mess.  Walking in was somewhat didn't know where to look or what you might find!
We wanted to create a "Welcome Center" as this is the first place that parishioners and visitors enter as they come into our church. We knew it was important to create a feeling of hospitality.  Another consideration was that there is a trend for the chapel to be used for visitation prior to funerals, and frequently people gather in this space to visit or to wait in line.  It was a little cramped!

Many things went into this room's transformation.  The beautiful quilt that was created by various parish ministries in 1992 for the 150th Anniversary of SFDS received a new acrylic cover (the old one was cracked and broken).  We decided to move the quilt to a larger wall (with better lighting) into the Parish Center.  We moved the food pantry items to baskets in the Parish Center.  The old sign with the push on letters announcing the Mass times was removed and the brochure holder was moved across the way. Probably the thing that had the most impact was taking down the wall where the library used to be. This really opened up the space making it bigger for a better flow.  An added bonus was exposing this original stained glass window which had formerly been behind the door.
We designed an area with glass cabinets to display artifacts from our parish's 175 year history.  We purchased a piece of furniture that opens into a table for groups to be able to sell tickets etc. without interrupting the traffic pattern of people coming and going. (It closes up into a cabinet to save space when not being used!) We added a big screen TV that scrolls SFDS news and upcoming events, eliminating the need for paper posters and cutting down on the clutter. (The TV can also display photo slide shows and live stream Mass).  The wood cabinets now hold the lost and found and store other items neatly.  We re-purposed some of the marble that had been on the walls in the sanctuary and had it cut to size for the counter top/backsplash. New electric outlets were added.  New carpeting, ceiling tiles, and lights completed the makeover!

SFDS Volunteer Groups can now display their upcoming events on the Big Screen!
While the space looks great, of course it's the people that make the biggest difference!  We have some wonderful greeters who welcome people when they arrive for Mass.  If you would like to join this important (and fun!) volunteer group (you just need to arrive about 20 minutes before Mass begins) please stop in to the Parish Office and sign up!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017


You might have noticed that there are many "gold" accents throughout the church.  For example, the quatrefoil on the altar:

Our artists from Conrad Schmitt studios highlighted many of our symbols and accents with gold. This process is called "gilding". To gild a prepared surface, an adhesive called "sizing" is brushed onto a solid surface such as wood or metal where it sets to an appropriate tackiness.  Then, the 23 kt. gold leaf is applied, taken from either small booklets of leaves or narrow rolls.  The leaf is gently laid onto the surface, then dabbed against the sizing with a dry brush.  What does not adhere is easily brushed off.



There are many areas where there is gilding in the church. The ambo, the music board, the reredos, the stations of the cross, the door at the Main Street entrance are all beautifully accented with gold. Can you find more?


Wednesday, May 10, 2017


The first organ at St. Francis de Sales was a pipe organ.  Donated by parishioner P.J. Healy (of Lyon and Healy music company in Chicago), Patrick Healy was a summer resident in Williams Bay.  We have never been able to find any photos of the actual organ, but we know it was up in the choir loft and that the pipes were along the wall.  We can only surmise that it looked kind of like this organ pictured in an ad from 1904.

Patrick Healy was the president of Lyon and Healy.  He "summered" in this home in Williams Bay off of Conference Point Road. The home is still there today!

We're not sure why the pipe organ was replaced in the 1950's.  It could have needed too much repair.  They could have wanted to take out the pipes to open up the area to move the St. Francis de Sales window from the front of the church to the back.  Perhaps they wanted something more "modern".  We think that the analog organ by Allen was purchased for SFDS in the 1950's, and that was used until recently.  It served our parish well, but had some keys and pedals that were no longer functional and could not be repaired.

Our new organ is also made by Allen.  It is a 3 manual Bravura model and uses state of the art technology to create a pipe organ sound at a fraction of the price of what a pipe organ would cost.  It has over 250 voices to create all kinds of music.   Michael Deane researched other companies and tested other organs and this one was the best value, quality and sound!  The company has been very good to work with, even sending a "loaner" at Christmas so that we could experiment with having the organ at the front of the church instead of up in the loft.  We really like having the organ in the front of the church for ease of use and a more cohesive sound with the choirs (no delay).
Michael Deane teaches the 5th graders about the organ during music class.
The organ has been an important part of the history of our parish and used for countless weddings, funerals, and liturgies.  Initially the organ was on our "wish list" for Project 2017.  We are thrilled that, through the generosity of our parishioners, we were able to exceed our financial goals and purchase this beautiful instrument!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


You might remember that there was a medallion wall relief in a cabinet on the east wall of the church by the Main Street entrance.  The lighting wasn't great and it was kind of hard to see.  Here's the "before" picture:

This art piece was purchased as a memorial by friends of parishioner Tony Tomaso who passed away suddenly in 2001 (way too soon).  Tony was a great guy who was a Lake Geneva businessman and did so much for our community.  He and he wife Marge were always willing volunteers at St. Francis de Sales parish and school.  He loved to make people laugh and cherished his family above all.  

The wall relief medallion is entitled "Christ and the Children of the World" and was made by the Demetz Art Studio in Italy. The Demetz Art Studio is located in Ortisei, a small village nestled in the Dolomites, a famous mountain range in the Northern part of Italy, at the heart of the Alps. Today the Demetz Art Studio is one of the worldwide leading workshops that manufactures ecclesiastical art and continues the old tradition of woodcarving.  It is a family business that was founded in 1872 and passed on from generation to generation. During the last decades it has reached worldwide fame for its modern religious sculptures as well as its traditional art.  (On a side note, the "Our Lady of Guadalupe" wood carved statue that is on order for St. Francis de Sales is also being made by the Demetz Art Studio!)

The "Christ and the Children of the World" memorial has been moved to the west wall and has new lighting to highlight its beautiful features. We took this dimensional piece out of the cabinet so that it could be easily viewed.   We love how the colors coordinate with the new color palette of the church and how the subject is so perfect by our new baptismal font.  It is truly a fitting memorial to a wonderful man who loved his children and spread so much kindness in his life.