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Cherokee completes renovation, restoration

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)

CHEROKEE – Immaculate Conception parishioners were back in the church for the first weekend of Advent, after celebrating Mass in the gym for 11 months.

“This was a major renovation of this church,” said Father Armand Bertrand, pastor at Immaculate Conception. “It is a beautiful worship space that is going to give them (parishioners) many years of service.”

He said that the restoration and renovation “respects the architecture of the church. It restores the Gothic theme of the church as it was back before 1970.”

Restoration, renovation, redecoration

The last Mass in the church was held the first weekend in January. Parishioners helped move items out of the church and a worship space was created in the gym by Sister Janice Hoffman, director of music/liturgy, Hispanic ministry and RCIA. Father Bertrand said there were a lot of people helping.

The contractors then came in and took the old pillars down. The painters, artists as Father Bertrand referred to them, came and put in their scaffolding and worked until the first Monday of Holy Week.

“It took a lot of craftsmen to pull that off,” he said. “The gold gilding used in the church is 23 karat gold leaf.”
Father Bertrand said that the colors in the sanctuary are basic blues, which is the color of “our holy mother.” The rest of the colors are a blue-gray hue to continue the theme throughout the church.

“When someone comes into the church their eye is drawn to where it should be, to the front of the church,” said the pastor.

Contractors came in after the painting was complete.

A glazed tile floor from Italy was installed in about two weeks. There are three travertine, carved stone, medallions that were placed down the middle aisle of the church among the other tiles. The design of the stones resembles the stenciling used in the rest of the church to tie the design together.

The Stations of the Cross placed in the church were from St. John’s Church in Quimby, which is now closed. The baptismal font is also from St. John’s.

The original statuary of Mary, Joseph and the corpus of Christ on the cross were all repainted by Kris Hasse of Neola, Iowa, along with the stations. Each station and statue is individually spot lit. The small wooden crosses beneath each station were made by Dale Bartel, a parishioner.

The sanctuary lamp was the original lamp from Visitation Parish in Maryhill, which is also closed.

Father Bertrand said now that parishioners from Maryhill and Quimby are parishioners at Immaculate Conception “it is important for them to not lose touch with the beautiful heritage that they used to have in their original churches.”

“It is not a matter of them giving up something. It is a matter of using what they had and incorporating it into this space so they can feel a part of it,” said the pastor.

Parts of the side altars are antiques from a renovated church in Ursula, Minn. The parts date back to the early 1900s.

A new sound system, new solid oak pews, handicap doors and handicap areas in the church for wheelchairs have also been part of the renovation. The sacristy was redone with new cabinetry to create storage space.

“Almost everything in here, except for the altar that was replaced a few years ago, is brand new,” said Father Bertrand.

Haselhoff in Cherokee was the general contractor for the project. Rehiele Decorating of Cresco, Iowa, were the decorators. Loew’s Carpet of Storm Lake was sub-contracted for the floor. Gunder Church Furniture of Humboldt was responsible for the pews and the wood backgrounds of the Stations of the Cross, plaques and side altars. Nelson Electric of Cherokee did all the lighting for the church. Omega Organ and Sound did the sound system. Robinson Furniture and Floor Covering, a local company, was also part of the project.

“We tried to use local businesses if we could,” said Father Bertrand.

Getting started

The project began about two years ago in the talking stages, said the pastor.

“There was a lot of discussion with the parishioners and the parish council members,” said Father Bertrand. “We then appointed a steering committee for the restoration and renovation. We began talking seriously about consulting decorators in the early part of 2010 and received designs from them.”

Over the course of about six to eight months, things fell into place for them to make a decision about the project.

The 10-member committee was responsible for the basic decision making in terms of choosing final styles and designs – pews, floor, etc. If there were other questions, Father Bertrand made the decisions.

A capital campaign was started and was successful. It is a three-year pledge campaign and is still going on.

“The vast majority of this work is paid for,” said Father Bertrand.

One year prior to the restoration project they contracted to replace the 1928 Kilgen organ, which was an eight-rank instrument. This will be replaced with a used, refurbished, digitized key system Moeller organ, which was built in 1975 and is a 21-rank instrument. It is about three times the size of the former organ.

Since the organ is not finished, a dedication of the building will be held at a later date. Father Bertrand noted that he hopes to hold the dedication before Lent begins.

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