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When a group of friends sat down for coffee at the Travel Mart in Riverside Monday morning, they had no idea that soon they would be pressed into service to help get St. Mary’s Church ready for a major restoration project.
The group of parishioners would end up moving the nearly 100-year-old wooden confessional from its place on the south wall of the church to allow crews from Glass Heritage, out of Davenport, to remove and refurbish the iconic stained glass windows.
Jim Rose said he got a call early Monday morning to help with some electrical wiring at the church. Rose and the group – including Lloyd Weber, Larry Wieland, Bobby Green and more – decided to do more than just electrical work.
“There ‘s three or four of us that have coffee in the morning, and this thing needed to be moved,” Rose said. “Once we put our heads together it was no big problem.”
Rose said it was probably the first time the confessional had been moved in decades.
“We raised it up and put some furniture sliders underneath it; once we did that one person could move it easily,” he said. “It’s probably the first time it’s been moved in 80 years.”
The confessional, which weighs anywhere between 500 and 1,000 pounds, was added soon after the original church was built in 1906, according to John Sojka, lay director at St. Mary’s.
“The confessional is at least 80 or 90 years old,” Sojka said. “We’re moving it because the southside windows will be the first to be restored — they’ve caught most of the weather since 1906.”
St. Mary’s stained glass windows are being restored to their original condition, including round bars and copper ties to hold the glass together.
Mitchell English, the St. Mary’s site manager for Glass Heritage, said the company’s restoration would be thorough.
“Once we’re all done these windows will probably last another 100 years,” he said.
Crews will start the delicate work of moving the windows later in the week, English said, with the entire project slated to be completed and re-installed under protective glass by August.
Sojka said the church was lucky to have people willing to help at the drop of a hat.
“I can’t express enough gratitude for parishioners that respond almost instantly to a phone call to help out,” Sojka said. “These guys came in and took control and I can’t say enough about how great they are.”