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Historic stained glass at St. Agnes Catholic Church to undergo restoration

April 21, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF — The stained glass windows of St. Agnes Catholic Church in Scottsbluff have been a symbol of the Christian faith since the church was built in 1917. Those windows will soon be getting a facelift.

While pointing toward heaven, the windows also honor the memory of some of the valley’s earliest settlers and their families. At 102, those works of art are starting to bow, crack and generally show their age.

“We had the windows evaluated about 10 years ago and they were still in pretty decent shape, but we were starting to see some issues with them,” said Father Vince Parsons, priest at St. Agnes. “We had them re-evaluated last year and that’s when we knew they needed restoration.”

Over the years, the windows have been sinking and bowing away from the frames. The lead that holds the pieces of glass together are also starting to deteriorate.

“We need to get this restoration project going because these windows are unique to western Nebraska,” Parsons said. “These types of windows aren’t made anymore. If you go to a newer church that has stained glass windows they don’t look like this.”

In a time when craftsmen are difficult to find, St. Agnes found a company here in Nebraska that specializes in restoring stained glass windows across the country.

Parsons pointed out that for the church’s first 80 years, the stained glass windows were uncovered and exposed to the elements. When the church was renovated in the early 2000s, insurance availability required they cover the stained glass with exterior windows.

The windows will be removed six or seven at a time starting in May, so the entire process should be completed sometime this fall.

“A lot of our windows were given in memory of loved ones,” Parsons said. “It was their gift to God. One of the windows was donated by a Scottsbluff city attorney in honor of their baby who had died. There are a lot of stories behind these windows and the faith that people have in them. It represents a part of who we are in the community. That’s the beautiful part of it.”

Since the beginning, St. Agnes has been a testament to families working together. In 1917, two parishioners dug the 50- by 10-foot basement by hand. An article in the Star-Herald at the time said the church was going up on the outskirts of town. The accompanying picture had the church surrounded by an open field.

Parsons said that was the time when the stained glass windows were installed. Today, the church is in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

“You’d have to go to Europe to see windows like this,” he said. “They’ve held up well for their age and are a great treasure for the valley.”

The parish of St. Agnes Catholic Church kicked off its “Restoring Our Father’s House” campaign during masses the weekend of April 6. Contributions toward the window restoration are welcomed and appreciated.

“Our goal is to raise enough money to restore the windows and establish an endowment fund to ensure that timely repairs and improvements can continue to be made to maintain the church going forward,” Parsons said.

For more information, contact Parsons at 308-632-2541 or email pastor@st-agnes-church.com.