SS. Peter and Paul sprucing up for 175th anniversary

Workers with the Fort Wayne-based Jack Laurie Group work on removing the steps leading to the sanctuary dais of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church on Wednesday, Nov. 28. The first phase of renovations at the church are expected to be completed by Dec. 14.
Workers with the Fort Wayne-based Jack Laurie Group work on removing the steps leading to the sanctuary dais of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church on Wednesday, Nov. 28. The first phase of renovations at the church are expected to be completed by Dec. 14. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

With the 175th anniversary of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church coming up in 2019, the leadership of the church thought it would be a good time to update the interior and bring it back to much of its former glory.

“That carpet’s been there for at least 25 years or so, so it’s time to replace it,” said parishioner and Parish Council President Rosie Wall.
That’s not all – the church’s pastor, Rev. Tony Steinacker, says a list of renovations began Monday, Nov. 26, beginning with removing the steps and circular dais.

“We’re trying to return the church to its original state,” Steinacker says. “It’s an architecturally beautiful church, no matter which way you look at it. But we’re trying to renovate to return it to its original state that it was when it was built in 1865.”

Mass will temporarily be held in the Fr. Ron Rieder Auditorium, located in the Huntington Catholic School primary building. Steinacker also encourages parishioners to visit at St. Mary Catholic Church or St. Anne Victory Noll during the renovation period. He expects the work to be done by Dec. 14.

The Jack Laurie Group, out of Fort Wayne, is doing the work on the front of the sanctuary, removing the half circle terrace that was added in the 1980s and rebuilding the steps to the main sanctuary platform containing the Altar of Sacrifice.

“That area will be real hard wood, again turning it back to its original state,” Steinacker adds.

Light blue carpeting will replace the worn red carpet in the Nave (congregational seating area) to coordinate with the color of the ceiling.

Other improvements include adding ADA-compliant access to the parish offices, installing security cameras at the rectory, church and school, walk-off carpet tiles at the entrance to the church and new flooring in the hallway, bathrooms and Fr. Gollner Hall, painting walls and adding new cabinets to the entrances to the church.

In addition, new, modern lighting inside and outside, in the clock tower, steeple and along the sides of the building has already brightened the church and made it more welcoming, Steinacker says, as well as serving as a beacon from Huntington’s highest point in the city.

“We’re just returning it back to its original luster and beauty, and hoping that people who went here at one point will be inclined to come back and see how beautiful, and reminisce, recalling how things used to look,” he says.

Workers, some of them members of the church, will also re-gild existing candlesticks, chalices and other liturgical items, refurbishing liturgical furniture and the church will purchase new altar clothes, priest’s vestments and funeral pall. However, Steinacker says there are no plans to replace the communion rail that had been removed.

In January, plans are to raze the Parish Center (the former convent), a storage shed and a garage in order to create 19 handicap parking spaces. A new garage and storage shed will be built along with an adjacent multipurpose room that can be used for gatherings and other events.

In February, the next phase will begin, as the high altar will be repainted by Rick Fischer. Currently painted white-on-white, the plan is to add color to make the altar stand out as it did when it was first built. Fischer will use paint to create faux woodgrain, marble and gold leaf accents on the altar. There will be no work done on the statues themselves, which Steinacker says have been beautifully preserved. Each statue will have better lighting to make it more visible.

“The above list may seem like a daunting task, but we must think of how the first members of this community, some 175 years ago, must have felt as they began this great Parish,” Steinacker wrote to parishioners. “So now, as members of SS. Peter & Paul Parish, it is our opportunity and responsibility to take care of the gifts that we have been given for the next generation and the generations to come.”

Steinacker will not say exactly how much the renovations will cost, but says much of the work has been donated in kind or funded in direct gifts by parishioners of the church.

“Some parishioners have donated in memory,” he adds. “Several of our parishioners have volunteered and are doing the work themselves.”

With the congregation enjoying the newly renovated church, SS. Peter and Paul will have a Patronal feast day and special Mass with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on June 29, at 10 a.m. to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the church.