When parishioners celebrate their first Easter in the newly built Sacred Heart Church, light will stream in through magnificent stained glass windows. The quest to find these windows is a story of luck, tenacity, and faith.
When parishioners celebrate their first Easter in the newly built Sacred Heart Church, light will stream in through magnificent stained glass windows.
The quest to find these windows is a story of luck, tenacity, and faith.
Sacred Heart burned to the ground on June 8, 2005. The 14 brilliant stained glass windows of the 134-year-old structure, worth $2.5 million, ended up as jagged pieces of glass.
The 11 windows left appeared to be intact, but the copper that held the glass in place had melted in the heat of the fire and then re-hardened.
“When the construction crew took the windows out, they crumbled right before our eyes. They were being held together by a prayer. It was very sad,” Father Harry Kaufman said.
The church left the pile of glass in the parking lot, and parishioners took pieces as mementoes of their beloved church.
“Some used the glass to make things,” Kaufman said.
A window committee was formed. It consisted of Kaufman, Mary Beth Brady and Joyce McCue. Their quest was to find 14 windows for the church.
“There was good news and bad news at the time,” Kaufman said. “The bad news was there were a lot of church closings. The good news was they all had stained glass windows.”
The chancery had photos of windows on file.
“We rejected them,” Kaufman said. “We had decided on a theme for the windows. The theme was Jesus.”
Kaufman, Brady and McCue, along with architect Bill Buckingham, took their quest to the Lyn Hovey Studios in Hyde Park, one of the most famous restorers of stained glass windows in the country.
“What have you got? We want to see the windows. A picture doesn’t do them justice,” Kaufman said.
Hovey pulled out a triple window with a circular rose pane on top.
The windows depicted Moses, the transfiguration of Jesus, and Elijah the prophet. The circular window depicted God the Father and his angels.
The unit was breathtaking. The committee had their first window.
Hovey had another three-window panel that depicted the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles.
Another stunning tableau. The committee had their second window.
Both came from 150-year-old St. Peter’s in Lowell.
Twelve more to go.
The group traveled to 150-year-old St. Joseph’s Church in Lowell. Here they found two smaller windows, the Birth of Christ and the Crucifixion, which now grace either side of the altar of Sacred Heart.
Ten more to go.
The challenge was daunting, Kaufman said.
The group traveled to St. Augustine’s, a 130-year-old newly closed church in South Boston.
“There were no windows that fit our theme, but the Stations of the Cross were beautiful. Each one was a powerful statement in plaster and marble. The figures stood out to us. We agreed they would be perfect for the church,” Kaufman said. “The diocese had told us to take anything we needed.”
Sacred Heart now had its Stations of the Cross, but there were still 10 windows to go and construction on the church was starting.
The two women visited Blessed Sacrament, a recently closed church in Jamaica Plain.
They agreed that the windows they saw there could not be used.
Something lured Kaufman back to the church.
“Let’s give it one more look,” he said to his colleagues.
“When I saw the windows, I agreed they were not what we wanted, but for some reason I looked straight up and by the roof were 14 more windows. And guess what? The theme of 10 of them was Jesus. I yelled, ‘Look, look, look.’”
Before his colleagues could catch him, Kaufman was in the choir loft on top of the organ studying his newfound treasures.
The Annunciation. The Flight into Egypt. The Holy Family. The Baptism of Jesus. The entry into Jerusalem.
They were all there and they were perfect, his colleagues agreed.
“We marched triumphantly back to Lyn Hovey with our find,” Kaufman said.
The treasure hunters were not finished.
They had their windows for the main church, but they needed smaller ones for the chapel.
They traveled to Sacred Heart in Lawrence, a recently closed French church. Here they found three sets of three-paneled windows for the chapel.
They were about to leave when Kaufman again looked up to the ceiling.
“And what do I see? Magnificent classical antique church lights. Twenty of them. They even had a red heart hanging from above the light and red stones hanging from the shade, which I interpreted as drops of blood coming from the heart of Jesus,” Kaufman said.
Those lights now hang from the ceiling of Sacred Heart.
“You can’t imagine how thrilling it was to find exactly what we wanted for our church,” Kaufman said.