All that glitters
DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS Among the restoration team, from left: Joe Kielbasa, Dave Shott, the Rev. Boguslaw Janiec, Trish Kroh and Bob Kroh.
Many sets of hands are busy at work inside a McAdoo church.
With loving care, they manipulate precious crystal prisms, crystal beads and delicate wire fasteners. They experiment with pipe cleaners and liquids and polishing techniques.
But don't be mistaken, their every move is precise and exacting. They tenderly brush gold filigree and line up rows of paper cups to organize prisms and beads removed one-by-one from gradient strands. Some large. Some tiny. Each diameter measured to the millimeter using a caliper.
Like Henry Ford's assembly line, the devoted hands work in unison, each performing a special task with 5,000 pieces of the past. The job is daunting - to restore a $20,000 or more classic French Empire chandelier which so impressively dominated the overhead space, high above the church pews. The lighting fixture was imported and installed about 1934, ten years after the church was built. The masterpiece is believed to have been manufactured in Italy with exquisite Swarovski crystals.
Some might say this is a job for professionals.
In this case, the volunteers, about 20 of them, are members and friends of SS. Peter and Paul Polish National Catholic Church, 44 E. Adams Street.
The restoration of the antique chandelier is an act of faith. And the professional consultant is God above.
Cleaning secret revealed
The process of restoring an almost eigh-feet-high chandelier has been under way since last August.
Each component of the fixture has been a challenge, say the volunteers. For instance, some sections are Venetian plaster-cast and others are gesso-gilded. Each calls for a special restoration technique. But that's okay, say the volunteers.
The project wasn't undertaken simply for the fun of it. It was absolutely necessary, they say.
"It started with little repairs," notes Dave Shott, McAdoo, project coordinator. Shott is familiar with tackling logistics issues. He does it every day in his career as field engineer for Aethon, Inc., a firm which provides robotic hospital delivery and asset management solutions.
Shott is detail-oriented. For instance, he can tell you that the chandelier has exactly 4,971 crystals. In fact, Shott has sketched with precision some blueprint-type renderings of the prisms and the structure of the unit.
Interestingly, the team's trial-and-error approach uncovered a secret weapon during the cleaning process, and in true Christian spirit, the crew is willing to share it. After trying various chemicals and solutions to clean tarnished metal, the workers say they stumbled on a "miracle fix."
Turns out, orange juice is perfect for cleaning brass.
"The citric acid dissolved brass oxide," explains Shott.
And so it happens that the cleaning of a majestic chandelier requires six gallons of Florida Sunshine. Who knew?
"And it must be warm orange juice," they emphasize.
"It's tedious work," acknowledges Bob Kroh, treasurer, parish committee.
But church members say the overhaul of the chandelier simply couldn't be delayed any longer. They explain that the fixture was posing problems even during simple maintenance.
"People were getting shocked while changing light bulbs," notes Joe Kielbasa, Summit Hill.
But now, after more than 300 hours, the volunteers are enthusiastically heading into home stretch.
"We'll have a dedication," says Kielbasa, explaining that twice-a-year sales of bleenies and pierogies helped to pay expenses and continues to be an important church fund raiser.
Another volunteer, Kroh's wife Trisha, credits fellow parishioners with supporting the project and says their monetary contributions have been a blessing.
"A lot of the descendants of one of the original chandelier donors have been generous with their donations," says Trisha, treasurer, ladies society.
Owned by parishioners
Interestingly, all Polish National Catholic churches operate differently from other Catholic and most Protestant denominations. One key difference is in church ownership.
While the McAdoo church belongs to a regional diocese (Central Diocese of the Polish Catholic Church), the church building itself is owned by parishioners.
And so is the rectory.
And so is the chandelier. All of the property is owned by the parishioners.
It's a system based on democracy, a principle that each parishioner has a voice. Each individual has a say.
"And we try to keep the Polish tradition," explains the Rev. Boguslaw Janiec, who came from Poland ten years ago. He first served a Middleport parish. He now serves the McAdoo church and St. John the Baptist parish, Hazleton.
Driven by the member-owned philosophy, parishioners take special pride in the facilities. And so it was only natural they tackle the chandelier restoration project, putting 100% of their faith in God's providence.
Shott says Elizabeth Cwikla, Quakertown, originally from Poland, has volunteered to handle the delicate adjustments and final placement of all of the crystal elements.
"We're so very fortunate to have the benefit of her years of fine craftsmanship and fantastic ability to tightly focus the details," says Shott.
Others who've lent a hand, in addition to Shott and the Krohs, are: Steve and Alice Lichvar, Drifton; Steve and Joan Golden, Conyngham; Mary Ann Durishin, West Hazleton; Joe and Carol Kielbasa, Summit Hill; and Noah Macaluso, Susan Breznak, Marion Sobolewski and Phyllis Biscoe, McAdoo. Biscoe is a niece of the chandelier's original donor.
The church and its 40 members also are known for generosity in a wide range of initiatives.
"Right now we're collecting clothing for the nursing home," notes Kielbasa, explaining that church members will deliver the garments to Hometown Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
But in the meantime, everyone is excited about the upcoming unveiling of the fully restored chandelier, which will hang from a ceiling 21-feet high. When finished, the showcase lighting fixture is expected to glisten and gleam even more brightly than when it was brand new. That's because the restoration team incorporated some extra pizazz into the unit, such as adding gold filigree instead of the original plain metal attachment wires.
"We took some artistic license with a few things," explains Shott.
A dedication service will be announced shortly. It'll be a day when all that glitters is not only crystal and gold - but the shimmering harmony of a caring congregation, their determined spirit, and enduring faith.
The public is always welcome to stop by and say hello.
"We have Mass on Sundays at 11 a.m.," says Kielbasa.
In the next few days, parishioners are expecting to put finishing touches on the chandelier and reinstall it way up high.
Then they'll pause and give thanks to their Professional Consultant.
Because through His grace, they see the light.