LINDENWOLD — The incident here at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish happened last Jan. 6, during the Christmas Season. Nine stained-glass windows in the sacristy and main church were damaged by an unknown individual, using the church’s own candleholders as weapons.
Normally open all day for faithful to come and worship, Saint Lawrence Church had to close its doors for investigation of the crime and repairing the windows’ to their former glory.
Through the Christmas Season, marking Jesus’ birth; through the Lenten Season, marking his death; and through the Easter Season, marking the Savior’s Resurrection, the church’s doors remained locked.
Just after the Ascension of the Lord earlier this month, restorations to the windows were completed.
The connection between Jesus’ life on Earth, and the life of his church these last few months, were not lost on Father Joseph Capella, pastor.
As “Christ repaired the church” in his salvific death and resurrection, Father Capella said, so the shrine is “repaired, and restored again.”
The parallels would not have been able to be made, he said, without the help of Edward Byrne, Jr., who was contacted by Father Capella in the wake of the vandalism.
The pastor had heard of the connection between Byrne and Saint Lawrence Church, one that goes back to the building’s construction in 1958. Byrne, working with his father and grandfather in the family business that included stained glass and sculpture work, helped create the church windows, which include depictions of the Profession of Faith.
“I have an attachment to past projects,” said Byrne, 83 and now retired. For decades after his father and grandfather, he continued the mastery of stain glass, mural and sculpture work.
“My career has taken me East of the Mississippi, New Orleans to New England,” he said.
After assessing the damage at Saint Lawrence, Byrne put Father Capella in touch with Doylestown-based James Darrah, a former apprentice of Byrne’s.
Darrah removed the broken windows and transported them to his studio, where he began the meticulous task of repainting the window’s original iconography, and repairing the leading on the windows, through a process that included baking and blowing the glass. Finally, he installed the windows back into place.
“Jim started work on the interior damage, on the doors between the sanctuary and sacristy, and then proceeded to the interior between the vestibule and nave, and then repaired the outside windows,” Byrne said.
“Funds for the repairs came from many,” said Father Capella, who wanted to help the shrine in a time of need. “School students, the elderly, corporations, and non-Catholics” all lent their financial and prayer support, he said.
Eight surveillance cameras, four inside and four outside, were installed by Independent Alarm, with their supplier, HikVision, covering the cost.
Father Capella hopes in the near future to have a re-dedication ceremony for the shrine, as his faithful return to their once-broken, now-healed church.
“Thank goodness it’s all finished,” he said. “It looks beautiful.”