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Restoration of Gladstone church complete

R. R. Branstrom | Daily Press Father Jamie Ziminski gazes out over Gladstone’s newly-renovated All Saints Church, which has been painted, outfitted with new pews and new lighting, and undergone a number of other updates for the benefit of its parishioners.

GLADSTONE — Restorations at All Saints Catholic Church in Gladstone, which was built just over a century ago, were completed in January after six months of work, not including the plans leading up to that point.

Beginning in July, the church was closed — with weekend mass moved into the parish hall — to physically complete construction, but designs and fundraising began years ago, and updates were made here and there even before the major project — the “capital campaign” — took off.

Father James (“Jamie”) Ziminski, pastor at All Saints, came to Gladstone ten-and-a-half years ago, and the whole parish has been undergoing a major renovation plan pretty much since then.

The need for such improvements was reportedly evident in numerous church buildings. Ziminski said that in the first few years, “we replaced the roof of two different buildings. We renovated the religious education building and built a multipurpose room onto that. We restored the windows several years back, and so finally we got to the church itself.”

The windows to which he refers are detailed stained-glass works from Munich, Germany, that depict scenes from the rosary and were installed when the church was built in 1920 to 1921. Ten years ago, they were covered by yellowed Plexiglas.

The call for revamping had come about to some extent from neglect, but other issues had actually arisen due to projects undertaken some decades ago. It is the third structure for Gladstone’s All Saints Church; the second burned to the ground in March of 1920.

While “minor renovations” to the third church had been made as needed in the early days, work on larger scales was taken on in the 1970s and 1990s — to the detriment of the original character of the church, according to Father Jamie.

Of the first major renovation, he said, “It reflected more the times, you know, the 1970s, than it did the architecture of the church.The same thing with the 1991 renovation.”

In the 1970s, replacement pews of different sizes from the originals were installed, changing the placement of the aisles. The floors were carpeted, giving a more “home living room” feel than that of a solemn house of worship.

“They always say that when you when you renovate a building, especially a public building like this — it has a lot of character; there’s a lot of architecture that’s designed in a special way — and whenever you fight with the architecture, you lose,” said Father Jamie.

He pointed out that lines created by pews in rows not intended for the space were “jarring” and that an extended sanctuary and partial wall behind the altar had made the church look smaller.

All those design mistakes have been rectified with the most recent renovation.

Returning to the tradition of Catholic architecture without opulence was the goal. And before putting money into the church building itself, Father Jamie said that All Saints Church made sure to take care of the community first:

“We have a St. Vincent de Paul Society that takes care of the poor,” he said. “We were the only Catholic church that was served as a homeless shelter for Hope at the Inn; we were one of the founding members of that. … Every year we do hundreds of baskets at Christmastime for people in need in the area. Our religious education program is the largest in the Upper Peninsula by far … working towards taking care of our kids and passing on the faith.”

Father Jamie explained that since young families and children are a big focus at the parish, renovation and expansion of the CCD building came first.

“Once we had our religious education program facilities in much better shape, then we set our sights on the church,” he said.

Plans and arrangements for the capital campaign began about six or seven years ago. Contributions by parishioners were dedicated to the capital campaign — “and then COVID came and scuttled everything for a few years,” said Father Jamie.

That time, though, allowed for plans to be refined. More funds were accrued. The same parishioner who had donated the seed money passed away and left everything to All Saints Catholic Church of Gladstone. It may be said that the estate of Tom and Alice Davis made it possible for the renovation to reach the extent that it did.

“I think because we had the gift from Tom and Alice, that kind of freed us to make a couple of choices — just two or three choices — that we might not have made and those couple of things changed the whole look and made it such a successful renovation,” said Father Jamie.

The church avoided extravagance but opted for things that enhanced the experience. The electrical is new, and a hearing loop wired under the floor makes it so that people with hearing aids can hear clearly in a manner suited for their specific needs.

Some options made for a nice-looking environment without taking the most expensive route to do so. The floors are not marble, but have a pattern that mimics it. The stations of the cross framed around the perimeter walls appear to be carved from stone but are actually wood painted creatively.

“The idea that is so important to us is, with Catholic worship — you have a beautiful place to worship,” said Father Jamie, thoughtfully looking over the revived church from the loft where the choir and instruments are elevated during services. “If you have a beautiful celebration of the mass, the people who attend it will have beautiful lives. That’s the idea. You know, so it’s not just a nice clubhouse, but it should be something that inspires people to live beautiful Catholic lives of sacrifice of generosity and kindness and forgiveness and all those things.”

He said they worked with about 28 contractors to get the project completed. A major partner was Conrad Schmitt Studios from Wisconsin, whose history with All Saints dates back to the church’s construction.

Newly installed in the church are a number of murals. One is a series of five painted on the reredos — the wall behind the tabernacle. Life-size, the five-part mural depicts Jesus and four saints in what is meant to be a powerful crucifixion scene that is intentionally, meaningfully anachronistic.

Another addition was that of 24 painted trefoils featuring the portraits saints. Every one of the carefully chosen figures was selected for what they represent; many are patrons of values held dear in the local community.

The entryway, the narthex, which was added in the ’70s, was not touched during the recent large restoration but is likely to be remodeled in the near future.

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