Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Compiled by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the March 17, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

From the Inland Register – Volume LIV, No. 43
Fifty Years Ago: February 20, 1966

Immaculate Heart Retreat House Notes 7th Anniversary; ‘Spiritual hotel ... for heavenly weekends’

Immaculate Heart Retreat House (IHRH) (Editor’s note: now Immaculate Heart Retreat Center) will celebrate its seventh anniversary on Sunday, Feb. 20. Father David E. Rosage, director, said that more than 26,000 persons – many of them non-Catholic – have used the modern, airy facilities for retreats, Days of Recollection, and Evenings of Recollection. Christian Family Movement, Cana and other conferences have also utilized IHRH. All diocesan priests receive their twice-yearly “spiritual re-orientation” at IHRH. Parish groups sign up for “heavenly weekends,” as Father Rosage calls them, as well as high school students, Sisters, and business, professional and “like-occupation” groups. Ministers and non-Catholics have attended as individuals.

The figures – 26,000 persons – are impressive, “but when you analyze them, there is one disturbing feature that can’t be ignored,” Father said. “The majority are repeaters. The sad truth is that less than 4 percent of the lay people of the Spokane Diocese make an annual retreat.”

Father Rosage feels that making that first closed retreat, with its imposition of silence until the “departure meal,” seems to frighten some people. Many make reservations and then, at the last moment, call up to cancel out. Why?

“I’m scared!” is the usual answer, he says.

Father Rosage and veteran retreatants would like to reassure Catholics that “the doors at IHRH swing outward, as well as inward. The only differences in coming here for the weekend, instead of a first-class hotel, are the ‘rates’ – and the spiritual benefits.” Actually, there are no “rates,” as such, at IHRH. Cost of a private room, private bath, sweeping view, and the good, wholesome cooking in which the Dominican Sisters pride themselves, is what any retreatant feels he can afford.

Some retreatants have tucked $100 bills into the envelope for a weekend. College girls living off-campus – and broke – have stayed at IHRH for free. No one at IHRH knows who pays what – except the retreatant.

Speaking of the great spiritual renewal which the Church is trying to effect in our times, Father Rosage said that “the retreat apostolate will do much to guarantee the success of the New Pentecost. In another seven years, please God, this leaven may ferment the whole mass.”

Some fermentation has already taken place. Converts at the rate of two each month come into the Church via the retreat house route.

Since no person can shoulder all the work entailed in financing and maintaining IHRH and recruiting retreatants, numerous groups have formed to fill specific needs.

In March of 1960, a group of 18 women met with Father Rosage to offer help in organizing and promoting retreats, and assisting with office work. The IHRH Auxiliary has grown to 50, with membership from most city and valley parishes, plus Colbert, Fairchild Air Force Base, Deer Park, and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The Madonna Festival, held each year on Mother’s Day, was inaugurated by this group in 1961.

Benefactors helped make the physical plant possible. First benefactors to support IHRH were the Founders: men and women who pledged $1,000 toward construction costs. First honors are shared by A.A. Arsenault, Gerald O’Melveny, Richard O’Neill and Mrs. Caroline A. Spuler. Founders now number 336 – with the goal of 400 still “a little short,” as Father Rosage wryly puts it.

“Perhaps more Founders would help us if they realized that the entire sum needn’t be paid at once. Most donors use the ‘piecemeal’ plan – as little as $10 per month.”

Sponsors also give financial support to the retreat house – individuals or parish groups contributing $25 to underwrite the actual cost of retreats for those who can pay little or nothing. Thanks to sponsors, unwed mothers from DePorres Manor and St. Ann Maternity Home, women from St. Margaret’s Hall, men from the House of Charity, and many high school students have been able to obtain spiritual refreshment at IHRH. During 1965, sponsors picked up the tab for 41 non-paying retreatants. With more than 209 non-payers, operational costs went $4,000 in the red.

Another group of financial supports are the “Room Donors” and “Room-and-Furnishings Donors,” at $2,000 and $2,500 respectively. Only eight rooms remain “unclaimed” and Father Rosage hopes this situation will not exist long. Plaques affixed to each room’s wall attest to the donor’s generosity.

Captains are the “recruiters.” IHRH can provide private rooms for 50 persons, but someone has to be sure they’re neither unfilled nor over-filled. Captains recruit retreatants from their parishes or professional fields, etc.

IHRH “Lady Captains” man the vacuum cleaners, mops, squeegees, dust cloths and linen closets at IHRH. Each week during the year a different captain and her crew of “Marthas” help clean the 50 rooms, 50 beds, 50 lavatories, central lounge, halls, dining room, chapel, et al. Now 50 strong, the Marthas “are absolutely indispensable,” Father Rosage said. “Without them, we’d have to spend thousands of dollars annually to keep the retreat house clean and inviting.”

One IHRH “plus factor” not too widely known outside the coterie of veteran retreatants is the “conference room” adjacent to the chapel. Here literally thousands of human problems have been solved – or made bearable. Father Rosage and the retreat masters have had plenty of experience in treating life’s multiple abrasions, such as soothing tensions and getting husband and wives back on the matrimonial track.

Father Rosage counts the four Dominican Sisters who staff IHRH as “four of our most precious blessings”: Sister Mary Brigid, Superior; and Sisters Ludolha, Theodula, and Tiburtia.

Father believes more firmly than ever on the eve of IHRH’s seventh anniversary that in this day of spiritual renewal there is no better prescription for spiritual reformation than a retreat. He suggests you dial KE5-3513 for your spiritual prescription.

“Everybody’s seeking peace of mind,” he said. “Well, we have it right here at the retreat house, and it’s available to anyone!”

From the Inland Register – Volume 48, No. 13
Twenty-five Years Ago: March 21, 1991

Cathedral windows: Making, unmaking, and remaking religious treasures

by Jan Tedesco, for the Inland Register

At the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, there are more than 30 of them: dazzling and vibrant stained glass windows that dominate a visitor’s first impressions of the church. The smallest of the windows measures only two feet by five feet. The largest – the three rose windows – are 20 feet in diameter, and weigh two tons each.

The Cathedral’s windows were crafted by artisans of the Mayer family in Munich at the turn of the century, employing techniques handed down since the 12th century.

Glass is heated to the liquid stage. The colors are then added while the glass is still in a molten state: black, brown, green and red. As it cools, the glass is “mouth-blown” and “hand-rolled” into a flat sheet. The figures and faces are drawn in black, and rich gold tones, achieved by using a stain containing silver, and are used in the halos framing the figure of God and his saints. Finally, the window is fired in a kiln and the color is permanently bonded to the glass. The technique, while tedious, produces windows of incomparable clarity and brilliance.

It took years for the artisans of the Munich studio to design and manufacture the Cathedral’s windows. In 1904, as work on the church building neared completion, the stained glass panels left Munich on the long journey to the Pacific Northwest. One of the Mayer craftsmen accompanied the windows. He and his cargo crossed the Atlantic and completed the journey to Spokane by rail.

For six months, he carefully supervised local tradesmen as they assembled and installed the panels, like delicate and vibrant jigsaw puzzle pieces. Some of the windows required particular skill to install. They were designed with panels, or “plates,” installed two deep, which yield rich hues of blue and red. The figure of the Blessed Virgin in the St. Bernadette window is an example of this technique.

Plating also is used in the red robes of Christ in the Sacred Heart window, and in the faces of the four Evangelists and Christ the High Priest above the high altar.

Tragically, the members of the Mayer family were killed in bombing raids during World War II – their skill and secrets are lost forever. One would have to travel to the cathedral in Helena, Mont., to see the nearest other examples of “Mayer Magic.”

While the Cathedral windows have been valued at $1.5 million, time has not respected these treasures. The constant expansion and contraction of the glass in summer and winter, vibrations from passing trucks, low-flying airplanes, and powerful organ music all contributed to weakening the putty used to seal the seams between glass plates and between the larger window panels.

Worse yet, the windows have suffered much abuse over the years.

In 1983, several windows, including the Nativity rose window and the window dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, were vandalized by gunfire from a .22 caliber pistol. In 1985, two of the prophet windows in the east apse were broken by stones; and in 1986, all of the panes were covered by smoke in the church fire.

Once deterioration begins, the process accelerates. When dirt and other corrosives penetrate between the glass panels, paint begins to flake away, glass separates from the lead and steel joints, panes buckle, stress fractures appear in the glass, more dirt and pollutants infiltrate the plates – and on and on.

To reverse this process and reclaim the original magnificence of its windows, the Cathedral Parish has embarked upon a restoration project that will take two years to complete.

Windows are being carefully dismantled. The plates are separated, cleaned and rejoined; solder joints and lead seams reset; and structural supports strengthened.

The work is being done by glass artisans Floyd and Chris Sauer of Elk, Wash. They can be seen on scaffolding both inside and outside the Cathedral, literally restoring the windows piece by piece.

The final stage will be to cover each window with a protective covering to ensure safety from projectiles and other hazards.

The restoration project has uncovered small miracles.

For instance, the bullet which entered the fixture of the Blessed Virgin in the window of Our Lady of Lourdes struck the window in such a way that it should have marred Our Lady’s face. Should have – but did not. The bullet mysteriously veered away from what would have been its normal course, leaving the face of Mary untouched.

The Sauers also discovered that under the yellow glass which had been added to the outside of the windows high above the main altar – St. Matthew, St. Mark, Christ the High Priest, St. Luke, and St. John – a layer of black lacquer had been applied to the outside of the glass itself, apparently to dim the light that came through the windows into the church. The lacquer etched into the patina of the glass, but miraculously, the damage was not irreversible.

The Sauers are convinced that these windows have a unique beauty, even among the family of windows in the Cathedral. There are recurring themes in the border art and a luminous quality to the glass that is incomparable. The stained glass in the faces of the Evangelists and of Christ is some of the finest detailed work in glass that the Sauers have ever seen.

And that is why this patient, tortoise-paced craft is so rewarding. Over the past 20 years, Floyd and Chris Sauer have worked in numerous churches in the area: in Spokane and Pomeroy, Wash; Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, and Sandpoint, Idaho; and Kalispell, Mont. Not only does each set of windows have its unique appeal and character, but each individual window has its own history.

For instance, the Cathedral’s Mayer windows were installed using four separate methods. Some of the windows were set into the masonry from the outside, and some from the inside; some were installed in wood framework, and others in steel.

When panels must be replaced, it is nearly impossible to duplicate the colors in the original European panels. It took six weeks to locate a manufacturer in Germany that produced a paint that would match the blues of the Blessed Virgin’s robes in the titular window.

The Sauers are never sure what challenges they will encounter until they climb the scaffolding and begin their painstaking work. Every window contributes to the understanding of their craft.

The restoration project is being funded through “Catholic Campaign ’90s,” supported by parishioners and friends who have been inspired by the beauty of the windows and the Christian mysteries they depict. Over the past year, approximately $100,000 has been pledged, but it will take another $100,000 to completely repair, restore and protect what Father James Ribble, rector of the Cathedral, calls “bread for the spirit” in Spokane’s inner city.

Worshippers do not mind having to navigate scaffolding. They are no longer distracted by the hydraulic lifts in the sanctuary.

Work goes on through the week, and each Sunday there are new surprises as, inch by inch, the glory of the Cathedral windows is revealed and renewed. As one woman exclaimed as they studied the newly-restored St. Bernadette window, “I never knew there were roses at Our Lady’s feet!” Truly, the wonder of the Cathedral windows is being restored.

(Father Caswell is archivist for the Inland Register, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)


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