Restoring the grandeur of St. Joseph Cathedral | News | unionleader.com – The Union Leader


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Updated: September 4, 2022 @ 2:13 am
Stacey Udave of Buffalo, N.Y., paints a detail on a wall in the sanctuary at St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester on Aug. 25. Stencils and paints were created specifically for the project by Udave and other artisans from Swiatek Studios of Buffalo, a company started by her grandfather.
The Very Rev. Jason Jalbert, rector of St. Joseph Cathedral, gestures while giving a tour of the newly restored church in Manchester on Wednesday.
Dominic Mammana cuts stencils for decorative patterns to be painted in the sanctuary.
Udave applies a stencil to the wall high in the sanctuary to paint another detail.
The Rev. Jason Jalbert gestures while giving a tour of the newly renovated St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester on Aug. 31, 2022.
Artisan Stacey Udave, of Buffalo, N.Y., works with stencils to paint the sanctuary at St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester on Aug. 25, 2022. The parish has undergone a four-month restoration project while remaining open.
The reredos, or high altar, was installed ;;ed as
Hand-painted details including lilies, symbolizing St. Joseph, can be seen throughout the church’s restored interior.
The scaffolding has been taken down, and after 20 weeks of work, the latest restoration of St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester was unveiled on Tuesday. The cathedral’s rector and pastor, Very Rev. Jason Jalbert (above), gave a tour of the finished work on Tuesday. A company that specializes in restorations of churches and historical landmarks, Swiatek Studios, is putting the finishing touches on painting and stenciling on the 19th-century cathedral.
The Rev. Eric Delisle descends the scaffolding during a tour of the restoration project in the cathedral on Aug. 25. The scaffolding was removed last week after the four-month, $750,000 restoration.
The formerly beige interior of the cathedral has been transformed with a blue ceiling, brown arches over the nave, and colorful detail work throughout. The church remained open during a four-month restoration project.
The Rev. Eric Delisle walks on scaffolding as artisan Stacey Udave, of Buffalo, N.Y., paints the walls of the sanctuary at St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester on Aug. 25, 2022. The 19th century church remained open during a four-month restoration project.
Artisan Stacey Udave, of Buffalo, N.Y., paints the sanctuary at St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester on Aug. 25, 2022. 
The scaffolding came down last week, revealing the newly restored St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester.

Stacey Udave of Buffalo, N.Y., paints a detail on a wall in the sanctuary at St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester on Aug. 25. Stencils and paints were created specifically for the project by Udave and other artisans from Swiatek Studios of Buffalo, a company started by her grandfather.
Dominic Mammana cuts stencils for decorative patterns to be painted in the sanctuary.
Udave applies a stencil to the wall high in the sanctuary to paint another detail.
The Rev. Jason Jalbert gestures while giving a tour of the newly renovated St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester on Aug. 31, 2022.
Artisan Stacey Udave, of Buffalo, N.Y., works with stencils to paint the sanctuary at St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester on Aug. 25, 2022. The parish has undergone a four-month restoration project while remaining open.
The scaffolding has been taken down, and after 20 weeks of work, the latest restoration of St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester was unveiled on Tuesday. The cathedral’s rector and pastor, Very Rev. Jason Jalbert (above), gave a tour of the finished work on Tuesday. A company that specializes in restorations of churches and historical landmarks, Swiatek Studios, is putting the finishing touches on painting and stenciling on the 19th-century cathedral.
The Rev. Eric Delisle descends the scaffolding during a tour of the restoration project in the cathedral on Aug. 25. The scaffolding was removed last week after the four-month, $750,000 restoration.
The Rev. Eric Delisle walks on scaffolding as artisan Stacey Udave, of Buffalo, N.Y., paints the walls of the sanctuary at St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester on Aug. 25, 2022. The 19th century church remained open during a four-month restoration project.
The scaffolding came down last week, revealing the newly restored St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester.
Stepping inside the newly restored St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester feels like falling back in time.
Gone are the bland beige walls and the lime-green carpeting in place for the past half-century.
Now, rich brown hues bathe the 19th-century church in warmth, and the ceiling has been repainted in shades of blue. The columns are decorated with red, gold and green details, and hand-painted lilies adorn the walls and climb the trusses that reach heavenward.
After 20 weeks of work by specially trained artisans, the final scaffolding has come down. Churchgoers at this weekend’s Masses will get their first unobstructed view of the results.
This was a restoration, not a renovation, says the Very Rev. Jason Jalbert, the rector at the cathedral, whose vision has guided the project.
“We’re bringing back the original beauty and integrity of the original church,” he said.
When people enter the cathedral, he said, “I hope that they feel like they’re in a sacred place. That they feel they’ve left the world and entered into something that is heavenly.”
The Very Rev. Jason Jalbert, rector of St. Joseph Cathedral, gestures while giving a tour of the newly restored church in Manchester on Wednesday.
Jalbert, who has served at the cathedral since 2017, has worked closely with artists from Swiatek Studios of Buffalo, N.Y., to restore the cathedral to its original Victorian Gothic splendor. The company specializes in restoration of churches and historic buildings such as theaters.
Stacey Udave, one of the artists who brought the transformation to life, grew up following her father and grandfather to job sites, helping out when she grew old enough.
Her grandfather, Henry Swiatek, started the business that her brother, Brett, now runs. Her son and son-in-law both work there.
“I was just made for this kind of work,” she said. “God was always in my heart.”
The reredos, or high altar, was installed ;;ed as
Jalbert had an unfolding vision for the cathedral’s restoration, Udave said. “It’s almost like God was telling him how He wanted to see it,” she said.
Udave created the stencils and hand-painted the designs that adorn the walls and trusses. Everything is custom-made for the project, even the paint colors.
“Brett gets an idea of a color scheme,” she said. “I make those colors come alive.”
For St. Joseph Cathedral, Jalbert wanted earthy brown hues — symbolizing the cloak of St. Joseph, the husband of Mary.
“St. Joseph would have held Jesus with his cloak,” Jalbert explained. He gestured to the walls of the nave, where the congregation sits. “This represents the cloak of St. Joseph surrounding the body of Christ,” he said.
Hand-painted details including lilies, symbolizing St. Joseph, can be seen throughout the church’s restored interior.
The tiniest painted details have ecclesiastical import, from the elegant lilies — the symbol of St. Joseph — that appear in various forms, to the red hearts that symbolize the “chaste heart” of the saint.
Then there are the golden bees, almost hidden in the intricate designs that decorate the trusses. That was Jalbert’s idea, a stroke of divine inspiration, if you will.
Church candles have to be made of beeswax, he explained. The “Exsultet” proclamation during the Easter vigil blesses the Paschal candle, “the work of bees.”
Beehives also have been used to symbolize the Christian community, Jalbert said: “Everyone has their role to play.”
Up in the choir loft, on the wall facing west, an image of the sun surrounds the letters IHS — a Christogram that represents the Greek letters spelling out the name of Jesus.
“It represents the sun setting in the west, but Christ is the sun that never sets,” Jalbert said.
The formerly beige interior of the cathedral has been transformed with a blue ceiling, brown arches over the nave, and colorful detail work throughout. The church remained open during a four-month restoration project.
It’s also a reminder of our mortality, he said. “Going out those doors, we’re reminded that as the sun sets, so do we,” he said.
For Udave and her family, doing this work is a passion, not a job. “It’s a calling, I feel,” she said.
Prayer is integral to her process, Udave said. “I pray about everything I do, every color I choose,” she said. “Because it’s going to be there for 50, 70 years.
“My biggest fear is you make the wrong decision and then people are always questioning it 20 years from now: ‘What were they thinking?’ ”
So, “I pray about it a lot.”
And, she said, “I always get an answer.”
After Vatican II, many Catholic churches removed their ornamentation in favor of a simpler appearance, Udave said.
That’s what happened when St. Joseph Cathedral was renovated in the late 1960s, Jalbert said. “The whole church was painted beige. That was a trend back then,” Jalbert said with clear regret.
The floors were covered wall-to-wall with green carpeting. “We called it the green monster,” Jalbert said, grinning.
The current restoration began in 2014, when the Archdiocese of Boston gave the cathedral a gift of a high altar and Stations of the Cross from Holy Trinity Church in Boston, which had closed years earlier. That church was designed by the same architect as the Manchester cathedral, so it felt right, Jalbert said.
Artisan Stacey Udave, of Buffalo, N.Y., paints the sanctuary at St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester on Aug. 25, 2022. 
The interior painting project began on April 26, and the final scaffolding came down last week.
Udave said she’s glad that churches are restoring their earlier beauty.
“You need that,” she said. “When you walk into a church, it shouldn’t feel like a hall. It should feel like a special, sacred space.”
She hopes the work she and her team did will give people a sense of warmth, peace and safety when they come into the restored church, she said.
“Because that’s how church should feel,” she said. “You should feel like all your worries are aside and just for this little bit, you’re protected in this space.”
The parish has been saving funds for years to fix up the cathedral, Jalbert said.
Earlier this year, the parish council authorized an expenditure of $500,000, and a quiet fundraising campaign raised another $250,000, according to Jalbert.
But you won’t see any plaques with the names of big donors in the restored cathedral.
“We really wanted to keep this in the spirit of St. Joseph, who was a quiet person,” Jalbert said. “We don’t have any recorded words from him in Scripture. He was quiet, humble, unassuming.”
“Taking that approach, we were able to encourage people to give what they could,” he said.
Some gave their prayers, others gave small donations and those who could gave more, he said. “We wanted people to feel they contributed, whether they were poor or rich,” Jalbert said. “And no one would feel less than anyone else.”
St. Joseph Church was built in the 1860s “by poor Irish millworkers, who gave what they had,” Jalbert said.
The sanctuary, with its soaring ceilings, the chapel and the rectory were added in the 1890s.
When the Diocese of Manchester was formed in 1884, the pastor of St. Joseph’s, Denis Bradley, was named New Hampshire’s first bishop and his church was selected as the cathedral.
Jalbert said he likes to think that Bishop Bradley “could walk in here today and recognize this was his church.”
The inner-city parish has evolved since those early years. Today, families of African, Hispanic and Filipino descent worship with families who have lived in Manchester for generations. Some parishioners live nearby, while others travel an hour to attend Mass here every weekend, Jalbert said.
It’s a young parish. Some Sundays, it feels like children outnumber adults, he said. “You can see it at Communion — almost every person has a child in their arms,” he said. “It’s beautiful to see.”
The reredos, or high altar, was installed ;;ed as
Restoring such an historic church is “a-once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity, said Jalbert, who will celebrate the 20th anniversary of his ordination next year.
It remains a work in progress — much like the lives of people, he said. “We certainly want to grow in holiness, but it’s work,” he said.
The next project will be restoring the floors, which are currently painted plywood.
Jalbert said he hopes being in this sacred place will make people feel hopeful about the future. “I think anyone with any faith or no faith would walk into the cathedral and feel that they’re in a place that is special and is meant for something greater than us,” he said.
He sees the restoration as part of the church’s work of evangelization.
“Beauty draws, beauty leads us to truth,” he said. “And God is truth.
“This whole thing is meant to lead us closer to God.”
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