Geneva Parish Finishes Phase 2 of Renovation
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
June 4, 2020
GENEVA—The current St. Peter Church here was built in 1993. One year later, the roof began to leak, says Father Jonathan Bakkelund, pastor.
A variety of efforts to patch the leaks over those 25 years were unsuccessful, he says. Sometimes all they did was redirect the water to leak in elsewhere. 
When he arrived at the parish a few years ago, he learned right away that whenever it rained, he needed to run over to the church and put down strategically-placed buckets.
A survey of parishioners led him to realize that “now’s the time” to fix it right, he says. 
The first part of the $3.3 million budget was to completely replace the steel roof. That was accomplished last year and is most apparent with the roof’s outdoor color change from blue-gray to red.
Part two was the repair and renovations of the church sanctuary at a cost of $1.4 million. 
Part three, still to come, will target bathrooms and the parking lot.
The first week of May, with coronavirus sanctions still in place, Father Bakkelund provided a “big reveal” to parishioners via a YouTube video tour of the most recent repairs, renovations and additions. 
In the video, which was filmed by parochial vicar Father Charles Warren, St. Peter’s pastor happily explains the many details that led to the beautiful result.
Designs emphasize teaching
Three medallion-mosaics in the Italian-marble aisle are meant to be teaching moments. The first represents baptism with a clam shell and water. 
The second features the keys of the parish’s patron, St. Peter — a gold key showing his authority in heaven and a silver key to represent the saint’s authority on earth. Additionally, the design includes the upside-down cross of St. Peter’s own martyrdom and crucifixion.
Silver and gold keys are repeated on the pattern on the back wall behind the tabernacle.
The third medallion, nearest to the altar, is an exact replica of a mosaic at the foot of the altar in a church in the town of Tabgha in Tiberias in Galilee. It is the place traditionally held to be where Jesus’ miracle of loaves and fishes took place. The images of hosts (representing loaves) and fish allude to the Eucharist.
Front and center on the raised dais is the same parish altar, stained the same, new, walnut color as the pews, ambo and other woodwork. 
Added to the original ambo are Latin words that translate, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” It is, the pastor says in the video, “a reminder to the preacher to be sure to give them Jesus.”
Work reveals interior damage
Parishioners had ceased sitting in one center-right section of the church because those pews were in such bad shape, Father Bakkelund says. Once the pews had been removed and turned upside down, the water damage was found to be worse than imagined and much more widespread.
The pews are now repaired with new padding of blue fabric. The moveable chairs that had comprised the back section of seating have been replaced with new pews. 
Other damage found during the repair work included rusted and stained steel, stained fabric  and plaster, all of which have been repaired and repainted, much of it in a harvest gold color. 
What had been a small right-side chapel for weekday Mass is now a dedicated space for baptisms.
The renovation includes new statues of Mary and Joseph and a new, eight-foot corpus for the large church cross. The statues from Italy, are scheduled to arrive in around three weeks. 
Statues from the same artist already in place are St. Peter and St. Francis de Sales, who was bishop of Geneva in Switzerland. A new, broader and gold tabernacle is also coming soon from St. Louis.
New sconces below upper windows provide more light, adding to the greater brightness of the church sanctuary as a whole. All the lights are LED, Father Bakkelund says, which will eliminate the need to annually bring in big equipment to change the light bulbs. 
Blue and gold are the prevailing colors throughout the sanctuary. That includes the ceiling over the altar area, which is painted a blue that is not as dark as a night sky, but of a sky just beginning to lighten with morning light, Father Bakkelund says. 
That ceiling is filled with golden lights — not silvery stars, but a mix of heaven and sky, he says, settling on the word “firmament” to showcase the “celestial mystery where heaven and earth join in praise of God.”
Father Bakkelund consulted with an ecclesiastical architect friend and did some of his own research to help the church become, he hopes, “a book that teaches us ... without words what we believe as Catholics.” 
Students of this church-sized “book” will include generations of children growing up at the parish. 
Father Bakkelund is hoping that what is noble and beautiful in this church building will be absorbed almost by “osmosis ... (to) form their Catholic DNA.”


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