Chapel to get stained-glass makeover

BRIGHTON, Mich. – This month De La Salle Collegiate will have a stunning new addition to its already beautiful chapel.

Thanks to a generous donation from Mrs. Irene Wojcik, the 84-seat chapel will shine even brighter with the installation of a new stained-glass window.

“It was my idea to do a window and it made sense to do one of Saint John Baptist de La Salle,” said Joe Gerardi, De La Salle’s vice president of mission and ministry. “I got in contact with the archdiocese to find out who to go to.”

Gerardi was directed to Brighton-based Thompson Art Glass, which is working furiously to finish this month. The stained glass, which measures nearly 97 square feet, will be welcomed addition that will replace the plain tempered glass and vertical blinds behind the altar.

“They’re a fourth-generation company and they do, and have done, both new and all kinds of restoration projects for the Archdiocese of Detroit, as well as all other kinds of places,” Gerardi said. “Sounds like their bread and butter has been doing a lot of work for the archdiocese.”

Thompson’s artists have provided artistic renderings of the colorful piece, which Gerardi hopes is installed before Jan. 27 when Bishop Robert Fisher is scheduled to celebrate the next all-school liturgy. Bishop Fisher is to bless the stained glass during his visit.

“Thompson Glass asked for examples of Lasallian art,” Gerardi said. “So I basically gave them a bunch of stuff, features of Lasallian art. They don’t know anything of who Saint John Baptist de La Salle is, so we gave them various images that are out there of him and the symbols that are used with him.”

From the time of the idea’s conception, the project will take approximately 18 months to finish.

Recently, Gerardi – along with Brother Ken Kalinowski and De La Salle art teacher John Hicks – visited Thompson’s art studios to get a peek at the project’s progress. Gerardi said it’s amazing to watch the artists work with so many different colors.

“There are at least a few dozen colors that are being used,” he said. “It’s all different shades. It’s a process with only two panels at the top that has the darkest of dark blues. Then it’s like layers of different blues. At the bottom, all of the browns and the grays are all choices. 

“What they wanted to do with us was give us a range. What’s the darkest you want to go and what’s the lightest you want to go? For instance, the rabat – which is the white piece worn by the Christian Brothers – that’s actually going to be a clear glass that they’ll paint on. The black of the habit, the glass for all of that will all be gray. Then there will be some staining of that glass in some black so there are some striations so you’ll see the folds.”
As for Mrs. Wojcik’s involvement, Director of Alumni Relations Dennis Koch learned of her plans to make a donation to the school and thought the stained-glass project was a perfect fit. Mrs. Wojcik’s son, Mark, is a 1969 alumnus.

“Dennis knew that Mark’s mom was interested in making a donation to the school in some fashion or another,” Gerardi said. “Then Dennis put her in touch with me knowing that this project was out there as a possibility. She loved the idea and we will be doing a dedication to her late husband (Joe) and family.”

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