Restoration to Date:
Daunting Task in Small Steps
Due to the size of the campus, the immensity of the church, the dilapidated infrastructure, and the fledgling nature of a new congregation, restoring St. Francis de Sales is a daunting task from any perspective. Nevertheless, since 2005, the restoration done in steady, small steps by the community has yielded appreciable fruits.
Renovation of the three-story, 25-room convent began in August 2009, and continues to the present day. So far the restored rooms have served the Oratory community well for priestly retreats and guest housing for the recent Ordinations of 2014.
The former high school building has been completely renovated and updated as part of the lease agreement to a public charter school, KIPP Wisdom Academy, which has an excellent track record of sending underserved students to college through academic achievement.
The high school gym building has been re-roofed and is in daily use by students of the charter school and of the homeschool program. Two adjoining rooms on the ground floor are being used by an active St. Vincent de Paul Society of the Oratory, serving the poor of the city. An additional four-room apartment on the upper floor of the gymnasium building is scheduled for conversion into office space, pending availability of funds.
Landscaping: New exterior lighting has been installed, illuminating the church tower in the nightscape of the city. The old deteriorated sign in front of the church has been replaced with an architecturally compatible digital board which announces the activities of the community. New greenery in front of the church and a new garden between the rectory and the convent have been installed to beautify the exterior of the church and the neighborhood.
The tower was cleaned out and screened to keep out the birds. Decades of damage from pigeon intrusion inside the tower has been reversed; the damaged gutters have been repaired, and the tower sealed from further pigeon damage in the future.
Two priceless stained glass windows were removed for storage to prevent further damage, while the window structure is evaluated for repairs.
The sanctuary and the sacristy of the church have been restored for daily celebration of the liturgy. In particular, the restored sacristy of St. Francis de Sales is a visible, stunning work of art and beauty, serving its intended purpose every day of the week – like the majestic interior of the church itself.
The rectory has been renovated to house the clergy, the office staff, and candidates of an ongoing pre-seminary program. The offices have been modernized with up-to-date facilities for digital-age communication and office administration. The renovation of the rectory was notable because of its seriously dilapidated condition in 2005. Restored with the help of a committed community comprised of new and old members, the accomplished work stands as a tangible example of the passion and goodwill of the Oratory’s devoted community.
The former grade school, known as the “1888 Building,” has been cleaned and refurbished as classrooms to serve the educational and catechetical needs of many families of the Oratory, particularly those in the homeschooling co-op program. The third floor of this building is heavily used as the rehearsal rooms for the substantive Sacred Music Program of the Oratory. The entire building, however, is in need of renovation.
The church hall is slowly being renovated to accommodate the frequent use by the congregation on Sundays as well as during the week. Recently completed work has included the renovation of the restrooms, portion of the stage, and updated lighting.
Damaged in a severe storm last winter, a stained glass window in the sanctuary was evaluated and repaired by Emil Frei and Associates over a five-month period. The repair will serve as a model for the much-needed repairs of the St. Francis de Sales' other iconic stained glass windows.
An energy study of the church building continues.
Our beautiful church is quite a sight from a distance, but over the years this great edifice is in need of great repair and restoration. Over the past years we have been hard at work trying to restore this piece of St. Louis' tradition.
For the last several weeks, roofers have been hard at work replacing our lower roofs. Water intrusion was becoming more and more serious. This repair work will now give us some ease of mind. This lower roof is ready to handle St. Louis weather for another 100 years.