Going Up: Dickson City church undergoing renovations

Monsignor Patrick Pratico stands beside the construction at the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Dickson City.

Part of a familiar Dickson City landmark is getting some improvements.

An orange construction fence blocks off the shrink-wrapped scaffolding topped with bricks at the rear entrance of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church on Carmalt Street. During the past few months, crews have been working steadily in the shadow of the tall twin steeples of the church built in the early 1890s to build an enclosed elevator to replace a staircase that takes parishioners and visitors from the church’s ground level to the nave, or the central part of

the church.

According to Monsignor Patrick Pratico, the project has been under careful planning and consideration for two years to improve the church’s accessibility, especially for the disabled.

But Pratico and other church leaders didn’t want the new construction to mar the building’s beauty. Keeping its history and architecture in mind, the project was designed to match the original foundation and brickwork of the church.

“It’s important that we don’t disrupt or take away from the integrity of the architecture and the art of the church,” the monsignor said. “I believe the project will be very, very nicely done and complement the existing church, which is important.”

Another part of the project called for

six stained glass windows to be crafted

to complement the ones at the front of

the church, along with a six-foot circular window. The circular window is similar

to one at The Church of Visitation in

Ein Karem, Jerusalem.

It depicts a scene from The Gospel of Luke referred to as “The Visitation.” In the story, Mary, still pregnant with the infant Jesus traveled to a small village in the Holy Land to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. Some Catholic commentators believe the purpose of the visit was to bring divine grace to both her cousin and her unborn child.

“That’s the gospel story that our church is dedicated to remembering,” said Pratico, who has led the church for

15 years.

The stained glass windows were designed by Classical Glass, a glass studio located in Jessup. They were fabricated by craftsman Robert Ephault.

Classical Glass artists have designed many stained glass windows all throughout Pennsylvania, including St. Ann’s Basilica in Scranton, the University of Scranton, Marywood and many more, according to local craftsman Ron Kordish.

Working with stained glass is difficult. The six windows and the circular six-foot window took hundreds of hours to complete, Kordish said. He talked about handling lots of individual pieces of glass and working with a kiln where temperatures can reach upwards of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. “It’s a lot of man hours. It can be very meticulous and time consuming. It requires a lot of patience,” said Kordish.

Despite the heat of the kiln and the long hours of meticulous work, Kordish said the rewards make all the hard work worth it. Pratico has seen the results of their handiwork and said he is very pleased.

“It’s been a really good project,” he said. “After doing mostly repairs and restorations, any time you get to work for the church, it’s good.”

Although there is visible progress, the project has experienced some slowdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the monsignor, the project most likely will not be finished for another few months.

“There’s been some significant delays in terms of businesses supplying materials for the project,” Pratico said. “We’re getting there. It’s been slow but it’s being done well and it’s worth the wait.”

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