First Posted: 7/17/2013
Bats in the belfry.
How about bees in the belfry?
Honey bees, that is. Thousands of them were removed last year from the bell tower Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Dupont. But the bees exposed a much more serious problem in the church.
The church had been plagued with bees for many years and several attempts to remove the bees proved to be a short term fix. Each year they would return and go deeper in the church edifice. The stairway to the choir loft proved to be a pathway for a game of dodge the bees and not get stung.
Finally, a beekeeper came to the rescue scratching out a path through walls leading up to the church bells. Ten hours later the queen bee was found and the honeycombs removed with her swarms of thousand of busy worker bees.
But this only exposed another problem: serious deterioration of the wooden columns which were holding up the towers.
Built in 1902, Sacred Heart Church was constructed with the help of idle coal miner parishioners who at the time were on strike. The structure was built completely of wood and completed within 6 months.
In 1947 the “stone-like skin” was added covering the entire church including both bell towers. The church appeared to be a sturdy stone structure that had well-stood the test of time until the bees finally lead the church to the problem that the imitation stone skin had concealed for years.
Upon close inspection it became clear the ravaging effects of more than a century of exposure to the elements had taken its toll and major renovations were needed.
“Most of the wood columns in the bell towers are 80 percent destroyed from years of moisture and bugs,” said Tim Stonikinis, a parishioner and local contractor. He believes that the only reason the bell towers didn’t collapse was the covering that was keeping it them place. But that covering, he said, added to the decay by holding in the moisture.
Father Joseph Verespy added the towers are only standing by the “grace of God.”
L.R. Constanzo of Scranton has been contracted to work on the renovations.
The extreme makeover began in April with an estimated completion date for early November.
Damaged wooden columns will be repaired or replaced using LVC — Laminated Veneer Lumber to the existing horizontal rim beams. The front porch will be completely replaced. The stone-like skin will be removed from the front of the church including both bell towers and a new façade will be put in place.
Project cost: $1 million.
While under construction the church will be closed and weekday Masses are being celebrated at the Cemetery Chapel located two blocks from the church on Lackawanna Avenue.
Weekend Masses will be celebrated in the church as usual.
The Rev. Philip Sladicka, Pastor of Queen of the Apostles Parish, Avoca; the Rev. Andrew Sinnott of the Nativity Parish in Duryea and Monsignor John Bendik of St John the Evangelist Parish, Pittston have opened their doors for funeral Masses during the week.
Weekend weddings will still be celebrated at Sacred Heart.
Father Verespy recently presented the “Restoring and Revitalizing Our Sacred Home” Capital Campaign 2013-2016 to the parishioners.
This is the first capital campaign the parish has conducted since 1962. There will be a brief 30 minute information meeting about the campaign in the church hall today, Sunday, July 21, following the 10:30 a.m. Mass and again on Wednesday, July 24 at 7 p.m. in the church hall.