church windows

Father Joseph Saba and Mary Gomez at St. Patrick Church. The church is currently raising funds to restore its stained glass windows.

BISBEE — The money needed to restore the 30 historic stained glass windows at St. Patrick Church has started trickling in, officials said Tuesday, with donations and grant money totaling just over $200,000 so far.

While the actual restoration and cleaning of the spectacular windows will cost $350,000, the church needs another $150,000 — for a total of $500,000 — for structural work and painting of the windows, church administrator and deacon Tony Underwood said this past summer.

Sitting inside the cavernous, 102-year-old church on Quality Hill Road Tuesday, Father Joseph Saba and parishioner Mary Gomez said they were grateful for the generosity of parish groups and individual parishioners who have donated either time, or money, or both, to the massive undertaking. Saba is campaign manager for the window restoration project’s fundraising effort and Gomez is secretary.

And the pair has been busy. Fundraisers have been non-stop and have included and will include: providing the food for over 1,600 people for the Bisbee 1000 The Great Stair Climb, continuous raffles such as a cookie raffle where winners could receive either a one-year, or half-year supply of cookies, an Italian feast and dance slated for Feb. 22 with tickets at $30 per person, and a Bisbee getaway package for two nights with tickets going on sale in January at $10 each.

That will include meals and gift baskets from various shops in Old Bisbee for the winners of the getaway, Gomez said.

“The really wonderful thing about this fundraising is that with this project the individual parish groups have stepped up and supported this effort,” Gomez said. “So it’s a parish-wide effort.”

Donations have poured in from seven states and the Philippines and Canada, Gomez said. Some individuals have sent “some very large checks, and the church also obtained a grant for $10,000,” Gomez said.

Both Gomez and Saba were struck by one donation from a woman who sold tamales in front of the Safeway in Bisbee and brought in a “pile of money” for the restoration project, Gomez said.

“She did not have the means to write a check, so she just showed up at the church one day and gave us a pile of money,” Gomez said. “We had no idea she was doing that.”

Another parishioner, who is a skilled wood and metal worker and artist, has donated several pieces for raffles.

“The involvement of the parishioners has been phenomenal,” Saba said. “We would not have been able to do this project without them.”

The 30 windows, made up of 2,377-square feet of stained glass, are in dire need of restoration and cleaning. However, it’s a project that has never been undertaken, Underwood said. The actual cleaning and restoration will be done by the descendants of Emil Frei, the Bavarian stained glass artist who designed and installed the windows in Bisbee in 1915. The company, Emil Frei & Associates, is based in St. Louis.

The restoration/cleaning has started and will take roughly three years because it has to be done seasonally. So far, four of the smaller windows — two on each side of the church — have been restored and cleaned, Saba said. At least seven to eight workers will be involved in the restoration, said Aaron Frei, who now runs Frei & Associates. The 39-year-old Frei is the great-great grandson of Emil Frei.

Local artist, production designer and videographer Michael Page — who has designed sets for the Oscars and most recently for the Grammy Awards tribute to Aretha Franklin — has been filming a short documentary at and about the church.

The film will be distributed worldwide, Page said recently, with the hopes of raising money for the church and attracting them to the church in the hopes that they will donate once they see the windows. Page said Tuesday that the video is almost done.

The restoration/cleaning has already started, and will take roughly three years because it has to be done seasonally. So far, four of the smaller windows — two on each side of the church — have been restored and cleaned, Saba said.

As the restoration project continues, it will probably involve seven to eight people and will cost about $350,000, Frei said. The remaining $150,000 is the cost of structural work and painting of the windows. That part is not done by the company, Frei said.

The painstaking process will include replacing oil-based putty sealants on the windows with silicone. The sealants help keep water out, Frei said. Next, the windows must be examined to determine if there are any cracks or shutters. Then the diffusion glass that is covering the windows will be removed and replaced with quarter-inch tempered glass.

Currently, the splendor of the church’s windows cannot be seen from the outside because they’re covered with the diffusion glass. Underwood said he hopes the windows can be lit from the inside at night once the restoration project is done, so they can act as a beacon.

Anyone interested in donating to the windows restoration project, or in purchasing tickets for fundraisers or raffles, can call the church office at: 520-432-5753, or email

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