There might not have been any room at the inn, but baby Jesus just got a nice place to call home this Christmas at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Chippewa Falls.
The church hasn’t had a nativity scene displayed outside for more than 10 years, before the old welcome center was demolished, said Vi McMahan, the parish secretary.
“It’s been missing,” she said.
McMahan thought the nativity scene was something the parish really needed.
Fr. Ed Shuttleworth, the parish priest, is equally excited to finally have a manger scene again. It’s not just another piece of Christmas decoration, the pastor said. Instead, its about “evangelization; reminding people of the true meaning of Christmas.”
“It certainly makes it very visible,” McMahan said.
The new one will be fantastic, she said. “I think that it’s beautiful.”
The new nativity scene will be composed of about 15 different figurines that stand almost three feet tall. The stable that will house the figures was built by three parishioners.
“I suppose, since it’s Christmas, you could call them my three wise men,” Shuttleworth said, “or wiseguys.”
Jim Loew and Dick Schemenauer, two of the ‘wise guys,’ said having a manger scene is important for the church, and they don’t mind the work.
“It gives me great enjoyment,” Loew said.
“It was exciting and fun to do,” Schemenauer said. Last year, he had built a similar, but smaller, version for his brother-in-law.
Loew and Schemenauer contribute to the parish in other ways, too, from pluming to mending fences, and have become some of the pastor’s go-to guys.
In fact, Loew has played an important role in another of the church’s recent upgrades.
Loew made a donation to the parish that has been used to purchase the three new crosses that cap off roof renovations.
“Every time we had any wind we would have shingles in the yard,” Shuttleworth said.
The new roof was especially important considering that the church’s interior was remodeled around 2000.
If the roof sprung a leak, the interior could be damaged.
The roof was completed in the summer, but the church’s towers were only finished a few weeks ago, with new stainless steel crosses capping them off just before the first snowfall of the year.
Mike Kulp, of Kulp Roofing, spent around 60 hours on designing, building and installing the three crosses. The biggest of the three stands taller than seven feet. The steel crosses are coated in titanium nitrite, a compound that gives them their gold-like finish. Theoretically, the finish should never fade.
The finish on the old crosses certainly did. The old copper crosses turned a paler shade of green.
For Kulp, this job was one of his favorites.
“This is the neatest job I’ve ever done,” he said.
He’s done bigger jobs, and more intricate jobs, but he likes the finished product at St. Charles better than any of the others.
With the addition of the crosses, this stage in the renovations is complete.
And the parish managed to do it without incurring any debt, a feat that leaves Shuttleworth feeling content.
“The parishioners here have been very generous,” he said, “Basically we raised a couple hundred thousand dollars in two weeks.”
The next step is refurbishing the three bells in the bell tower. The bells were cast in 1909 and bear Latin inscriptions. The last time Shuttleworth was up there he wasn’t able to copy them down. But he will the next time he’s up there.
He wants to translate the inscriptions which he said are all legible. Most likely they declare some sort of dedication or blessing, he said.
The bell tower itself is in a certain amount of disarray. The bells have been ringing for more than a hundred years. Each time they reverberate with 7,000 pounds of force, Shuttleworth said. Its taken its toll on the brickwork.
This part of the project was supposed to be started already, but the person scheduled to do the work is sick.
Most likely the project will be completed next summer, Shuttleworth said.