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Lockport church renovations ‘lift your spirits to God’

Joliet Diocese Bishop Joseph Imesch addresses parishioners Sunday newly renovated St. John Vianney Catholic Church Lockport.  
|  Steve

Joliet Diocese Bishop Joseph Imesch addresses parishioners Sunday at the newly renovated St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Lockport. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 10, 2014 6:28AM



Glancing around the renovated St. John Vianney Catholic Church, the Rev. Stanley Drewniak had reason to smile Sunday.

Not only were the pews near capacity, Bishop Joseph Imesch, of the Joliet Diocese, had agreed to celebrate the Mass, offer words of inspiration and bless the new surroundings at the Lockport church.

There is a new cross, new windows, an office area, a new choir loft, a reconciliation room, a kitchenette, new classroom space and a crying room for families with little ones.

During the Mass, Imesch spoke highly of all the changes and won appreciative laughter when he said he didn’t know much Polish. About half the Mass was said in Polish, a nod to the strong Polish-American presence in the parish.

Mark Gariboldi, 53, of Joliet, was smiling when he shook the bishop’s hand after Mass.

“Oh, it means the world to have him here,” said Gariboldi, who’s been a parishioner since he was 6.

“It’s a great parish. I used to serve Mass (as an altar boy). It still looks like a barn, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve painted the outside, but Father Stanley has done a lot since he’s been here.”

After he greeted everyone as they left the church, Imesch said the renovations have created “a beautiful place to worship. It does lift your spirits to God.”

“It’s better compared to what was. It was very much like a barn. Very dingy inside. No uplifting feeling. Now, your heart is lifted up when you walk in here. Father Stanley deserves a lot of credit for reviving the parish,” Imesch said.

The number of families in the congregation has risen from 86 in 2009 when Drewniak arrived at the church to the current 206.

“My dream was for this to become a true place of prayer. We are growing with more families, and I’m happy that we came to this moment,” said Drewniak, a priest for 35 of his 60 years.

Paula Waxweiler has attended Mass at the church, 401 Brassel St., since 1962. She’s now the secretary of the parish council.

“This is the most exciting thing to happen here in years,” she said of the changes that cost $450,000, much of it donated by church members through special pledges.

“We had a wonderful team that came together, and Bishop Imesch was always there to support our parish,” she said.

It was only about five years ago that the parish was on thin ice, recalled longtime parishioner Ross Margentina, 66, of Homer Glen. Numbers were dwindling and there was talk of the church closing its doors, he said.

“But they kept it going. Father Andrew, he did a lot,” Margentina said of former pastor Rev. Andrew Buczyna, who started the renovation campaign in 1997.

“It was just the whole parish (working together). Once you walk into this place, it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s just beautiful,” Margentina said. “You have to do repairs over the years, and it’s fantastic now.”

He’s been at other churches that were larger, but he always came back to St. John Vianney.

“You know what I love the most here? It’s seeing the little kids in church. To me, we don’t need a crying room,” Margentina said with a smile.

He credits Drewniak with being “responsive” to parishioners as one reason why numbers have grown: “He tells and he shows us that he loves being here.”

After Mass, handing out church bulletins and steering parishioners to the kitchenette where a table overflowing with Polish sweets awaited, Jan Zapotoczny, 50, of Lockport, smiled when asked about the changes.

“It’s good for us, real good,” he said.



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