Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Petersburg is nearing the finish of its multi-year renovation of the church building. The original church was built in 1905 and currently serves a ten-mile radius of approximately 200 families. Rick Domeyer, who has coordinated the project with his wife Karen, said the people wanted their church to maintain its original beauty.
“A project of this magnitude must have been quite the undertaking out here in the middle of the country,” said Domeyer. “The church was paid for when it was completed the first time, which is why it became the first consecrated church in Iowa. The parishioners at the time had a lot of strength and faith. Some of them even mortgaged their farms to make a contribution to build the church at that time. That’s why we felt we needed to get it back in shape. It was starting to show its age and we wanted to keep it in good repair.”
The entire project has been in the works for the past four years with the first major project done on the exterior of the church building. Planning first began in 2017 with in-home feasibility studies and meetings, followed by the replacement of six small side-roofs on the church. In 2018, a launch event was held to present the needs of the church to the parishioners and the old roof was replaced with a new Decra steel roof.
In 2019 and 2020, the steeple roofs and trim were repaired and painted and the window renovation project began. Utility systems in the church were also improved this year with new lighting, a new service panel, and waterproofing the basement with a stormwater infiltration system, interior drainage system, sump-pumps, and dehumidifiers.
In 2020, the HVAC system was installed and painting of the church interior began under Riehle Decorating from Cresco. During this process, original paint and decorating were uncovered that had previously been painted over and art conservators from Detroit were hired to clean and restore the murals on the ceiling. New lighting was installed and the wood floors throughout the main body of the church were stripped, sanded, and sealed. The floor in the sanctuary was rebuilt entirely from hard maple and walnut nosing. The wood floor and stairs in the choir loft was also sanded and sealed.
More recently, in 2021, the work has focused on the church interior. The millwork throughout the building has been restored by local talent, the interior of the confessionals rebuilt, and the five wooden altars and close to 100 statues are being cleaned and restored. The full window restoration project was just completed in February, along with other practical features such as new carpet, lighting and insulation.
According to Fr. Dennis Quint, pastor of Saints Peter and Paul, much like the dedication of the original builders of the church, the funding for these renovations has almost entirely come from the generosity and passion of the parishioners, although additional funds have also come from outside the community.
“Most of the funding has come from our parishioners,” he said. “We’re so grateful to local businesses. There are native sons and daughters who’ve moved away, and some people who just have an interest in this kind of architecture, and we also looked to get some funding through the State of Iowa Historical Grant Program.”
Rick Domeyer agreed, adding, “Donations came from Alaska, Florida, Maine, people with past ties to the parish. Once we got the word out, the donations just came in. Most of it came from parishioners, but there was much outside interest in the project as well.”
While the interior renovation means Mass cannot currently be held in the church, parishioners have been attending mass in New Vienna. Daily mass has also been offered in the former school next to the church.
Fr. Quint said the renovations should be finished just in time for Holy Week and Easter.
“If we hadn’t embarked on the restoration of the altars and statues, we’d probably be in church right now. We’ve been extraordinarily fortunate that, by God’s providence, the contractors were able to complete the work in time and we had it scheduled favorably. That allowed us to do even more than what we had originally planned on. We’ll have Mass again on April, Holy Thursday, so we’ll celebrate the Triduum here and Archbishop Jackels will be here the following Tuesday, April 12, to celebrate Mass. A project like this always continues to unfold, and we’ll likely have little things to attend to, but the main work will be completed by then.”