“It feels more like we’re in church.”
John Baker, who attends Mass at Our Lady of the Snows Chapel in Climax Springs, approves of the newly installed stained glass windows.
“We’ve done several improvements over the past 10 years, and the windows just kind of topped it all off — the icing on the cake,” he said.
Modified to fit into a smaller space, the seven windows were originally created in the 1980s for the former St. Anthony Church in Camdenton.
That church, dedicated in 1973, was replaced by the current, much larger church in 2000.
The 16 stained glass windows from the previous edifice were carefully placed in storage before the building was sold.
“They’ve been there ever since,” said Father Daniel Vacca, pastor of St. Anthony Parish, which includes the chapel in Climax Springs.
“My gift to God”
The old St. Anthony Church did not have any stained glass until an itinerant artisan named John Thiesen offered to create some as the parish’s artist-in-residence.
The Wisconsin native had stopped in Camdenton on his way to Arizona, according to an article in the March 1, 1985, edition of The Catholic Missourian.
Father Joseph Starman, now deceased, who was pastor from 1982-87, welcomed his idea.
He let Mr. Thiesen turn the basement of the parish rectory into a makeshift stained-glass studio.
“I’ve always loved beautiful things, and this is my way of putting some beauty into the world,” Mr. Thiesen said at that time. “You can say it’s my gift to God.”
Ray Boemke, now deceased, who was grand knight of Knights of Columbus Council 6365 in Camdenton, spoke to individuals and parish organizations about sponsoring a window.
Mr. Thiesen drew up sketches for each window, then rendered them into full-size drawings, which he used as patterns for cutting the individual pieces of glass.
He filed each fragment down to size, then fastened it to the rest of the window with strips of molten lead.
Camdenton parishioner David Yeaman created the frames for each window, according to the 1985 article.
Mr. Thiesen said at that time that the work helped enliven his faith.
“I never really was very much into religion,” he stated, “mainly because I didn’t understand it. Now I’m beginning to understand.”
Some of the windows were still being created during the fire that destroyed the rectory in 1987.
Father James R. Fuemmeler, now deceased, who was pastor from 1990 to 2002, oversaw the salvaging of the windows and the completion of the project.
“A Lake community”
In 1983, Fr. Starman began offering Sunday Vigil Masses each Saturday afternoon during the tourist season near Coffman Bend Road and the Osage Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks in Climax Springs.
This became the Chapel of Our Lady of the Snows, complete with an outdoor altar and a dock for people to arrive by boat.
“As far as I know, we are still the only church in the state that has its own dock,” said Mr. Baker.
Volunteers helped build an indoor chapel in 1987, allowing Mass to be offered throughout the year.
Mass is celebrated at 3 p.m. each Saturday, except for Easter Sunday, when a special 3 p.m. Sunday Mass is offered.
Mr. Baker said about 28 people make up the core of the chapel’s regular congregants.
“But that doesn’t begin to tell you the size of our attendance,” he said. “We’re a Lake community. In the summertime, we might have 100 people attending Mass.”
The “big three” summer holiday weekends usually bring standing-room congregations of 150 people or more.
Winter congregations usually fluctuate between 30 to 35 worshipers, he said.
“It’s small. Everybody knows everybody,” he stated.
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, volunteers offer free shuttle service from the dock to chapel for those arriving by boat.
“Some of our boating friends come from as far as 20 miles away during the summer,” said Mr. Baker. “We bring them up to Mass from the dock and take them back down to the dock.”
“Like a glove”
Last year, Fr. Vacca and parishioners sought a way to put some of the old windows from Camdenton back into service.
The Our Lady of the Snows Chapel had double-paned windows of clear, beveled glass. They were efficient and attractive but had no color.
The frames there are about 30 percent smaller than were the windows from Camdenton, so the windows had to be cut down in order to be used there.
“The seven windows we chose have images in them that allowed for easy resizing,” said Fr. Vacca.
These included depictions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; St. Michael the Archangel; St. Francis of Assisi; the Holy Eucharist; the Madonna and Child Jesus; a Bible and candle design; and Jesus with the Children.
Village Glass in Columbia resized and reframed the seven windows.
“Each one was physically cut for a specific window,” said Mr. Baker. “And they fit like a glove when we got them back.”
Our Lady of the Snows congregant Norman Koelling installed each reconditioned window as it arrived.
Deacon Richard Von Gunten, a retired deacon of St. Anthony Parish, called it “a blessing and the grace of the Holy Spirit” that the windows have been given a new home.
Fr. Vacca agreed.
“They are a beautiful enhancement to our small church on the Lake,” he said.