GRAND RIVER -- As a member of the heritage committee for St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Grand River, Helen MacKinnon has made many weekday visits to her church to see how a major painting project is progressing.
"The most amazing thing is on Sunday," MacKinnon said, "when you walk in and see everybody looking to see what's happened from one Sunday to the other, and the excitement."
From her seat in the choir loft, organist Mary McGuire has noticed the interest in the project, too. "They come earlier and they walk around," she commented.
The interior painting project by Atlantic Cathedral Painters Ltd. started on April 2 and isn't expected to wrap up until around the end of May.
The work is part of the build-up to the church's 175th anniversary celebrations in 2014.
"It's an amazing project, and it is going to be so bright and beautiful and clean," MacKinnon marveled.
A crying room in the back corner has been removed, exposing another of the church's stained glass windows.
"Another dream come true," said parish priest, Fr. Albin Arsenault.
It is the third such project he has been involved in during his ministry and follows projects in Tignish and Miscouche.
"I knew it had to be done."
Fr. Arsenault said no work had been done to the interior of the province's second-oldest Roman Catholic church building in 40 to 45 years.
"It brings like a parish revival or parish renewal: it's so uplifting," he said.
The project, which also includes antique-looking light fixtures, upholstered antique seats for the sanctuary, repainting of the Last Supper which is set into the front of the Table of the Sacrifice, and sealing the exterior of the stained glass windows, is estimated to cost about $80,000.
A parish drive has already raised $60,000 for the project and more activities are planned including an evening of Island music in the Grand River Hall from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, May 27.
On Thursday, May 24 the parish is hosting a Mass of Thanksgiving in celebration of the project.
"We need to celebrate," said Fr. Arsenault, acknowledging the many people who have helped make it possible. "It is quite a big undertaking." Members of the congregation of the decommissioned Union Corner United Church have been invited to take part in the celebration. They donated six antique light fixtures from their church to the side chapel of the Grand River church.
The painters are going with three shades of green - lunette on the ceiling, pistachio on the walls and shaded spruce gingerbreads and outline. There's gold marbling for behind the main altar and on the end wall in the gallery, gold decals and white pillars and frames.
So many fine detailing in the William Critchlow Harris church design were hidden behind like-coloured layers of paint, observed Fr. Arsenault.
"They're bringing out details we weren't aware of before," MacKinnon agreed. "They just sort of faded in before."
Organist Mary McGuire enjoys watching the transformation of her church.
"There's a great sense of community and helping one another in the parish," she said.
Fr. Arsenault added, "There's so much pride that it's taking place; that (the church) is not taken for granted."