A labor of love ... and light

COQUILLE — After a dozen years of cut fingers, painstaking measurement, and a shard of glass in the eye, the Rev. John McGuire has given his church the ultimate parting gift.

The wooden pews of the Holy Name Catholic Church are now bathed in the light of 23 stained glass windows — each crafted by McGuire himself.

The 73-year old priest calls it a labor of love and, on the eve of his retirement in July, a lasting memento to his congregation.

What began as an artistic flirtation turned into an affair for McGuire, who has slaved away at the windows every Monday — his one free day of the week — since 1999.

McGuire learned to design with stained glass after he agreed to give an elderly church-goer a ride to a workshop in North Bend. His curiosity was piqued by what he saw.

"I found it fascinating," McGuire said. 'It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle."

After creating an ambry for his church (a small cupboard to store holy oils) McGuire moved on to bigger task: replacing the church's colored window panes.

'If you had seen these colors, they were so ugly. We needed to upgrade them."

His teacher, Lucy Varoujean, drew the window designs, which included St. John, St. Jude and Christ surrounded by children. Members of his congregation donated funds for materials. McGuire, for his part, brought the six-foot panes to life.

Over the years, in staggered spurts, the windows have been placed. Six in the front of the church, followed by nine on the right side, and finally, in November, the placement of eight on the left.

But McGuire's mission wasn't without trials. His first window was shattered after a child accidentally hit it with an umbrella.

"It wasn't done on purpose, but I couldn't believe it," McGuire said, chuckling. 'All this work and 24 hours later it's broke."

On another occasion, about five years ago, a sliver of glass worked its way into the pastor's eye while he was working on a pane. McGuire flushed his eyes at Coquille Valley Hospital and escaped permanent injury.

McGuire said, now looking upon the rows of finished windows, he struggles to balance a desire to be humble with the pride in his accomplishment.

"Sometimes you don't realize how beautiful they are until you get them up and see them," said McGuire, standing before his favorite pane, an image of Jesus Christ. 'It's dull on a table, there's no light behind it."

But McGuire's satisfaction, after 12 years of work, is tempered only by a new resolution: after he completes a triptych behind the altar, he plans to take a rest from the medium.

Asked if he would like to replace the church's clear front windows with more stained glass, McGuire laughed.

"Definitely not."

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