Companies help put sparkle back into sacred vessels
Refinishing old, worn religious vessels saves parishes lots of money
By Tony Staley
GREEN BAY -- Metals tarnish, get scratched and lose their luster so it's not surprising that the old tabernacle doesn't look as beautiful as it once did. It's time for a new one.
Perhaps, but with new tabernacles costing $2,500 to $30,000, it may be more than the parish budget can absorb.
Or perhaps the old tabernacle has special significance to the parish. Maybe it was purchased when the church was built 100 years ago or was donated by a family and no one wants to part with it.
Parishes don't have to discard their old tabernacles - receptacles where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved - because there's another option, said the owners of two Green Bay religious goods companies.
Rather than replace the tabernacle, have it refinished, said Jeff Jandrain of Jandrain Religious Supplies, which has offered refinishing for 35 years. It will cost two-thirds or less than a similar new tabernacle, said Jandrain, whose company also sells new tabernacles.
And it's not just tabernacles that can be refinished. Most chalices, ciboria, monstrances, censers, processional crosses and candlesticks and other metal ware also can be refinished.
While saving money is one reason to have religious, family or personal items refinished, 90 percent of the time it's done for sentimental reasons, said Denis Kaster of F. Kaster
Company, Inc. His company has been offering refinishing since it opened in 1893 and has clients throughout Wisconsin, Upper Michigan and the nation, Kaster said.
For example, at Holy Cross Parish in Mishicot, a 100-plus year old monstrance that had been used in the original church had lost its shine. Fr. Paul Paider, pastor, had it regilded through Jandrain. Since he's been pastor the parish has had nearly everything regilded, Fr. Paider said. "They look brand new."
St. John Nepomucene Parish in Little Chute had two tarnished and dirty onyx-inset candlesticks that had been on the high altar of the original church. Earlier, a traveling salesman had cleaned two other candlesticks by dipping them in a solution, said Tom Kersten, worship director.
At first they looked fine, but in less than a year they were tarnished again. This time they called Jandrain. Two years later, "They look fantastic - brand new," Kersten said.
There can be other reasons to have metal ware refinished. Sometimes, Kaster said, after a parish redecorates and redesigns the sanctuary the new colors - for example, a medium oak - clash with silver.
"Then a lot of times people will have things refinished in a bronze finish because it complements the decor they just changed it to and vice versa," Kaster said.
Both Jandrain and Kaster send the metal ware to companies that made the particular article or, when the original manufacturer has gone out of business, to makers of similar products.
For example, Jandrain said, Milwaukee Safe Company made a tabernacle in the early 1900s whose lock could not be picked. Those tabernacles are no longer made, but two companies in Chicago can refinish an essentially irreplaceable tabernacle for about $3,000, he said.
Moisture, temperature changes, use and other factors all contribute to the wear on tabernacles and other metal ware, Jandrain said.
The first step is deciding whether to buy new or go for the restoration, Jandrain said. A parish might want to buy a new tabernacle to replace a homemade wooden one or a new chalice if the old one was made of a light-weight metal.
"Usually on the spot, when we see pieces when people bring them in, we can determine whether they're worth refinishing or if you're further ahead buying something new - if there is not a memorial question," Kaster said.
By looking at photos in catalogs, they can determine the value, who would refinish it and the approximate cost, Jandrain said. He is able to pick up the item at the church, box it in a special case and ship it, usually by truck, to the manufacturer.
It generally takes about six weeks to restore a tabernacle, Jandrain said, depending on what needs to be done. While the work is completed, the parish may use an old one, borrow one from another parish or the company will loan it one, he said. "It's never been a problem."
Jandrain said the refinishing includes removing scratches and making needed repairs.
With the rising cost of materials (brass, bronze, silver, sterling and gold), refinishing has become particularly attractive, Jandrain and Kaster said.
"A lot of the pieces that were made many years ago, before the metal markets went through the roof, a lot of the church metal ware used sterling silver as the base metal, which makes a lot of these pieces well worth refinishing," Kaster said.
"When you are getting chalices done, if the chalice is sterling silver or has a sterling silver cup, it's worth redoing because the price of sterling has appreciated so much," Jandrain said.
Items made of brass, bronze, gold, silver or sterling are generally worth restoring, Jandrain said, because doing so offers quality at a reasonable price.
"We've had chalices that people stuck $500 or $600 into that are worth $2,500-3,000 and up," he said. "That's a small investment to get it back to the original condition."
For more information on refinishing of metal ware contact:
Jandrain Religious Goods, 1482 Main St., Green Bay, WI 54302; (920)432-2758 or 1-800-242-2700; www.jandrainreligious.com.
F. Kaster Co., Inc., 2204 S. Ridge Rd., Green Bay, WI 54304; (920)494-6362.