LUXEMBURG — When John Paider walks into St. Mary Catholic Church in Luxemburg, he can still picture the scaffolding that rose to the ceiling of the cavernous nave during its renovation six years ago.
He and his wife, Ann, have been active members of the parish since the 1970s. Among their largest projects was serving on the committee overseeing remodeling of the church.
The interior “needed painting, and it needed maintenance. The plaster on the wall was cracking,” said Ann, who estimated that the previous update took place more than 25 years ago.
Built during the mid-1880s in the Gothic style, the church has an open, airy feel with lofty ceiling arches.
The arches and ornate wall carvings were all covered in a drab beige, Ann recalled. “It was in the minimalist ‘70s style and needed (attention focused on) the glory of the arches.”
Older photos of the church gave the committee the inspiration for the renovation, which took nearly a year to complete and included a new roof, John said.
The goal was to return the church to its original glory before the ordination of Fr. Mark Mleziva, a son of the parish, in 2017.
The renovation brought the space to life with colorful paintings of angels on each side of the tabernacle and ornate borders drawing attention to the original stained-glass windows, as well as the elaborately painted ceiling medallions and carved wall décor. A dusty blue unifies the color scheme and gold leaf, arch shapes and a Gothic rose motif tie the space together.
Even the crucifix had touches of “70s orange,” and was replaced, Ann said.
After celebrating Mass in the St. Mary School cafeteria during the renovation, the church reopened for worship at Easter time. “It was a grand resurrection of our church,” Ann said. “It gave me a sense of pride that we’re giving proper respect to Our Lord’s house.”
Another of the Paiders’ large joint projects was helping renovate the rectory for the arrival in 2018 of Fr. Daniel Schuster, who took the late Fr. Milton Suess’ place as pastor. “We put a bathroom in, upstairs, and replastered the upstairs bedroom,” John said. The kitchen floor also needed a good scrubbing from years of accumulated wax, Ann said.
In addition, the Luxemburg couple worked together on the parish’s One By One committee and, through the diocesan-wide campaign, helped raise enough funds to replace the ‘70s-style tabernacle. The new tabernacle features an image of the Virgin Mary on the front and echoes the arch design of the sanctuary.
John, who is retired from Algoma Hardwoods, grew up in Pilsen. He is from a large Catholic family that included two aunts who became religious sisters, Sr. Hermana Paider and Sr. Germaine Paider, who were members of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Bay Settlement, and an uncle, Norbertine Fr. Roger Paider.
Ann retired after 48 years working as an X-ray technician for the Luxemburg Medical Clinic, now Prevea Luxemburg Clinic. She was also raised Catholic and is from Dyckesville. She had one aunt, Sr. Martin Vandervest, who is a member of the Bay Settlement Franciscans.
The couple met when they were both working as emergency medical technicians for the Luxemburg Rescue Squad. They have six children.
Ann started volunteering teaching religious education classes when their youngest was in sixth grade. She later progressed to middle school and high school and continues to teach freshmen and sophomores.
Ann is also a lector and helps with the Scrip program for the school. She is a past Christian Mothers Society president and current member, responsible for coordinating its annual parish fundraising dinner. She also works for the Luxemburg Rescue Squad and is volunteer and treasurer for Marv Bin Food Pantry in Casco.
John, a volunteer firefighter for 40 years, served on the parish finance committee for eight years. He also served on the parish council and was a parish trustee. Currently, he is in charge of the Knights of Columbus Lenten fish fries.
“John and Ann were literally at my rectory door to help make the transition when I arrived,” Fr. Schuster said. “As a couple, they represent all of the hardworking people that come here to worship.
They embrace the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. When a new challenge arrives, they are ready to help with a can-do attitude. Most especially, John and Ann love their Catholic faith and their family.”