TOWNSEND — The rediscovery of a vibrantly colored stained glass window took the new pastor of St. John the Evangelist by surprise, but older parishioners recall the window in the building that was the Catholic parish’s first church.
The window was hidden in the attic of Father Mealey Hall, accessible by a rickety staircase. A bird’s nest obscured the portrait of a haloed figure in a red robe holding a bright green book and quill.
“This is really fun. It’s beautiful,” the Rev. Jeremy St. Martin said.
The window over the front door on School Street was barely visible from the outside. Window framing blocked most of the artwork from view.
Stained glass is meant to be seen from inside, St. Martin said. A floor blocked the window from sight of people using the main hall.
It portrays St. John the Evangelist. The unbearded man is identified by the Bible and quill he holds as a writer of the Book of John in the Bible, and by the shields on either side of the window.
One shield shows a winged snake leaving a glass of wine. In a traditional story, the apostle was once saved from death when the poison in his cup departed in the form of a snake, St. Martin said.
The other shield shows an eagle, one of the symbols representing the saint.
The window, completely intact, is in remarkable shape, St. Martin said, and the leading holding the pieces of glass in place is good.
A parishioner has removed the window and will clean and reframe it before installing it in the choir loft over the front door in the current church building.
The skilled craftsman is donating his labor and wants to remain anonymous, St. Martin said.
The present-day church was completed in 1960. The old church building where the window was originally installed, Father Mealey Hall, was completed in 1885.
Another stained glass window from the old church is installed over the altar in the newer building.
As they once did in the old church, the two round windows, each about four feet high, will soon face each other from opposite sides of the building.
The recently uncovered window is dedicated “In memory of Rev. John J. Hughes DD.” Hughes was pastor of the church from 1951 until his death in 1952. He purchased the former Fessenden mansion that is now used as a rectory.
Father Mealey Hall, originally used for Masses, has seen renovations and changes in use since it was built. Now church groups and other organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous use it for meetings, St. Martin said.
Other changes are occurring on the grounds of the Catholic church at the top of the common.
A work crew of prisoners coordinated by the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department is prepping and painting the exterior of the building.
Volunteers are working on plans to replace the parish hall, burned to the ground in January.
Parishioners have been looking forward to seeing the window installed at the church. Hirk and Louise Fortin remember the window from when they moved to Townsend and began attending St. John’s in 1959.
Colin McNabb, a younger Parish Council member, never saw the window before St. Martin rediscovered it.
The installation of the window over the church doors on Brookline Street will change the appearance of the church from the outside.
“It’s part of the history of the town,” St. Martin said.