For Ken Eldridge, it is a calling.
The local man works steadily in St. Patrick’s glass studio in the Flynn building.
He’s now designing and creating 15 windows that are part of a Divine Mercy project for the Catholic Church in Fremont.
But he began working on stained glass windows for the church years ago.
His glass work with the church began in about 2008 when he learned that the Rev. Owen Korte, then the senior pastor, was looking for someone to restore stained glass windows for the parish.
He began refurbishing five interchangeable stained glass medallions with scenes based on different events of the year for Archbishop Bergan Catholic High School.
When parishioners wanted to see work on other windows, he and an apprentice started restoring long windows from the former church sanctuary downtown. The windows went into 12 classrooms in St. Patrick’s Elementary School. Two of the windows went at the school’s chapel entrance. He worked on two other windows that featured saints and he designed two rose windows.
The project took five years.
After the Rev. Dave Belt became senior pastor at St. Patrick’s, Eldridge created a sacred heart window for the priest.
Eldridge also began construction of six windows, depicting parables, for the east nave of the church. The parables or stories depicted are: The Lost Sheep; The Good Samaritan; The Prodigal Son; The Parable of the Sower; “I Am the Vine, You are the Branches”; “You are the Light of the World.”
“In 2017, I had to take a year off,” said Eldridge, who was diagnosed with throat cancer and had radiation. “I’m a one year and five month cancer survivor.”
The parable windows were installed in 2018.
Eldridge donates his time for the work.
After the grade school windows were finished years ago, however, he was told that would be the last project due to finances.
When Belt came to the church, he and Eldridge talked about the parable windows.
“I really feel in my heart the Holy Spirit is telling me that I have to start the Parables (windows). Is there any possible way that could be done?” Eldridge asked.
Funds for materials came from parishioners.
“From that point on, it’s truly the Holy Spirit guiding my hand and telling me, ‘You have to complete this,’” he said.
When the Rev. Walter Nolte came to the church, the direction of stained glass construction would change.
Eldridge is now working on 15 windows in the Divine Mercy project, set to be installed April 28 in the church.
“The Archdiocese considers St. Patrick’s to be the Cathedral in the Country and I’m driven and so is Father Nolte to finish what the church is destined to have and in Catholicism, every stained and painted glass window tells a story,” he said.
Eldridge points out that hundreds of years ago, stained glass windows helped parishioners who were illiterate. Masses were held in Latin, which most people didn’t speak, so they could study the stories told via the windows, which strengthened their faith.
“I’m driven to do that still today,” he said about telling stories through the windows. “It’s like putting a baby in your arms for the first time—the feeling for me is so strong that I have to do it.
“I’ve dedicated the rest of my time on this earth to do work for the Catholic Church.”
Eldridge reflects on the church members praying during his bout with cancer.
“The whole parish praying for me is like—my mission is not done,” he said. “I still have work to do here. I feel that in my heart.”