— Representatives from Most Holy Trinity Church announced this week that interior renovations and technology upgrades have been completed at the 133-year-old church.
Crews from the John Canning Company, a Cheshire-based church restoration firm, began work on the church’s plaster ceiling on March 17.
"Between the vibration from the nearby railroad tracks, the workings of the heat and air conditioning system, and the passage of one-hundred-plus years, the plaster was dis-adhering from the structure,” Jerry Farrell, Jr., parish trustee and church historian, said in a statement.
Workers accessed the attic through the church steeple via scaffolding.
“It's to get our people up to that attic space quickly and efficiently,” said David Riccio, a principal with Canning, in a statement provided by Holy Trinity, “otherwise they have to crawl through the organ.”
Riccio said at the time of construction, plaster walls and ceilings were created by putting wet plaster onto wooden lathe. As it dried, the plaster wrapped around the back of the individual piece of wood lathe creating a “plaster key,” which holds the plaster ceiling up.
Over time, some of the keys broke on the backside of the plaster, which allowed sections of plaster to break away from the overall structure.
Workers strengthened the existing plaster keys and recreated new keys using synthetic materials that are stronger than the original, Riccio said.
After Canning crews exited the attic space, electrician Greg Klimazewski from Millennium Electrical entered.
"We realized that this attic space is so far to get to that, if a fire ever started, we would not know," Farrell said.
To notify the fire department, the church had heat detectors installed in the attic by John Yusza from Monitor Controls, a Wallingford security monitoring company.
"If you remember, the fire at Notre Dame in Paris broke out in the attic," Farrell said, “so that attic space becomes a key area to monitor.”
Father Andres Mendoza Floyd, church pastor, said the ceiling should last another 150 years.
"There's no question all of this work needed to be done," Mendoza said, "but we have gone into our savings to get it done."
The work on the plaster alone, including the ceilings and some additional walls, totals more than $650,000, he said.
The church also spent $20,000 on a camera system to live stream church services during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"Within a week of the pandemic hitting, we were able to install a camera in the church with a live streaming system," said Christine Mansfield, also a church trustee. "It's never the same as being here together as a congregation and being able to receive Holy Communion, but it still helps give people spiritual comfort and keeps us connected."
The live streaming camera system was installed by Pascom Sound, a Guilford-based firm that specializes in sound systems for churches. The firm said it was one of the first systems installed during the pandemic.
"Holy Trinity was really on top of things," said Peter Scandone, Pascom owner.
In addition to televising Mass, the live streaming has been used to broadcast a weekly virtual coffee hour with Mendoza, daily recitations of the Rosary, the Divino Lectio scripture reflections lectures and a virtual concert by parish musicians.
"Even when the pandemic is over, having this system is a benefit,” Mendoza said. “There are certainly parishioners who are homebound and can't attend, as well as others who might want to attend a friend's funeral or a grandchild's First Communion, but are thousands of miles away.”
The live streaming can be accessed through the parish website, www.mhtwallingford.org.
The website has become more user-friendly with help from parishioner Nick Passariello.
"Our website has been a key way of connecting with parishioners, so making it easier to use has helped," Mendoza said.
Wallingford residents looking forward to the Most Holy Trinity Church bazaar, usually held the first week of June, will be a bit disappointed.
The annual raffle is slated for 10 p.m. June 6, but the bazaar itself will not happen this year.
Robert Cassello, chairman of the bazaar committee, said that parishioners who want to help the church financially can buy additional raffle tickets by calling the rectory at 203-269-8791.
Also under construction has been the new parish prayer garden, located to the south of the rectory near the existing Virgin Mary statute.
Individual bricks engraved with the names of parishioners are slated to be installed by the end of the month.
Commenting on the future, Mendoza said that he sees “a bright and hopeful future” and wants the church “to be in the best position to welcome back parishioners, when that time comes."
"While my heart breaks that we have been apart for so long a time, and people have been hurting so much because of the loss of loved ones and other personal circumstances," Mendoza said, "I am hopeful we will soon again be together praying and singing and seeing one another."