SHELTON – Large stained-glass images of a Native American princess and a 19th-century missionary now greet visitors in the entry narthex at St. Edward Church.
The windows, which replaced plain glass, were conceived by St. Edward’s pastor, Father Ron Belisle, to honor “local, historical holy people who lived in our day and age.” Since his parishioners include members of the Squaxin Island and Skokomish tribes, the pastor wanted to make sure they were represented, too.
“Father Belisle has always had a deep desire to reach out to the two tribes of our parish,” said parishioner Bonnie Sanchez, a member of the Squaxin Island Tribe. The new windows are “affirming to the native people of the parish,” she added.
One window depicts Princess Angeline, the Catholic daughter of Chief Seattle, extending a basket of corn and squash in greeting. The adjoining window features 1830s missionary Father Francis Norbert Blanchet holding a “Sahale stick” (stick from heaven). Father Blanchet used the “Catholic ladder” to show Native Americans the passage of time from the creation of the world, to the advent of Christianity, to his own arrival to the Pacific Northwest.
Each stained-glass window is actually made of two panes, totaling 8 feet high and 3 and a half feet wide. The windows’ vivid earth tones and blues reflect those of St. Edward’s judgment day window that was installed in 2014, according to glass artisan Jim Perry. He and his team at Perry Stained Glass Studio in Issaquah completed both window projects.
Below the feet of Princess Angeline are two small glass inserts. One shows a leaping salmon whose body contains smaller figures depicting the medicine animals for each of the seven clans of the Squaxin Island Tribe, Sanchez said. The other panel depicts a dog in the same style as often seen on the Skokomish Tribe’s traditional baskets and blankets. “Dogs provided wool for their blankets, traded up and down the coast,” Perry explained.
After deciding on the theme for the windows, the planning committee sent photographs and design ideas to Perry, who coordinated with English designer Deborah Lowe. After Lowe’s designs were approved by the parish, Perry and his team assembled the windows from hand-blown antique glass purchased from various suppliers. After installation, the windows were covered with tempered glass for protection.
Father Belisle said two more stained-glass windows are being designed. One will feature Mother Joseph of the Sisters of Providence, who arrived in the Washington Territory in 1856 and opened more than 30 hospitals, schools and orphanages in the Pacific Northwest. The other window will honor Father Mark Weichmann, who served as pastor of St. Edward pastor from 1935-1965.
Tribal leaders to join dedication
St. Edward Parish will dedicate the new stained-glass windows in its church at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 22.
Parish tribal members will participate as readers and drummers. Danielle Ewart, a descendant of Chief Seattle, has been invited to be an honored guest. The ceremony will conclude with an offering of plants and flowers to be planted in the parish Prayer Garden.
St. Edward Church is located at 601 W. C St., Shelton.