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“Windows of faith” article features new windows by Emil Frei & Associates in Oklahoma

By Shana Adkisson

Reprinted from August 19, 2012 in The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — When Father Thomas J. Boyer looks at the stained-glass windows recently installed at Saint Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, he admits it’s hard to look away.

Earlier last week, William Frank and Aaron Frei, associates from Emil Frei Associates of St. Louis, Mo., were at the church to install the windows.

“I feel grateful to the donors, to the people that stepped up and said, ‘Yes, we will do this,” Boyer said.

Each window, which cost about $5,000, is made of mouth-blown glass. Money for the project came within the church, Boyer said. Each donor will receive a piece of Plexiglas with their window on it.

“When Father Boyer approached us, his basic idea was to have Prophets on one side and Apostles on the other side. In the manner in which that was done was entirely up to us,” said Frank, who designed the windows.

Boyer said that he chose Emil Frei Associates because their reputation is unmatched.

“I grew up with their windows. The church where I was baptized in had Frei windows. I think when you grow up surrounded by beauty, you know it when you see it,” Boyer said.

Founded in 1898 by Aaron’s great-great grandfather, Emil, the company has installed windows at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and at St. Luke’s Methodist Church in downtown Oklahoma City.

“Everything we do is about light. Generally, the ideal way of seeing stained-glass is to have it lit on just one side. Anytime you have it lit on both sides, you lose some information,” Frank said. “In this case we went with a very deep palette for a number of reasons. One is the strong sunlight, this chapel faces south. Especially in the winter, there will be a lot of sunlight. Two, when you use a deeper palette, you can get the wider range of colors.”

The chapel is generally used by the church for daily mass and Eucharistic adoration.

“It is an intimate setting, so the idea of the windows was to have them maintain interest over a long period of time. They are fairly intricate. While they represent people, we have not labeled them, they are labeled but not with words, but with a symbol and scripture,” Frank said.

Even though all the images in the windows are not the same, each is of Prophets or Apostles gesturing.

“The reason to have them gesture is the conversation with one another and the worshiper,” Frank said. “Through the day, with the changing of the light, you can see different things.”

Frei, part of a fifth generation to work for the company, said the windows will last a lifetime.

“It’s a great feeling. You grow up with this, so at first you take it for granted. As you grow older, you get wiser, and you start to realize how special it is,” Frei said.

Even though he admits it sounds cliché, Frei said that he hopes whoever sees the windows finds inspiration.

“And not just for the beauty, because they are beautiful, but they have content to them and they have symbolism to them. We hope on some level, that they serve their level as a sacred art and will lead believers closer to God,” Frei said.

Designing and constructing the windows took about a year.

“When I work on the project, I see one section at a time. I can put them up in a window, but to get the whole effect, you can’t have it until you are at the actual site. In a sense what we do is work on a bunch of parts. It’s really exciting. It’s a surprise, we don’t know what we are getting. We have a better idea than probably anybody, but still we are surprised. It’s a complicated medium. We will always still be learning,” Frank said. “It’s tricky when you are dealing with light, the quality of the sun is hard to predict. We do have a lot of experience in it so there are a lot of known quantities. I think a lot of what we do is successful because that experience has been passed on from generation to generation in the business.”

Boyer, said he got the idea for the windows one day while he was praying inside the chapel and realized there were 12 windows.

“I thought, this ought to be the Apostle’s Chapel,” Boyer said.

But then, Boyer had to come up with an idea of what to do with the other side of the chapel.

“Coming together of the Old Testament and the New Testament in this space is a beautiful example of what Christ is,” Boyer said. “Aaron and I had fun dialoguing about which Prophets to choose because there are far more than 10. Finally, I gave way to his suggestion and that’s when the selection was Will’s, actually.”

Shana Adkisson 366-3544 sadkisson@normantranscript.com

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