Lowe’s aids St. Agnes sacristan by restoring altar

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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God must have wanted a newly refurbished altar.

Or so it seems to residents of St. Agnes Apartments, a Cardinal Ritter Senior Services residence in south St. Louis. They enjoyed a series of fortunate events that led to a sorely needed replacement altar.

Ken Grant is one of two sacristans who set up St. Agnes' multipurpose room each Saturday for Mass, but the altar was unstable. In search of a replacement, Grant contacted Deacon Joe Streckfuss of the archdiocesan Reclamation Center, which stores items — such as altars — from closed parishes and other facilities for re-use in the future.

A few weeks later, Deacon Streckfuss called back with an altar for St. Agnes. The wooden structure, weighing about 65 pounds, was damaged and needed repair, but Grant took it anyway. He estimated a new altar might cost around $2,500.

Grant planned to refinish it and went to the Lowe's home improvement store near Loughborough and I-55 in south St. Louis in search of a refinishing kit. He couldn't find one, and an employee asked him if he needed help. Grant explained the situation.

The employee happened to be the store manager, Kyle Ayo, who offered to donate not only the materials but also the labor. One of his employees, Mark Vancil, has a woodworking shop in his garage and Lowe's has a community outreach program that helps organizations such as Cardinal Ritter, a Catholic Charities agency.

"I don't use this word lightly, but I found that somewhat miraculous," Grant said, considering the odds that he'd run into the store manager who had a solution for his dilemma.

Lowe's website details its commitment to community service and being a good neighbor; employee volunteers provide thousands of hours of support to local communities as part of the Lowe's Heroes program.

Ayo was happy to help once he learned about the altar project and Grant's commitment to it. "Our thing at Lowe's, our purpose for existing, is helping people where they live," Ayo said, noting that Vancil "did a fantastic job. ... He's amazing with woodwork."

Now, the priest-celebrant at St. Agnes has an altar that's sturdy.

"We don't have to worry about him taking a tumble," Ayo said. "Life is good."

Lowe's workers picked up the altar and brought it back to St. Agnes in time for Mass on March 3. The altar is stained to match the celebrant's chair. The altar will be dedicated and blessed at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 8, with Mass at 4 p.m. 

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