Kevin Fisher stands before his favorite stained glass window at Kalida St. Michael Church. Created specially for the church by the Franz Meyer co., the window recognizes the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, the order that helped found St. Michael's, and a number of nearby parishes - Putnam Sentinel
Kevin Fisher stands before his favorite stained glass window at Kalida St. Michael Church. Created specially for the church by the Franz Meyer co., the window recognizes the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, the order that helped found St. Michael's, and a number of nearby parishes. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

KALIDA — Is this a job or a calling?

“More of a calling,” answers Kevin Fisher, Head of Maintenance for Kalida St. Michael Catholic Church. Jan. 1, 2019 marked 30 years with the church for Fisher. He was then asked if, three decades ago when he was first hired, was it a job or a calling?

“It was a job. Because I could leave here and make a whole lot more money.”

When did the change happen?

“I don’t know. Probably when I started writing a book about the church. I started with that around 1994.”

Although Fisher comments that he does pray every day, he also says that his particular calling is more towards the building, the expert craftsmanship, dedication to longevity, and attention to detail that went into its creation, than it is an expression of his faith.

“I take a lot of pride,” he continues. “I polish the floors to where you can see your reflection. The yard is picture perfect. Things like that.”

Pride not only in a job well done, but in who he is doing the work for, the parishioners.

“When I shovel the snow,” Fisher says, “I’m thinking, ‘My grandma is coming to church.’ ”

When asked if he, as someone who intimately knows every square inch, has a favorite part of the building, Fisher answers, “It’s everyone’s favorite part…I get people, in the summer especially, almost every day - the number one interest is the windows.”

Fisher is referring to the stained glass windows which line the building. As he said, people stop by almost daily to view them during the summer. The church generally receives three or four tour buses a year as well. Fisher serves as tour guide, and his excitement when talking about the windows is noticeable.

“These windows were put-in in 1939,” he continues. “They began building the church in 1924, and dedicated it in 1926…Originally, the windows were an opaque glass. The exact same glass as the what’s in the back doors. Then in 1939 they put in these windows from the Franz Mayer Co.”

“Now, the Franz Mayer Co. is world renowned as being one of the best stained glass window makers in the world. They’ve done the windows in St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the cathedrals in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. We’re the only church in the Toledo Dioceses that has Franz Mayer windows.”

“They are appraised by the square inch. They are semi-jeweled, glass windows guaranteed to last forever. It’s not just painted glass, like a lot of stained glass windows. These, the color is throughout the whole glass. It’s all hand-blown glass.”

“In 1939, the cost was $14,000, which was a lot then…That’s for the lower windows. The upper windows were done by the Franz Mayer Co. in New York City [in 1941 for $6,000].”

“The Franz Mayer Co. is still in business, from Germany. They tell me you couldn’t touch these windows for $3 million…They were shipped here from Germany just two days prior to the invasion of Poland, and the start of World War II.”

In addition to learning his favorite aspect of the church, Fisher was also asked what about its history might surprise those both familiar and unfamiliar with it.

“When they built the church, they had to ask the Bishop for permission to borrow the money to build the church. The Bishop said, ‘Well, we’ve got to cut back on the cost. You’re not doing the tower, and you’re not doing the [south eastern] entrance way. They took those out of the plans.”

“The priest at the time, Father Michael Muehe, an old, stubborn German, he wanted his tower. So, he re-canvassed the community a second time for pledges to build his tower, and he builds it.”

“Now the tower is a separate structure, campanile is technically what it’s called. It’s a separate structure from the church. The tower is perfectly lined up with [St. Rte.] 115.”

“Well, the Bishop, I think it was in May of 1926, he’s coming down 115. As soon as he crosses the river, he sees that tower. That’s when he found out.”

“He’s not happy. So, he goes to the priest, Father Muehe, and says, ‘I thought I said no tower.’ ”

“ ‘No,’ Muehe said, ‘You said I couldn’t borrow money for the tower. It was paid for in cash.’ And, that’s how we got our tower.”

Yes, that’s how the building Fisher is so proud of came into being. It is not a responsibility he sought. Luckily for the Kalida community, it became a calling he embraced.