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Parishioner designs window for Church of the Infant Jesus Mission

MARION — On sunny days, members of the Church of the Infant Jesus Mission in Marion will soon see sunlight streaming  through a new stained glass window on the church’s back wall.

The window, designed by local artist Joanne Hickey, is five feet in diameter and portrays the Blessed Mother with the infant Jesus.

Workers are currently completing brickwork around the frame in anticipation of a dedication ceremony which hopefully will take place before the end of March, according to Bill Cornelius, a long-time parishioner.

The project has special significance for Cornelius, who turned 76 on  March 9. He donated funds for the window, which will be dedicated to the memory of his wife, Olga, nicknamed “Augie,” who passed away in 2006.

It will be the second contribution Cornelius has made in honor of a member of his family.  A circular stained-glass window above the church’s altar is dedicated to his son Billy, who died at age five in a car accident just a few miles from the church’s site off U.S. 501.

“When Augie passed away, I just thought it was right we put another window in the back of the church in honor of her,” Cornelius said in a recent interview with The Miscellany. “I feel like the church is partly Augie’s. She was a member for so long and put a lot of love into it.”

The Church of the Infant Jesus was dedicated by then Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler in 1966 as a mission of  St. Louis Church in Dillon.

Cornelius approached church member Joanne Hickey about designing the window because he was already familiar with her artistic ability.

Hickey, who has a degree in fine arts, retired to Marion from Hartford, Conn., in the late 1990s. She and her husband have been active members of the small congregation ever since.

“I was used to huge Catholic churches up north, so it was a new experience for me to be in a parish where it’s up to parishioners to get a lot of things done,” Hickey said.

Her first activity was to join the parish council. Shortly after, she noticed the church sign was weathered and hard to read, so in 2003 she and other parishioners volunteered to redesign and paint it.

Cornelius asked her to design the window because he knew of her work and that she was the former owner of a small art studio in downtown Marion. In Connecticut, Hickey designed banners and stationery, and created oil paintings for several churches.

The new stained glass window is made of Krinkle glass, similar to plexiglass, which is impregnated with pigments and generally more durable than regular glass. Hickey based the design for the window on a painting of Mary and the infant Jesus that Cornelius had seen at a bed and breakfast. Her design was converted into a blueprint for a stained-glass window by workers at Palmetto Glass in Florence.

“I tried to capture the expression of the mother and child in the painting, and also tried to come up with a design that would merge with the existing design and colors in the church,” she said.

Hickey said the initial product did not meet expectations and had to be redone, and the entire process has taken about a year. The original design was completed in about 40 hours, however.

Hickey, who also writes part-time for local newspapers in Marion and nearby Mullins, is anxious to see her latest project come to fruition.

“It’s a little scary at the moment because I don’t know if the current window lives up to the design, but I’m very happy I was asked to do this,” she said.

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