Kneeler elves visit St. Boniface Parish Featured

Brian Greggila, Lucas Greggila, John Madison, Ron Powell strip old vinyl and batting from the kneelers.

St. Boniface parishioners are not ones to back off from a challenge. In the last few years alone they renovated their church and helped raise $100,000 to save their school. This Christmas season they were faced with another daunting task, the restoration of church kneelers that needed to be done by hand. 

According to Fr. Timothy Ferris, pastor of St.Boniface, the oak kneelers installed in 1915 had no padding at all. Later parishioners added batting to make kneeling easier. This batting was last replaced 40 years ago. Over decades of use it packed down, deteriorated, and once again resembled bare oak to aching joints. Replacing the padding was often discussed, but the estimated $10,000 price to remove the old material and replace the padding was simply too costly.

Parishioners Maryanne and Ken Rawlings approached Fr. Ferris about a Renovation and Beautification project in remembrance of Maryanne’s father, Walter Graff. Some calculations determined that purchasing the materials and tools and doing the work by hand would make the cost much more reasonable. After much planning and preliminary prep work, Fr. Ferris put out a call for volunteers.

The parishioners work to strip down and reupholster 120 kneelers.

On a Saturday morning over 70 “kneeler elves” of all ages assembled with their tool belts in the school gym. Five stations were set up to do the grueling work of replacing the old material without damaging the vintage wood. More than 100 staples had to be manually removed from each kneeler, then Dremel tools and sanders used to remove the degraded padding and adhesive and sand the boards. Fresh vinyl and foam had to be cut and prepared before being stapled in place. New rubber feet were attached to each kneeler before reinstalling them in the church. The job was completed in time for the 4:30 Mass that afternoon.

“We reupholstered 120 pews in less than six hours at no cost to the parish,” said Fr. Ferris. “We made this into a somewhat social event with food, Christmas music and gift certificates. Events like this bring the parish together. What a nice way for Maryanne to remember her father.”

Audrey Slovitch, Greg Wisler strip old vinyl and batting from the kneelers.

A record of the date of the reupholstering was placed under one of the boards as a message from the kneeler elves to future St. Boniface parishioners, and the current people in the pews now sink into soft kneelers with a sigh of appreciation for the early Christmas present to the parish.

St. Boniface Catholic School serves students in grades K-5 of all religions, racial, ethnic and income backgrounds. For information on the curriculum, admissions policies and registration contact the school office at (419) 8989-1340 or visit the website at

Kneeler elves Mike Johnson, Patrix Heschel, Dan Haley refit a kneeler for new padding.

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