An extensive renovation and restoration of the Church of the Epiphany in Sayre began earlier this month.

The renovations, which priest Fr. Andrew Hvozdovic said have been two years in the making, will make the building handicap accessible, stabilize the aging fa├žade and allow the church to hold more non-Mass gatherings.

Hvozdovic said officials began to look at renovating the church after several Catholic churches in the area - St. Ann's in Bentley Creek, St. John's in South Waverly and St. Joseph's in Athens - were consolidated at the

Epiphany site on South Elmer Avenue.

The church has not received a fresh coat of paint in 25 years, and the church's hall has not been renovated since the 1970s, he said.

Restoration of the church's historical appearance became a top priority after workers discovered extensive sketching on the ceiling underneath whitewashing, Hvozdovic said. The remodeling will be inspired by the sketching and other historical features the church had back in the 1940s, he said.

The outside of the building, which was built in 1917, will also be refreshed, Hvozdovic said. Weathering has affected the church's brick, and while the building is in no danger of collapsing, the brick's looseness has caused minor cracks to form in the church's walls and columns.

Brick replacement and repointing will take place outside to alleviate those problems, and support beams will be added to the church's attic to provide additional support to the structure, he said. The church's 40-year-old roof will also be replaced.

Contractors were able to begin exterior work ahead of schedule because of recent mild weather, he said.

The church's basement hall has been closed for the past two months and was gutted to make way for two new, handicap-accessible restrooms and a larger kitchen, Hvozdovic said. Those amenities will allow the church to hold more functions in the hall, such as community meals, he said.

An elevator will also be installed in the church's bell tower, and the perpetual adoration chapel currently housed in the tower will be relocated, he said. A restroom will also be added in the church's main level so people will no longer have to go downstairs to use the restroom, and new carpeting will be installed.

In order to comply with the construction schedule and keep everyone out of harm's way, the church will close to the public on May 5 and remain closed until at least Aug. 3, Hvozdovic said. From there, workers will continue to finish last-minute final touches. Construction is anticipated to be complete by the end of August.

While the church is closed, Mass will be held on weekdays at Epiphany Convent and on weekends in the gymnasium at Epiphany School.

The project will cost over $2 million, Hvozdovic said. Some of that will be financed by the proceeds from the sale of the St. Ann's, St. John's and St. Joseph's buildings. Two of those sales have been completed, and a third is pending, he said.

The church is looking to raise at least half of the cost of renovations through a capital campaign, which Hvozdovic said will begin shortly. Money is being raised to prevent the church from depleting its savings, he said, and to allow parishioners to contribute to the work. Naming opportunities will be available as part of the campaign.

Church officials are hopeful the renovated building will last for another 100 years, Hvozdovic said.

"I've been saying since day one, we'll be going through minor inconveniences for major improvements," Hvozdovic said. "It will be a shining beacon for the Sayre area and for the entire Valley."

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.