Historic Wayne Church Installs New $1 Million Organ

After a 20 year quest to replace its organ, St. Katharine of Siena Church debuts its rare Fratelli Ruffatti custom organ, one of only three in Pa.

St. Katharine of Siena in Wayne is excited to announce the installation of its new custom pipe organ. The stunning instrument was handmade by Fratelli Ruffatti, a world-renowned organ builder in Padua, Italy that has been producing fine instruments since 1940. Ruffatti organs can be found all over the world, but only three are in Pa.

St. Katharine’s organ story began in 1965 when a new church was constructed to replace a smaller, outdated building from 1895. A generous donor gifted an organ that had been used at an organ teachers’ convention but was never intended for church use. It lacked crucial features such as volume control, was in constant need of costly repairs and was placed in the choir loft which led to logistical and acoustic problems. The organist frequently had to dash into the organ chamber to adjust or remove pipes that continued to play. In 1995, the parish started investigating replacing the organ. With generous support from its members, that long-held dream has just come true.

Photo courtesy of St. Katharine of Siena

Monsignor Hans Brouwers, St. Katharine’s pastor, worked closely with church leaders, the music department and finance committee to thoroughly research whether to rebuild or replace the organ. Estimates to rebuild came in prohibitively high for such an old instrument, so the decision to purchase a new one was made. Fratelli Ruffatti offered the best proposal to make an organ designed for the church space, using age-proven techniques combined with the latest technology. The agreement was signed in 2018.

Like everything else, the organ’s eagerly anticipated arrival was postponed due to Covid-19. It finally arrived in February 2022 – in two 40’ containers. Four Fratelli Ruffatti craftsmen travelled from Italy to install the organ in the sanctuary, a process which took three weeks and required a specialized, state-of-the-art crane to lift the 2500 lb. console and 16-foot mahogany pipes into the church’s choir loft. There was a unique challenge in accomplishing this: The crane had to fit through the church’s standard-sized doors and be light enough that it wouldn’t damage the terrazzo floors. Once assembled, two professionals arrived from Italy to tune and voice the 2,242 organ pipes. This meticulous work took more than a month.

The new organ debuted on Easter. As Msgr. Brouwers notes, the organ has been the official musical instrument of the Catholic Church ever since Charlemagne had one installed in his chapel in 812AD. Its wide range of sounds – from the 16’ principals to the 6” flute pipes – provides musical expression of all of our spiritual urges, ranging from lamentation and sorrow to joy and praise, as we worship God. This new organ will accompany the congregation at St. Katharine of Siena Church in their prayerful songs for generations to come.

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