“Whoa!”: church renovation in Madison, Wisconsin

From The Catholic Herald: 

“Whoa!”

That was the simple word of exclamation uttered by a young girl as she entered St. Mary Church in Fennimore on a recent Sunday morning.

While the words used by others in the church may have been more sophisticated that day, the feelings were more than likely similar to those of the young girl’s.

Upon entering the church that Sunday morning, parishioners and visitors got a chance to see the completed work of a restoration project to bring the church back to its original design from more than a century ago.

The project, which began work last summer, was aimed at returning the church to the beauty that can help the faithful perceive the mystery and splendor in the liturgy and serve as a “visual catechesis” of the faith, according to Fr. Miguel Galvez, parochial administrator of Queen of All Saints Parish, which includes St. Mary, along with St. John Nepomuc Church in Castle Rock and St. Lawrence O’Toole Church in Mt. Hope.

The restored church features a mural of Our Lady Queen of Heaven — the patroness of the parish — and paintings of angels to emphasize the importance of the sanctuary. The co-patrons of the parish community, St. John Nepomuc and St. Lawrence O’Toole, also appear in the mural.

A high altar, inspired by the church’s original altar, includes a statuary of the crucifixion of Jesus, as well as statues of St. Peter and St. Paul. Two side altars honor Mary, the Virgin Mother, and St. Joseph.

A freestanding altar features a hand-carved Last Supper image. There are also newly-installed altar rails.

On Sunday, March 2, Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison presided at the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Mary Church to dedicate the new altar.

“How proud you must be and how proud I am about the restoration of beauty in this church,” Bishop Morlino said during his homily. “It is impossible to come into a beautiful church like this and not realize the beauty of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” he added.

He called the parishioners a “beautiful people” with a “beautiful house,” not only for the magnificence of the church’s interior, but also for their works of charity. “The love of Christ is present in the Eucharist and then takes flesh in your individual acts of kindness and charity to others.”

Read the rest.

View more photographs of the restoration at the parish website.  You can see a closeup below. The results won’t be to every taste; frankly, I think there’s a fine line between re-doing a church and overdoing it. Sometimes, less is more. But the care and attention devoted to this are impressive.  And the restoration clearly reflects a different approach to church and a more formal style of worship.

One observation: I was surprised to see the baptistry located in the sanctuary.  The USCCB document “Built of Living Stones” recommends placing the font closer to the entrance to the church:

“Because of the essential relationship of baptism to the celebration of other sacraments and rituals, the parish will want to choose an area for the baptistry or the font that visually symbolizes that relationship. Some churches choose to place the baptistry and font near the entrance to the church. Confirmation and the Eucharist complete the initiation begun at baptism; marriage and ordination are ways of living the life of faith begun in baptism; the funeral of a Christian is the final journey of a life in Christ that began in baptism; and the sacrament of penance calls the faithful to conversion and to a renewal of their baptismal commitment. Placing the baptismal font in an area near the entrance or gathering space where the members pass regularly and setting it on an axis with the altar can symbolize the relationship between the various sacraments as well as the importance of the Eucharist within the life and faith development of the members.”


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