Thursday, December 21, 2006

Native Long Islander Dan at the Shrine of the Holy Whapping points out that St. Anthony's High School is planning a great new chapel. This is great news! I also fully agree with his statement:

"Hopefully more high schools with dated 60's buildings and chapels (like St. Anthony's has at present) will take the initiative and center their fundraising campaigns on the important things".

[emphasis entirely mine]

My hometown parish St. William the Abbot has just renovated the Church due to a sanctuary that had to be rebuilt. This is the second major renovation of the Church in my lifetime, which probably means I am getting old. The original small country Church from my childhood was expanded and renovated in 1981, and I was an altar boy at the consecration of the new Church. (I was also present when Bishop Murphy consecrated the new altar this year.) The Church badly needed renovation then, it was simply way too small for the large parish, and the building was falling apart. Most of the Masses I remember from my youth were in the school gym, because the Church capacity was about a third of what the parish needed. But the '81 renovation included many silly aspects of the time, such as replacing a crucifix with a "risen Christ", and carpeting covering the floors. The Church had mostly blank, white walls and was overall uninspiring.

The recent renovation was also spurred by practical considerations. The sanctuary was falling apart and therefore unsafe. But the changes that were done ended up correcting some of the previous mistakes. The risen Christ sculpture that had always bothered me was taken away from the sanctuary and replaced with a striking crucifix, which is now the main focal point. The risen Christ sculpture is now on the front right side on what had been previously a blank white wall, where I find it to be perfectly fine. To balance this out, the left side now has a brand new wall sculpture of the Last Supper. So, to me the problem of not having enough artwork has now been solved. The Marian shrine had some symbols of Mary added to it, and now features part of the original marble high altar from the original sanctuary in the Church. The carpeting is gone, replaced by a wood sanctuary floor and tile floors. Overall, this was a great improvement to the Church. The next phase of renovation will be to expand the narthex, to increase the size of the choir loft. This is being done to make room for an antique pipe organ, replacing the electronic organ that is currently being used. This is all a great improvement to the Church although I doubt it will win any "traditional Catholic architecture" awards. Still, although it is no longer my parish I am grateful to see it improve.

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