There are signs of hope for those of us who miss the beauty that was effaced in many church remodelings in misguided attempts to follow the "spirit" of the Second Vatican Council. At the Sacred Music Colloquium in DC in June, I met Linda Spicer, a choir member from St. Patrick's in Kokomo Indiana. The story she told me about her church's restoration is one of those signs.
I have never heard the like of this! The pastor and the people of her parish restored the church building twenty-nine years after a 1975 remodeling. When Linda sent me the included photo of the main altar, she wrote, "We got everything back or duplicated, except for the Communion rail, which is buried under the Church parking lot."
Hearing about the burial of the altar rail makes me sigh, remembering how many priceless artifacts made of precious materials were thrown away during that time. In the 1960s in the South End of Boston,when I was a counter-culture type myself, I remember seeing church furnishings often used as parlor furniture in the brownstone apartments of artists, bohemians and gay couples, who were picking up kneelers and altars and the like dirt cheap from salvage dealers. A few years ago, I wrote an article about how at Holy Cross Church in my San Jose neighborhood, 60 year old oil painted stations of the Cross, a marble pieta, and a hand-carved, painted, and gilded crucifix, all from Italy, were thrown out when the church was remodeled in the 60s. Thanks be to God, the janitor kept the crucifix in her garage, and after her death 40 years later, the crucifix was restored and replaced -- on the Feast of the Exhaltation of the Holy Cross.
As Linda's photos of St. Patrick's also illustrate, the good news is that things of great quality are being brought back into the sacred worship space of churches, sometimes bit by bit.
I suspect that the breath of the Holy Spirit must be behind such changes. Reading between the lines on the St. Patrick's Church history page, I deduce that the restoration was powered by prayers in the parish's 24 hour Eucharistic Adoration chapel, which was also a recent undertaking. Father Ted Dudzinski became pastor in 2002, and under his leadership, the parish completed these two great works, the chapel first. "In an effort to increase vocations to the Local Church and spiritually 'ground' the parish," the pastor and "a group of lay leaders established Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament Perpetual Eucharistic adoration chapel." The chapel was dedicated after a Mass and procession on Corpus Christi, Sunday June 22, 2003.
And the restoration followed. In Fall 2004, the parish started its renovation project. Exterior changes included tuck pointing of the stone, new slate on the church's two towers, and re-gilding of the crosses. Inside, close to 100% of the plaster was repaired on the ceiling and walls. The church was decorated with a new color scheme, and new marble flooring was installed in the aisles and in the sanctuary. The marble reredos was returned to its original position in the sanctuary, and a new marble altar of sacrifice, ambo, and baptismal font were commissioned to match the reredos. The flooring under the pews was replaced with ash hardwood, and the pews were completely renovated. A new Gothic entry from the nave was installed. The organ was upgraded.
Once a month at the last Saturday evening Mass for the past three years, a Schola has been singing the Latin ordinary along with Latin and English hymns. In answer to my request for more information about the choir, Linda wrote: I started singing with the Schola (which is the only name we have) two years ago last April. They had been in existence for about a year before that, so I would say we are starting our fourth year.
We sing from the Graduale Triplex, and so far we are just singing the ordinary in Latin, usually Mass VIII, De angelis; or Mass XI, Orbis factor with Kyrie B. We use Credo III and Pater Noster B. Two of our members, Kathleen Murphy and Cynthia Morr, made cards for the pews with the Latin and its English translation, so that the congregation could follow along. We hope that many of them are/will be singing with us as the chants become more familiar to them. During the Offertory, Communion, and Meditation we sing familiar Latin hymns--Salve Regina, O Sanctissima, the Arcadelt Ave Maria, etc., as well as English ones. We also like to sing a traditional Irish hymn, Deus Meus. It comes from the music sung by the Notre Dame Folk Choir. They have two beautiful CD's, "Prophets of Joy" and "Witness of the Saints", that contain renditions of several of the psalms. If you are not familiar with them they are worth looking into. We use a couple of them especially at Communion: "Make of Our Hands a Throne," and "Harbor of my Heart." These are in English, of course. After the recessional, as the people are leaving, we sing "An Irish Blessing."
We currently have thirteen members, eight women and five men. Many of them are also members of the full choir [which sings at other Masses], so they devote lots of time to this effort. While Father Randy Soto, who is now teaching at the seminary in St. Louis, was with us, he was our director; but since his transfer, Maddalena Nelson has graciously accepted the job. Maddalena is also a cantor with the full choir as is another of our members, Bob Mason. Maddalena, myself, Dane Henderson and Lori Schwarts sing soprano. Kathleen, Cynthia, Sue Mason, and Molly Kline sing alto. Bob, Roger Murphy and Jim Calabro are our tenors. George Hedrick and Randy Jones sing bass. (Just as a side note, George, Molly, Cynthia and Kathleen are brother and sisters.)
Six of the Schola members attended the CMAA colloquium: Cynthia Morr, Kathleen and Roger Murphy, Maddalena Nelson, Lori Schwartz and Linda Spicer. Linda wrote,
We had originally planned to go to a monastery in Oklahoma to learn more about chant, but Father Randy Soto told us of the CMAA colloquium. He was planning to attend with us before he was sent on another assignment by his bishop. (His home diocese is in Costa Rica.)
I'm including another picture [from the remodeled church]. Father Soto explained that this crucifix is in the Spanish style. Christ is obviously still alive, His side has not been pierced, and the sunburst around His head is common in Spanish portrayals.
The restoration of the church building is a sight for sore eyes, and the reintroduced Gregorian chant is, I suspect, a sound for sore ears.
Below: Two views of the outside of St. Patrick's and one of Linda Spicer