From the Document Mystery
and Symbol Build My Church
This holy people, is the Church, that is, the temple of God built of living stones, where the Father is worshipped in spirit and in truth.
From early times "church" has also been the name given to the building in which the Christian community gathers to hear the word of God, to pray together, to receive the sacraments, and to celebrate the Eucharist.
With the dedication of the new church, it was also the time to formally and publicly rededicate ourselves to the covenant. We gather in joyful public assembly to recall God's love, promises, and plan for our salvation in Jesus. Let us eagerly recommit our hearts and our lives to God by the renewal of our baptismal promises and through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
God's covenant has remained true: "You will be my people and I will be your God." And so we respond AMEN! YES!
In the pages to follow we will discuss our building, but first let us speak to what is important-the renewal of our hearts and our lives. We believe that the changes we have made and the treasures we have enhanced will evoke a sense of reverence and awe in the presence of God. We will strive to reverence one another as we celebrate the sacred events in our lives.. the Paschal Mystery as it is celebrated in the sacraments and through the liturgical year.
Overcrowding in both of the churches was obvious by 1990. The 9:30 mass at St. Marys was overflowing with people standing on the front steps and beyond. An outside speaker was installed so parishioners could hear the mass. The 11:00 mass at St. Thomas More had even more problems. Parishioners were seen leaving church grounds because they couldn't get close enough to hear the service.
Sometime in 1991 the problem was brought before the pastoral council. After a lengthy discussion Father Scott was asked to appoint a committee to give the matter further study. He invited a group of parishioners, with widely diversified backgrounds, to a meeting in the fall. Included were persons knowledgeable in liturgy and construction, an advocate for the handicapped, and a financial advisor.
At the meeting Father Scott led us in prayer to the Holy Spirit asking for guidance and wisdom in all discussions and decisions. A consensus was quickly reached recognizing the need for increased seating capacity. The next decision involved St. Mary's church. A couple of years earlier an addition had been added to it which did not alter its architectural style, so we decided to make no further changes there or in the foreseeable future. Father suggested that each of us express our ideas about how the desired objective could be reached no matter how outlandish they seemed. The ideas varied from adding to the existing St. Thomas More church, to building a new church at a new location. Each idea was carefully considered. Finally we decided to build a larger church on the site of St. Thomas More Church.
After the selection of the architect, the cost of the building project became our next concern. The first estimate for the new construction was 2.5 million dollars. Our financial advisor told us that this was way more than we could afford. A suggestion was made to use the existing church for a daily chapel and the sacristies. Working with that idea the architect submitted a plan for seating of 500 without a basement. As the construction was now affordable, the new plan was approved.
1996 brought many changes. The old rectory was demolished, a new one was built and we began to see our new house of worship taking shape. In February of 1998 the new construction was completed and our new church was dedicated by James C. Timlin, Bishop of Scranton.
The church building is an expression of personality and values-as well as a reflection of the Catholic faith-of the parish family who worship here.
The Assembly-People of God
When we gather as a church community, it is God who dwells within each one of us that we greet, and it is with one another that we celebrate.
To speak of environment and artistic requirements in Catholic worship, we have to begin with ourselves-we who are the Church. Among symbols with which liturgy deals, none is more important than the assembly believers.
Our Worship Space
Sunday Eucharist in Roman Catholic parishes demands a space where individuals and families can gather and become remembered as the Body of Christ, a place where we can share news of sick members and new births, a place where strangers are introduced and welcomed.
It is the task of each member of the community to "be there," to "be present" to "pay attention." We must continually make the effort to pay attention to the other members who are present, to pay attention to all that is going on in the celebrating action, and to pay attention to our own feelings. In addition, we have the task of gathering around, of speaking up, of singing out.
It is with the ministry of the assembly in mind that the seating for the church is in the shape of a fan or semi-circle and is a combination of fixed pews and movable seats that allow for greater flexibility during liturgies.
Imagine what stories would be told if our dining room tables could speak. So much happens around our tables that in many ways they are the most powerful symbols of a family's history. We come to the table to be nourished, to share a common life by sharing food and drink, and to tell our stories. We do this in times of great joy and in times of grief, on ordinary days and in extraordinary circumstances.
This table, like God's family, has had a long history. Our altar also has a long history. God planted the trees between seventy and a hundred years ago right here in Wayne County. The research for authenticity in the time of St. Thomas More came from a book the development committee was looking at and the design literally jumped out at us. What better way to symbolize Thomas More's incarceration than with the bars of his cell and the gates of the Tower of London in the lattice work of the base of the altar and all other furnishings. The rectangular shape with angled sides reflect the angles of the church, however, all corners were softened by hand, not machine. The stain on the altar as on all the other furniture is a cherry tone stain to remind us of the blood shed by Christ and Saint Thomas More.
Members of our parish community were challenged in the designing and hand crafting the altar and all the other furnishings.
Primitive documents make note of fine linen cover for the altar. The shape, size and decoration of every altar cloth should be fabricated with a particular altar in mind. Our fine linens have been provided by parishioners who have made them specifically for our altar.
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of many Protestant worship spaces is a very prominent central pulpit or ambo. One sign of our renewed sense of the importance of proclaiming the Word and preaching is the attention we now give to the design and placement of the ambo. Altar and Ambo share some equality as the important centers for Eucharistic celebrations; therefore, the balance, harmony and unity that we see between the Word and Sacrament is intended to be visible in the relationship of the altar and ambo. There is a greater sharing of the bread of God's Word through the proclamation of almost all the Bible over a three year cycle. Because the Church now gives greater emphasis to the unity of all the Scriptures, the ambo is reserved for proclaiming the Word of God, preaching, the announcement of petitions for the General Intercessions and the singing of the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil.
A lectern, similar in design to the ambo, stands to the left of the ambo for leading congregational singing and announcements. It has been placed for maximum visibility, audibility, and easy communication between the congregation and musicians.
The use of candles began for very practical reasons of providing light. However, by the 4th century popular customs arose to use candles for honorary reasons such as showing respect and giving symbolic emphasis to the candle as a symbol of Christ. Candles at mass became obligatory only in the 17th century. Symbolically, the candle represents Christ as the light of the world and the light of Baptism. Illumination by candlelight is usually a sign of joy.
For centuries the chair the bishop (cathedra) or presider has had a special prominence of place and design. It should be simple yet noble-not a throne. This chair represents the presider's role of leading the Christian community in prayer. Placement of the chair allows for the presider to be clearly visible to the community as a leader of prayer and yet a part of the one assembly.
During the first 600 years or so after the death and resurrection of Jesus, crosses rarely showed the body of Christ. It was during the 13th century that Christian theology, spirituality and art focused more on the final sufferings of Christ. This is the reason that during Easter Season we remove the body of Christ from our cross; we are emphasizing the fact that Christ rose from the dead.
Our cross is the same cross from the original church which has been refinished.
The Baptistry has been placed at the entrance of the church and serves as a reminder of our own baptism. It is our "door" to the Church.
The baptismal font frames Christian life. At our baptism we entered the Body of Christ, the Church. From the baptismal waters we emerged as children of God. On the day of our burial, we are sprinkled with the water that recalls our beginnings at the font.
Ideally, each of us should be able to sign ourselves with the water of the font as we enter the worship space. Through Baptism we entered the Church, God's People. With water and the sign of the cross we enter again into the worship of God.
The Ambry is a reserved place for holy oils and is located near the Baptistry. It is designed so that the oils are visible and accessible. We have a great respect for the sacraments in which we use these holy oils. By keeping them in dignified vessels and displaying them in a handsome case, the faithful can better regard their significance. The Bishop blesses these oils each year at the Chrism Mass.
Three Holy Oils:
1. Sacred Chrism used for Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and Dedication of an Altar.
2. Oil of Catechumens is for anointing those about to be baptized-infants and those adults who are catechumens entering the Catholic Church.
3. Oil of the Sick used for anointing those who are ill and in danger of death.
The Eucharistic Chapel/Daily Chapel has been designed to foster and encourage prayerfulness. The doors at the chapel are open all day for private devotion. All are invited and encouraged to make use of this chapel when they are able. The chapel is furnished with movable chairs allowing for flexibility so that the space serves the community.
The tabernacle is the designated place for the reserved species, a place of honor, a place for those Eucharist devotions that center on adoration.
Our tabernacle has been reclaimed from the basement of the old church. It was the original tabernacle when the church was dedicated in 1941. In the restoration process, our tabernacle found its way back to its original designer and craftsman who carried out the restoration of it.
It has a cast bronze door featuring a pelican feeding its young from its own body, a symbol of self-sacrifice. Also on the door of the tabernacle are many other reminders of Christ's suffering: the tongs which were used to make and remove the nails, the whip which was used in his scourging, the hammer used to nail Jesus to the cross, the lance which opened his side, the crown of thorns and the nails which pierced his body, the branch of hyssop offering the sour wine and the ladder used for removing Christ's body from the cross. The base of the table upon which the tabernacle rests forms a triangle to remind us of the Holy Trinity.
Reconciliation is an act of God's compassionate healing ministered in and through the Church. The setting and celebration of the rituals must express this healing reality. Penitent and confessor both come before God in prayer-that is why this room is called a chapel.
The Reconciliation chapel is furnished very simply and offers the choice between face-to-face encounter or anonymity provided by the screen.
Sacred Art and Sacred Images
The design and making of processional crosses, crucifixes, icons, statues, stations of the cross and other sacred images is a tradition almost as old as the Church itself. This has not always been undisputed tradition. At certain periods in our history Christians hotly debated the appropriateness of images. Some have maintained that sacred images run the risk of being treated like idols and that they should therefore be prohibited. Roman Catholics and many other Christians, however, have seen in the making of images an affirmation of the Mystery of the Incarnation. The eternal and invisible Word of God took our human flesh and thus became an icon or image of the God who cannot be seen. Good works of sacred art point beyond themselves. They hide as well as reveal.
The statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Grace were completely refurbished and relocated in the front of the church. A statue of St. Thomas More stands in the alcove of the narthex.
The Way of the Cross are pictures of incidents in the last journey of Jesus from Pilate's house to his entombment. From an early date pilgrims to the Holy Land would visit these places (or stations) and follow in the footsteps of Jesus on his way to Calvary. In the late Middle Ages the devotional Way of the Cross was made popular to enable those who could not afford the rigors and expense of a long pilgrimage to the Holy Land to participate in the passion of Jesus in their own villages. The faithful go to each station and meditate on on an event of the passion.
The four crosses on the walls indicate the incensation and anointing of the walls of the church with Sacred Chrism by the Bishop at the Mass of Dedication.