SAINT MARY’S CATHOLIC CHURCH
Dedicated June 10, 2007
New Catholic churches, as well as renovated churches, follow the principles outlined in the document “Built of Living Stones” (BLS) published by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the year 2000.
“Every church building is a gathering place for the assembly, a resting place, a place of encounter with God, as well as a point of departure on the Church’s unfinished journey toward the reign of God.” (BLS 17)
Many people have a preconceived idea of what a church should look like. The better starting place, however, is to appreciate the activity that the building will house. The church building serves the needs of the liturgy: the celebration of all seven sacraments as well as the devotional prayer of the church. It should also foster the “full, active and conscious participation” of the faithful.
The church building should also be beautiful. “The external and internal structure should be expressive of the dignified beauty of God’s holy people who gather there and of the sacred rites they celebrate.” (BLS 55)
Gathering Space. The “threshold space” or narthex helps believers to make the transition from everyday life to the celebration of the liturgy, and after the liturgy, it helps them return to daily life to live out the mystery that has been celebrated.
Baptism Font. As you move through the wooden double doors into the nave (from the Latin word for “boat”) you are greeted by the waters of new birth. Baptism is the first sacrament of initiation (followed by Confirmation and Eucharist). Through the waters of baptism believers die to sin and are reborn to new life in Christ. The font is a symbol of both tomb and womb; its power is the power of the triumphant cross; and baptism sets the Christian on the path to the life that will never end, the “eighth day” of eternity where Christ’s reign of peace and justice is celebrated. (BLS 68). That is why the font has eight sides. It allows infant immersion in the upper bowl and infusion (pouring) of water over adults in the lower pool. Catholics dip their hand in the holy water and make the sign of the cross as they enter and exit the sanctuary as a reminder of the sacrament of baptism. The font was created by Maher Products, Mingo, IA
Near the font is the Paschal Candle, the symbol of “the light of Christ, rising in glory.”
Holy Oils. The wooden wall cabinet, or ambry, near the font contains the three vessels of anointing oils used in several sacraments. The Chrism (priestly oil) is used to anoint those being baptized, confirmed, and ordained. The Oil of Catechumens is used to strengthen adults preparing for baptism. The Oil of the Infirmed strengthens and heals those celebrating the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
Eucharistic Chapel. Catholics believe that once bread and wine have become the Body and Blood of Jesus during the
Mass, the “real presence” remains until the Blessed Sacrament is consumed. A special chapel of reservation, to the
left of the baptism font, fosters reverence and provides quiet and focus for personal prayer. The brass tabernacle
(tabernaculum, Latin for “tent”) houses the Eucharistic bread. It rests on the former baptismal font, thus making a
clear connection between the two sacraments. The Blessed Sacrament is reserved primarily so it may be brought to
those who are ill and are not able to celebrate Mass with the community. Kistner’s Claim Service, Rock Island, IL,
cleaned and restored the tabernacle and baptism font base.
Reconciliation Chapel. To the right of the font is the room to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance. Catholics believe Jesus gave the Church the authority to forgive sin in his name. As Baptism celebrates “birth”; Reconciliation celebrates “rebirth.” The handle, crafted by Boyler’s, Bettendorf, is reminiscent of the temptation of Adam and Eve. It is also a reminder of Moses lifting up a bronze serpent on a pole when the Israelites had sinned. Those looking on it were healed, a foretelling of Jesus being lifted upon a cross for the forgiveness of all sin.
Altar. From the font, down the main aisle, you see the altar. “At the
Eucharist, the liturgical assembly celebrates the ritual sacrificial meal
that recalls and makes present Christ’s life, death, and resurrection,
proclaiming ‘the death of the Lord until he comes.’ The altar is ‘the
center of thanksgiving that the Eucharist accomplishes’ and the point
around which the other rites are in some manner arrayed. Since the
Church teaches that ‘the altar is Christ,’ its composition should reflect
the nobility, beauty, strength, and simplicity of the One it represents."
Ambo. Sometimes called a “lectern” it is the central focus of the area
in which the word of God is proclaimed during the liturgy.
The altar, ambo, and wooden candelabra are gifts from the Sisters
of Saint Francis, Clinton, IA. The pieces, crafted by Jerzy Kenar, an
internationally recognized sculptor in Chicago, were originally commissioned
for the Mount Saint Clare College chapel, Clinton.
Chair for the priest celebrant. The chair is a “symbol of the priest’s office of presiding over the assembly and of directing prayer.” (BLS 62)
In additional to priestly liturgical prayer the church building also offers space
for personal meditative prayer.
The Crucifix. The wooden corpus (body of Jesus) is from the former church, installed during a renovation in 1950. It is a hand-carved life-size representation of the crucified Lord.
The Marian Window above the altar is a representation of Michelangelo’s Pieta remembering
the love the Blessed Mother has for her Son and for all believers. His famous work, sculpted
in 1499, is in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Bovard Studios, Fairfield, IA, created the window.
The Stations of the Cross are mounted on each side of the “chevrons” and the back wall. In the early history of the Church it was the custom of the faithful to travel to Jerusalem and follow the way walked by Christ from Pilate’s house to Calvary. Pilgrims desired to continue this devotion when they returned home. So churches erected 14 crosses or “stations” so the faithful could walk the “way of the cross” at home. “The Way of the Cross” is a popular devotion during Lent.
Mary and Joseph statues, also hand carved, are from the former church,
honoring the mother and foster father of Jesus. They are also a reminder that
the community of believers on earth is part of a much larger community of
saints in heaven.
Kistner’s Claim Service, Rock Island, IL, cleaned and restored the crucifix corpus and the wooden statues.