Thursday, May 24, 2018

Renovations of St. Mary Parish, Williamston

It is a happy thing that not all news concerning the Church is doom and gloom. Though there are dark clouds to be sure, there are always small little pockets where grace is operative—little sanctuaries and oases of light. 

Something that always lifts my spirits is seeing news of renovations by faithful pastors to make their parishes more beautiful. We all know that during the 70's and 80's a great many Catholic parishes had their artistic and architectural heritage destroyed in a process of willful rupture with tradition that has come to be known as the "Wreckovation"; this horrendous destruction of our physical heritage continues in many places to this day. For those who want to learn more about the Wreckovation, the go-to book is Michael S. Rose's The Renovation Manipulation

But this post is not about destruction but about creation; not about dissolution, but restoration. About renewal in the wake of the Wreckovation.

Fr. Mark Rutherford—a most excellent priest of the Diocese of Lansing, MI. and pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Williamston—has made some amazing before-and-after pictures of his own restoration efforts available.

Here is the sanctuary of St. Mary's before Fr. Rutherford's renovation:


As you can see, fairly generic contemporary style reflecting the Catholic zeitgeist of the modern American Catholic Church. Minimalist wooden furniture against a drab, artless brick background. Scatter some plants about to create a natural ambiance, along with the sounds of flowing water from the overly large baptismal tub. Nothing here to suggest any kind of homage to the historic Catholic faith or the sensus fidelium.

However, in the hands of a faithful pastor, the sanctuary has been transformed. Now, the sanctuary is restored in a style that truly evokes the beauty of the Catholic faith. Look at Fr. Rutherford's pictures of the completed sanctuary restoration:


The difference is stunning! Amazing what some wood, marble, sacred art, and a genuine Catholic sensibility can accomplish.

I can already hear some trads whining that Fr. Rutherford left the table altar in the center. Whatever. Our bishop says every parish has to have one, so meh. It is certainly much more solemn than the minimalist wooden one that existed before and a definite step up. However, the restoration does also include a smaller altar against the wall atop which the tabernacle is situated (see below). Featuring the traditional typological Eucharistic symbol of the pelican, Traditional Latin Masses can easily be offered here. And Fr. Rutherford is definitely a friend of the Extraordinary Form.


One final note: Fr. Rutherford had not been at this parish very long when the plans for this restoration were put into effect. In most cases, any priest has sufficient authority within his parish to effect a similar restoration just by virtue of being the pastor, even if it's Day 1 on the job. All he needs is the will to carry it out. Funding is an issue, as such projects do not come cheaply, but in my many years in various parishes I have always been surprised how much money parishioners will step forward and contribute when the pastor wants to build something truly beautiful.  Beauty enriches everybody's lives and a beautiful parish is an investment in the faith of the community and a gift a pastor and congregation can bequeath to future generations of the faithful.

I hope this edifies you as it did me. God bless you.


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