Monday, September 15, 2008

Our New Church

(photo from the Catholic Review)

Last weekend, the new church building for St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Libertytown was dedicated by Most Rev. Edwin O'Brien, archbishop of Baltimore. This is the same church that burned down in June 2004. LC and I visited it for the first time at the 7:15 AM Mass this past Sunday.

It's a gorgeous structure that incorporates the walls of the church that was destroyed; those walls now frame the daily chapel. In said chapel, the painting of the Crucifixion that survived the fire, aided by restoration from artist Nancy Pollack, now hangs behind the altar.

The church is brighter than its predecessor, in which the wood of the pews and walls was very dark. While I like the brightness, I get a feeling that it's just a little too modern, but it's not ostentatious. Would that there was money for different paint schemes than basic beige, but I won't quibble about that, and it may change later on. The original plans called for a grand staircase in the back of the church leading up to the balcony, but I'm glad that was scrapped for financial reasons; that WOULD have been gaudy.

The pews are rounded to allow more of them in the sanctuary. It's nice to use kneelers again for a change; we had none in the parish hall, where Masses have taken place for the past four years.

Another parish's misfortune became a blessing to St. Peter's as the stained-glass windows from a defunct inner-city Baltimore parish are now encased in the Libertytown church. There weren't enough of them to put all around the church, but they adorn each corner.

Behind the altar is the new, soon-to-be-dedicated perpetual adoration chapel. The tabernacle for the altar of the main church doubles as the repository for the monstrance in the chapel; it's built right into the wall.

A new sound system, a grand piano, and a magnificent organ help the congregation enter more into worship. The reconciliation room allows for either face-to-face or screened confessions. At LC's suggestion (!), the small glass window in the door will be opaqued out for privacy purposes. The heating and cooling system may need to be tweaked a bit, but then again, it was unseasonably warm this past Sunday. A few projects remain unfinished, such as the balcony and the church-level bathrooms.

If not for Deacon Mike Misulia, 91 years young and a surveyor by trade, noticing that the scale of the proposed church was off, who knows literally where the building would be? He saw that it could be built right where the former church had stood, as long as it was placed at a slight angle. Kudos to him, to all who designed and built the church, to all who contributed to its financing, and to all the church staff for putting their hearts and souls into seeing this project to completion.

But most of all, I want to thank Msgr. John Dietzenbach, our pastor. His gentle leadership has been an example to all of us. He never lost faith, he had the vision of what needed to be done, and he quietly guided the project to its successful completion while continuing to shepherd his flock. I really like (and will miss) Msgr. John. Even when he says things in his homilies that I may not agree with, such as about Iraq or immigration, he does so in a respectful but firm way that doesn't leave me resenting him for it.

More info and photos here, here, here, here, and here.