Below my introduction is an article I wrote for our diocesan newspaper praising Rambusch and Company for their wreckovation of my first assignment's parish church of St. Teresa of Avila in Albany, Georgia in 1981, planning for which began in 1980 (be sure to pronounce it : All-Benny!).
These are not good photos of the before and after, but I hope it gives you the idea:
There are many priests and bishops my age and older, think Chicago, who have degrees in liturgy and liturgical architecture granted them in the late 1970's or early 80's. We were taught, in the most dogmatic way possible, that the horizontal theology of the liturgy is the most important and what Vatican II taught. Of course this isn't true, but those with doctorates in liturgy knew better and who are we to question their wisdom.
Well, we know that Pope Francis questions intellectuals, the doctors of the Church as it were who care less about people and their heritage and promote alien theologies for their own narcissistic goals. to elevate their ideologies into dogmatic mandates.
I fell into this trap too when I was first ordained in 1980 and in my first assignment at St. Teresa Church in Albany, Georgia. My pastor had enlisted the service of Rambusch of New York. They took a typical 1950's A frame church with a pre-Vatican II sanctuary which was very spacious, with a high altar and two side altars and ripped it all out to thrust the altar more forward. Statues were place in areas that didn't "distract" the congregation during the Mass. And a screen to hide the tabernacle was created because devotion to our Lord in the reserved Sacrament is the antithesis of authentic worship and yet again another distraction to that true worship.
As well, this consulting firm wanted to remove and almost life-size crucifix altogether and simply have a "risen" sign of the glorified Christ. I balked at this even in my progressive mentality. The cross stayed. Thank God!
BUT AFTER THE WRECKOVATION, THIS IS AN ARTICLE I WROTE FOR OUR DIOCESAN NEWSPAPER IN 1981. READ IT AND WEEP, NOT SO MUCH FOR ME BUT FOR YOUR CHILDREN!
On Saturday afternoon, October 31, (1981) Bishop Raymond W. Lessard
dedicated the newly renovated sanctuary of St. Teresa’s Church in Albany
(GA). The rites of the solemn ceremony included the sprinkling with
water and anointed with chrism of the new altar as well as its
incensation. This ritual corresponds to the rites of initiation of
Christians through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. Just as
we are initiated by the waters of baptism, and anointed with the gift of
the Holy Spirit for membership and service in the Assembly of God’s
people, so to is the altar sprinkled and anointed for service in the
midst of God’s people as we celebrate the presence of the risen Christ
When Saint Teresa’s Church building was first dedicated
in 1958 by then Bishop Thomas J. McDonough, its worship space was
designed to accommodate an understanding of the church liturgy which was
primarily the responsibility of the priest assisted by altar boys. The
laity passively participated as spectators to what occurred beyond the
barrier of the altar railing between the priest and God.
universal changes promulgated by the Second Vatican Council touched the
local churches throughout the world. Saint Teresa’s in Albany began to
experience what this renewal meant as the concrete changes began to
touch them in the most dramatic way in the mid 1960’s. As the years
progressed, the leadership of St. Teresa’s began to realize the broader
implications of the symbolic changes in church liturgy. The 1958 design
of the church’s worshiping space neither captured nor symbolized the new
role of the laity in the total life of the church and its worship.
Under the pastorate of Fr. Herbert J. Wellmeier and the parish council, a
committee was chosen in the summer of 1980 to come up with a new plan
for St. Teresa’s sanctuary. The architectural firm of Rambusch of New
York was hired as design consultants for the renovation committee. They
are noted specialists in church renovation.
The design concept of
the newly renovated sanctuary incorporates the most recent theological
thinking on how best to symbolize the presence of Christ in and with the
worshiping assembly. We worship God the Father through the presence of
His Son Jesus. His presence calls us to actively participate in His life
which should touch every aspect of our lives.
The seating around
the altar and ambo (pulpit) is arranged in a manner that draws the
assembly into the actions of worship. The assembly becomes aware of
Christ in and with the gathered community, “Where two or three meet in
my name, I shall be there with them.” (Matthew 18:20) The presence of
Christ here must be acknowledged and reverenced. The arrangement of
chairs allows faces to be seen rather than just the backs of people’s
heads. We do not worship privately, but corporately with others.
assembly gathers around the one table of God’s Word, the ambo, to be
nourished by the presence of Christ in the proclaimed Scriptures. “In
the beginning was the Word: The Word was with God and the Word was
God…The Word was made Flesh, He lived among us…: (John 1:1-14) The
presence of Christ here must be acknowledge and reverenced.
the assembly gathers around the one table of the Lord’s Supper—the
altar. A multiplicity of altars lessens the significance of the one
table which is a sign of Christ who is the source of our unity. As a
unified assembly aware of our communion with the entire church, we are
nourished by the body and blood of our Lord who is present through the
signs and actions of blessing bread and wine, and communally eating and
drinking the Lord’s Supper-the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The
presence of Christ here must be acknowledged and reverenced.
altar, ambo and celebrant’s chair are centrally located in the worship
space of the Church. These furnishings extend far into the assembly
eliciting participation and symbolizing the intimacy of Christ with His
people—the Church. Statuary and other art work are placed in locations
other than the sanctuary so that at Mass the focus of attention is on
the various actions of the celebration not on various devotions.
the left of the ambo and altar is the large baptismal pool. Baptism
incorporates the Christian into the assembly of believers. It initiates
the Christian into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The
baptismal pool with its life-giving water is a powerful symbol of our
Christian dignity and responsibility as a priestly people.
right of the ambo and altar is the organ and place for the choir. The
choir as part of the gathered worshiping assembly does not entertain,
but leads the community in singing and actively participating in the
worship of the heavenly Father. The move from the choir loft to the side
of the sanctuary highlights the ministry of leadership of the choir.
the rear of the altar and ambo is a beautifully crafted decorative
screen. Behind this screen is a devotional area which accommodates eight
to ten people. This is where the Holy Eucharist is reserved in the
tabernacle for those who are sick and shut-in and for private prayer and
meditation. A hanging sanctuary lamp above the screen signifies the
presence of the Eucharist I the tabernacle.
total perspective of the renovated sanctuary immediately encourages the
gathered worshipers to focus in upon the faith realities of the
presence of Christ in His community, in His Word and in His Supper. St.
Teresa’s sanctuary is a model of what other churches in the diocese can
do with their pre-Vatican II sanctuary designs.