Friday, November 25, 2011


MY COMMENTS FIRST ON MY VERY OWN 1981 NEWSPAPER ARTICLE ON THE RENOVATION OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA CHURCH IN ALBANY, GEORGIA (BE SURE TO SAY ALL-BENNY!) Okay, this is going to be good! I was ordained on June 7, 1980. I went to major seminary in St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland, 1976-80. I was influenced greatly by the Sulpician school of liturgy and Father Eugene Walsh,SS both of which were very much influenced by the iconoclasm of the 1960's and 70's in the Church, the liturgy and the seminary! The pictures below I took with my blackberry from old photos I have and from the Southern Cross Diocesan newspaper which accounts for their poor quality. But you get the idea! My article was rather lengthy and I was surprised the editor of the Southern Cross published it in its entirety on November 19, 1981. I acted as the Master of Ceremonies for this consecration and a month later for another one at St. Joseph Church in Waycross, GA! This combined with the article eventually led Bishop Lessard to name me the Associate Pastor of the Cathedral in 1985 as well as Diocesan Master of Ceremonies and Director of Liturgy.

While the article below the pictures from 1981 depicts my thinking very well and much I still agree; I would write today more from the hermeneutic of reform within continuity rather than reform within rupture with the past! Please note, though, and this doesn't shock me, that no where in the article do I discuss the Sacrificial aspect of the Mass--it is the Lord's Supper and our sharing in it! It's all about the banquet, not about the bloody sacrifice re-presented in an "unbloodly way." Nor is there any description of the Holy Eucharist as the "Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ." That was so pre-Vatican II in the 1980's! It is to laugh today! What a time warp!

I had a great deal of influence on this renovation and pushed it mightily through and tried to convince reticent parishioners to get with it! But the one good thing I did do was to convince the renovation committee not to follow Rambusch's demand that the large crucifix on the wall above the altar be removed. I save Jesus crucified! (another example of how the sacrifice of Christ was not emphasized in the post-Vatican II, spirit of Vatican II theology that Rambusch and other church renovators shoved down the throat of the Church in America.

After this Mass was over, many parishioners came up to me and said the altar is too low, we couldn't see a thing! Rambusch only wanted it all to be two steps high so that it wasn't distant and aloof from the congregation! Within a couple of months I regretted this "reckovation!" About ten years ago, this sanctuary was again renovated (restored) and statues placed back where they once had been rather than hidden off to the sides. Everything that goes around comes around again! Enjoy my time warp article below! I'd love to read your comments! But be nice, I was a young whippersnapper!

My article on the front page of our Diocesan newspaper "The Southern Cross" from November 19, 1981!

This photo from the paper of the "before" pre-Vatican II design:

The renovation in progress after the deconstruction:

Bishop Raymond W. Lessard incensing the new altar:

Choir leaders and choir singing from new location next to the altar, please note where the choir director had to stand!

Bishop Lessard celebrating "The Lord's Supper" as it was described in 1981 for the first time on the newly consecrated altar. Please note my modern chalice (my parents gave it to me for my ordination gift) and the baskets of bread in real baskets with napkins below the bread to be consecrated, real food and drink and not to be missed! Please note too the large crystal decanter of wine being consecrated to later be "poured out" into additional "cups" as a sign of Christ's Blood poured out for us!

One of the first school Masses in the renovated Church:

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 among us.

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.

The 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.

The 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.

Likewise, 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.

The 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.

To 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.
To the right of the ambo and altar is the organ and place for the choir. The choir as part of the gathered worshipping 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.

To 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.

The total perspective of the renovated sanctuary immediately encourages the gathered worshippers 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.


Bill said...

The renovated churches from that time, and the new ones built to that manner of thinking, seem about as inviting as a monastery cell. So it has seemed to me that instead of the re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice, we sacrifice all sense of reverence or continuity.

I remember in the late 1960s being taken to a folk Mass, and being appalled that the alter in use was unfinished plywood.

Attending Mass being an act of will, I cannot bring myself to appear there in T-shirt and shorts, as many do. Equally, a church which is so bare seems to me a thoughtless act, rather than a worshipful one.

Henry Edwards said...


Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville has never been renovated, much less wreckovated. Perhaps there's a correlation between the facts that it still looks like a Catholic Church, that both EF and OF here have the atmosphere of a Catholic Mass, and the fact that I've never seen anyone there in T-shirt or shorts. Maybe the principle is that, if it looks and feels like a Catholic church, then the people there are more likely to look and worship like Catholics. Think about it . . . St. Joseph's in Macon, St. Mary's in Greenville . . . . .

Marc said...

Thank you for posting this. It helps those of us who were not yet born to understand the fervor with which the destruction of the Church was carried out and that people really believed in that destruction as necessary progress. Just look at how many times you used the word "new" (or some form of that word) in your article.

I am glad you have repented of this view, Father, and are now advocating continuity with the pre-Concilliar Church! I pray that more bishops (who no doubt shared your past views and taught them) will see the light and advocate a turn away from the destruction this has and continues to cause. Thank God our Holy Father understands!


Bill said...

I'm sure you are right, but I have also noticed that when people come to the EF, they are more reverent, well dressed for it, and quiet. That was true at St. John Neumann in Farragut, before the new church was built, even though the old was a quite modern and un-churchlike structure.

Marc said...

Henry, I was blessed to be able to go to Holy Ghost in Knoxville in August while on vacation. I made the 45 minute drive to go to the TLM there. It is a beautiful Church with (what appears from all outward appearances to be) a very devoted priest saying the TLM. (I noted very long lines for the Confessional before Mass, as well)

I really liked how the table altar was simply unused for the TLM and main altar used. It appeared a bit more difficult logistically, but was quite meaningful. I was also quite impressed by the altar servers. Just a beautiful Mass there.

There is also an Eastern Rite attached to that Church, isn't there?

Henry Edwards said...


Yes, in addition to the EF and the OF in both English and Spanish, Holy Ghost Church also has a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy (actually, in the old church, across a parking lot from the "new" 1925 church). Just as our holy father church advocates--"reconciliation at the heart of the Church, the liturgy"--all these are mutually supportive, never have I heard of anything resembling discord within the parish (on liturgy or anything else).

Anonymous said...

1980? I thought I read this article on Pray Tell in 2011?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

That's one of the things I like about Pray Tell, I get so nostalgic for my seminary days of the 1970's reading all the comments there! It is like a time warp to me that brings great comfort in a perverse sort of way. :)

Rood Screen said...

I really like this post. It reveals just how catchy the new thinking was at the time.
It seems to me the key words here are liturgy and theology. When the goal was to promote lay participation in the Western liturgy, everything was on track. But when everyone started talking about fundamental changes in Eucharistic theology, this development derailed the Western liturgy.
Pope John Paul II did much to repair the rails of Catholic theology, so now Pope Benedict is working to set the train back on the track. The liturgy must always advance, but it must also stay on a sturdy track.

Anonymous said...

What this shows is that we can't rest on the laurels of others, and if we are to see from the shoulders of giants, we must climb up them ourselves.

so, Frajm, you are set to be the prophet for this prophet age. This is the view from Nebo?


Bill said...

Henry, have you visited the Byzantine Catholic Mass? I have more than passing curiosity, as I understand that they are in full communion, and there looms the opportunity of one of their churches at less than half the distance of our one and only Latin parish.

Anonymous said...


Another point is how quickly the supposedly "new" and "modern" 1958 design was considered to be old fashioned and traditional. Those churches built in the 1950s and early 60's often had many traditional elements kept in them, such as altar rails, that the new "modern" deemed obsolete and behind the times.

My parish church, St. Philomena's in Franklinville built in 1964 was never renovated and thus is a perfect testament to "tradtional" modern. It was designed for mass ad populum, with the tabernacle between the priest and the congregation. The only change made was to move the tabernacle to the back wall, from which it was never removed. But the ultra modern crucifix's. altar rails (filled with designs from the early church), candlesticks, statues and baptismal fonts, made of welded steel rods have not changed in 45 years. Because the church was designed by a renowned sculptor, who created in his studio all of the above items, the Church is preserved unchanged.

James Ignatius McAuley
James I