By NADIA MARIA SMITH
CS&T Staff Writer
HOLLAND – St. Bede the Venerable Parish in Holland, Bucks County, has bold plans to renovate its existing church into a classical Catholic masterpiece with the help of renowned architect Duncan Stroik.
The plan to “convert a simple A-frame church into an enduring building of beauty to suitably give honor to God” is the result of a two-month feasibility study, which revealed that parishioners preferred to renovate their existing church building rather than build a new one, said St. Bede’s pastor, Msgr. John C. Marine.
With that information he hired Stroik, associate professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame and the director of the Institute for Sacred Architecture, “because of his national reputation for building and restoring churches built in the 1960s into a more classical style.”
“I believe that this is the style that Pope Benedict is calling us to reconsider because it is a style that helps us remember that the church is not only the house of the people but it is also the house of God,” Msgr. Marine said. “The physical church is to communicate and help us realize better that when we gather at the liturgy for Mass, heaven and earth come together. God, through Jesus, lowers himself from the majesty of heaven to touch our humble minds. This type of architecture will be able to convey this transcendental presence of God among his people.”
The designs for the renovated church include incorporating several sacred pieces from the now closed Most Blessed Sacrament Church in West Philadelphia, “one of the most famous churches in the Archdiocese and a true work of art,” Msgr. Marine said. “The legacy of faith and memory of the people enshrined in that church will be able to live on in our church of St Bede’s.”
Some of the pieces that will appear at St. Bede’s include the marble crucifix, the tabernacle and baldachino (a marble canopy over the altar) the marble pulpit, baptistery, the original oil-painted stations of the cross, stained glass windows and the marble side altars with life-sized marble statuary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Long-time parishioner Colleen Swift is most excited about the altar piece with the carved Last Supper on the front that St. Bede’s will inherit from Most Blessed Sacrament.
“Our current altar is a very simple one and is always kept covered. Such a beautiful and permanent altar provides a fitting place to celebrate the Liturgy, and the sculpture on the front is an excellent reminder that we celebrate Communion as Jesus taught us to,” Swift said.
Edward Dunn, a former parishioner of Most Blessed Sacrament and long-time staff member of St. Bede, is happy that St. Bede’s will inherit several pieces from his former childhood parish, he said.
“A lot of people from Most Blessed Sacrament have moved out this way, so when they see the artifacts it will bring back all of their childhood memories like it will for me,” he said.
The renovations will also include a sanctuary twice as large as the current one, two large sacristies, additional seating, an elevator and a connecting road in front of the church for easy drop-off.
The renovations will cost more than $5 million, which the parish hopes to raise through a capital campaign “Our Living Church, Growing in Service,” which kicked off the weekend of Nov. 15 with a series of events.
Two hundred and twenty-five volunteer parishioners will be visiting parish homes and sharing the story of St. Bede’s, their plans for the renovations and asking for donations.
The parish has 10,000 registered parishioners and is a thriving and growing parish.
The overwhelming show of support “speaks to the love of parishioners for their parish and their desire to find a way to share their faith with others,” Msgr. Marine said. “I’m delighted at the number of new people who have become active as a result of this campaign.”
CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (215) 965-4614.