St. Bede the Venerable Parish reaches out to Most Blessed Sacrament’s parishioners – through art

By Elizabeth Fisher
Special to the CS&T

HOLLAND – When the renovations at St. Bede the Venerable Church in Holland are completed sometime next year, John Kraft will feel right at home. That’s because many of the religious artifacts that adorned his home parish – Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Southwest Philadelphia – will find places of honor at St. Bede’s.

Kraft grew up in Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, graduating from the grade school in 1953. Many changes have happened since that time. Over the years, Kraft, a graduate of West Catholic High School, moved away. During those same decades, attendance at MBS dwindled. Finally, in 2008, the church that stood at 56th Street and Chester Avenue for 117 years closed its doors.

Around that same time, the pastor of St. Bede’s, Msgr. John C. Marine, and his congregation decided that their 45-year-old church was in need of a makeover. They kicked off a $5 million capital campaign to raise money for the renovations. Making a home for many of the religious artifacts that graced MBS for so many years became part of the project, Msgr. Marine said. {{more}}

“When it was first built, our church was meant to be a temporary structure and it was built with temporary materials. We decided it was time to enlarge it and bring it up to date because it is a house of God,” Msgr. Marine said.

The pastor hired University of Notre Dame architect Duncan Stroik to create a design that would accommodate the artifacts from Most Blessed Sacrament, which include a marble altar depicting DaVinci’s “Last Supper” at its base, a marble baldacino (canopy) and pews. Three 12-by-40-foot stained glass windows from MBS will be installed behind the altar.

Extra space will also allow for an extended basement area where an Adoration chapel will be built, said Frank Lynch, a member of the campaign committee.

“We had a parish focus group that worked with Msgr. Marine to look into building a new church, but that would have cost $10 million and it was way out of our budget. We decided on the renovations, but the artifacts we’re getting from MBS are really beautiful,” Lynch said.

The religious articles are currently in storage in a Trevose warehouse. So far the parish has raised about $3.5 million through fundraisers’ pledges, said parishioner and committee member Casmir Ilenda.

St. Bede’s didn’t just make use of the religious items from MBS. Its parishioners reached out to former parishioners of the Philadelphia parish, inviting them to a luncheon last winter to show them a film on how the items would be used. That’s where John Kraft came in.

Kraft, currently a resident of Washington Crossing, Bucks County, attended and was deeply moved by the warmth and acceptance he and his wife received from Msgr. Marine and St. Bede’s members, he said.

Because of that welcome, Kraft and his wife – who had been attending Mass at a New Jersey church – decided to join St. Bede’s. He’s looking forward to once again seeing the items he took for granted at his old church.

“I will be surrounded by all those things that were familiar to me when I was a child,” he said.

Elizabeth Fisher is a freelance journalist and member of St. Mark Parish in Bristol.