After five years of planning, fundraising for the project, and execution of the plan, we are now going to celebrate Mass in our newly renovated church. In the midst of the pandemic, this has all come about. Perhaps it has been a blessing in disguise. While we limited the number of people attending Mass, social distanced, wore masks, celebrated the Eucharist in our parish hall, and recorded the Mass each week to be available on YouTube and our website, the construction of our worship space was being completed. Now that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel it’s time to gather again in our church to celebrate the Eucharist as the people of St. James Parish.
Let us now take a “tour” of the building. The first thing you will notice as you enter the church are the newly-painted doors, thanks to Mary and Chuck Calteux for brightening up this entryway. If you look down at the floor you will see that the terrazzo here and throughout the church has been ground down and sealed to create an almost new appearance. Glance into the sacristy and see a much brighter room due to the painting by Carl Reyes and the room being enlarged to create a larger reconciliation chapel. Now proceed into the nave of the church and you will see newly painted church walls, ceiling, vents, and doors. As you enter you will bless yourself with holy water in our baptismal font. Here you see a new stand for our paschal candle and the ambry containing the three oils used in the sacraments. Now raise your eyes to the ceiling where you will see the five steel beams enclosed in wood creating a much warmer feeling and atmosphere. Also, you will experience a much brighter mood due to the fact that all our lights are now energy efficient LEDs with dimmer switches on them. This is also true of the sanctuary area and the choir location. Proceeding to the left along the south wall are located the fourteen stations of the cross newly framed. Obviously, we can’t miss the new padded pews, chairs, and kneelers providing a little comfort as we pray and listen to long homilies. Down the southwest corner you will notice what we call the thematic shrine area. Depending on the liturgical season of the year we will have different themes and symbols (e.g. nativity scene) for prayer and inspiration. As you make your way into your seat and make your reverence before entering the pew your eyes will take in the sanctuary area. Here is the heart of our prayer and worship, the altar and ambry. What you should see immediately is the new tabernacle which replaces the original one which was located in the reredos (back wall). The Eucharist is reserved in the tabernacle for adoration and communion for those homebound and unable to attend Mass. In addition, for our inspiration and prayer, you will see our new crucifix and the statues of Mary and Joseph. To the left of the sacristy is, of course, our choir area, which is so important in leading us in song and praise. Something else you may not see but will hear is our new sound system. We hope this will help us to experience the Word of God better, especially for those who are hearing impaired. Perhaps the most obvious change that has been made are the windows. Previously made of glass blocks, which had begun to leak and deteriorate, they are now replaced with thermal pane windows. You will notice the center panels are empty. These will house the stained glass windows of the seven sacraments and the symbol for St. James. As you are leaving the church you will see on the east wall a wood carving of various events in the life of Mary, and to the right of the door is our statue of St. James.
I hope you are all excited and pleased about our newly renovated church. We are grateful to the staff, the Planning and Renovation Committees, and of course, all our generous contributors. Without everyone's gifts and contributions our new worship space would not be possible.
In our Gospel today, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast. Each weekend we are invited to the wedding feast of the Eucharist. It will be a little different now. We have a new environment in which to encounter the Lord in word and sacrament. Hopefully, it will enhance our prayer and worship now and for generations to come.
Love, Peace, Joy