April 28, 2013
Last weekend I offered a homily on what it means to be the sheep of God’s flock. It is likewise hard to be a local shepherd at times as well. The good news is that we are all in this together, and we are not alone, for we have our Archbishop to help and guide us on our journey as a parish the local church called the Archdiocese of Portland.
In my homily, I reflected on the process of remodeling our Church building. But, I didn’t mention why a remodel was even needed. The reasons are many, but here are just some of the main ones. First and foremost, the particular approach to semi-round seating in our situation is problematic for liturgical celebrations, especially when a vast majority of people are seated to one side and hardly anyone sits in front of the altar. Most of the pews are not facing the altar, the main focus of any Catholic Church. Our lighting system is very inadequate. The acoustics render the spoken word hard to understand. The ability to use any kind of visual multimedia is extremely difficult (think, Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal video). The ability to celebrate baptisms, weddings, and funerals are a struggle liturgically. I imagine that many of you have your own thoughts that you might add to this list. Regardless, we need to implement a remodel to address these and other issues.
There are many many ways a Church can be built and or remodeled. There is no perfect or right way. Through the course of history, the Catholic Church has built many styles of Churches to the glory of God. I mentioned that I was aware that we have basically two paradigms from which to begin: augmenting the current semi-round approach we currently have or turning the entire focus in one direction facing the East or West side of our Church. Knowing that Archbishop Sample would ultimately have to approve our final design, I desired to ask him about the basic paradigm. So, two weeks ago I had that opportunity. He was very gracious and inquisitive about our project as well as the basic shape of our building. We had only a few minutes to chat, but he clearly desired that we choose the second of the two paradigms described above. In addition, he was clear that he desired that the tabernacle be placed directly behind the altar. He mentioned that, in particular with regard to the tabernacle placement, this would simply solve a lot of issues, a thought with which I agree.
I readily admit that I like modern architectural designs of many Catholic Churches, and I like Church arrangements in the semi- round approach. However, I also see many benefits of other designs too, including ones with the paradigm for which we will be striving. It is important to remember that the architecture of a Church, while important, isn’t the wholeness of what it means to be Church. If you find yourself saddened by this potential change, I want to encourage you to know that new and great things can come from this other approach. If you have always hoped that a remodel would be done in the forthcoming style, I ask that you be compassionate to those who have to die a little to the vision of Church that they have come to love. Most important is our sense of unity and communion with each other, our Archbishop, and most of all our Lord Jesus. Do not let this process become a moment for despair or arrogance, but rather for joy... joy for the new things that God is planning in our midst.
It is hard to be a sheep, following as a flock, together with one’s shepherd. I promise to continue to shepherd us all with clarity and transparency. In the months and years ahead, as we continue in this plan, there will be a feasibility study, potential listening sessions, input from various groups, a committee to help in the renovation, a capital campaign, discussions with our contractor and architect, and consistent communication with those at the Archdiocese as needed. I have already received people’s thoughts and desires about what they hope will happen, for which I am open. But, remember that this process may not necessarily please everyone, nor necessarily fulfill one’s personal demands. In that situation, please guard your hearts from the temptation of pride and arrogance that can cause dissension in these kinds of works. I will not be receptive to those who are demanding, lack charity, or will give with “strings attached.” This process will involve people with stewards’ hearts, people who are willing to give with faith and generosity, people who are willing to serve with regard to the common good and not themselves. As far as exacting details, I do not have any more than I have offered here as I write this letter. In this process, it is my personal goal that it will bring us together as one community, striving to remodel our Church to give God the glory, not ourselves. I am excited about the possibilities, and I ask you to pray for me, your local shepherd, as we begin the initial phases of dreaming and planning. May we be a light to all those with whom we work with and talk to in regards to this project.
Fr. William Holtzinger