Sanctuary Renovation Coming Soon!

04-11-2021Weekly Reflection

Dear Parishioners:

I am excited to be able to share this wonderful news with all of you! This summer, we’re going to be doing some renovations to our sanctuary space. The design concept is pictured here (large image also in the church narthex) and below is a summary from the artists about the symbolism and meaning behind what you will see. This build is the fruit of the 2019 “Together Let Us Go Forth” diocesan campaign and our own capital campaign launched in 2017. These campaigns have had two goals: 1) to build a parish hall; and 2) the beautification of our church. This sanctuary build will cost us between $500,000 and $750,000, will take 90-120 days to complete, and will not incur any more debt upon St. Mary Magdalene. We are continuing to work towards the parish hall. We have not given up on the hall, but have to continue raising monies, as current construction costs exceed the funds we have on hand. I will continue to share development updates as they become available.

God bless,
Fr. Chris Axline, Pastor

Why Renovate?

Dear Fellow Parishioners:

My wife, Ruth, and I own and operate New Jerusalem Studios, a liturgical arts studio dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through beautiful sacred art and design. Over the last year we’ve been blessed to collaborate with Fr. Chris and a creative group of fellow parishioners, to develop a vision for the beautiful renovation for our church interior. You may ask—why? Why this endeavor with a pandemic on our hands and many struggling to meet basic needs? I would like to answer with a brief anecdote. My wife, Ruth, grew up non-Catholic in a Christian denomination which held church services in a converted garage. In high school, she was blessed to take a school trip to Europe and she recalls in vivid detail walking into the Cathedral of St. Mary’s in Toledo, Spain. Entering through richly carved doors, what our tradition calls, the porta caeli, the gate of heaven, and into a luminous space with high vaulted ceilings, light streaming through stained glass windows, and rich sacred art, she was inspired to fall to her knees and pray. It was the first time she had seen such beauty in a church. She knew she was in the presence of God and she would later recall that this experience figured into her conversion to the Catholic faith.

This account illustrates one of the basic “whys” for church renovation. Authentic beauty is the visible radiance of the True and the Good. We’ve all experienced it. Being brought to tears by a piece of music or a great film, or our breath taken away by witnessing an act of true kindness or heroism. Beauty in creation, human craft, and human act is Goodness and Truth in visible form. Beauty is God’s primary language, inspiring the heart, lifting the soul, and enlightening the mind! Beauty in a church connects us with the love of God and the grandeur of his saving plan for our world and each one of us. Thus, beauty in church is essential, especially in difficult times!

The beautification of the sanctuary that Fr. Chris is unveiling today is the beginning of our work together as a parish to bring this kind of radiant beauty to our church. By expanding the sanctuary and covering its floor with beautiful marble, the dignity of what takes place on the altar is made visible to the eyes! By adding the rich and beautiful altar rail, the sanctuary as the new “holy of holies,” is made clear in visible form. The installation of hand-painted sacred art in the upper panel of the apse wall—portraying various angels and saints—expresses the Second Vatican Council’s reminder that when we celebrate mass we experience a “foretaste of heaven.” In the words of the prefaces, our voices are joined with those of the angels and saints as they sing in endless praise, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts!” Finally, our beautiful crucifix set in context of the rays of Divine Mercy places before our eyes the immeasurable love of God outpoured for us. Over the next weeks and months, through various means, including articles here in the bulletin, we will share more with you about the various elements of the renovation and the theological and practical reasons. We are so grateful for the opportunity to work with all of you to bring to visible expression in our church, what is already clearly present here, the amazing work of God in his holy people here in the East Valley!

Geoff Stricklin, New Jerusalem Studios