As Sisters and guests filed into the sanctuary and searched for their seats, the subtle smell of fresh paint was an indication of the months of work that have gone into renewing St. Vincent de Paul Church at Nazareth.
“It is so good to be back in this wonderfully renewed and updated church,” said Sister Paschal Fernicola as she entered the sanctuary on Wednesday with her trademark smile. “We thank all the people who made it possible. It is so moving to me.”
Wednesday morning’s Mass was the first held in the church since mid-January when the sanctuary was once again temporarily closed to allow for renovation. The most recent work, which required the Sisters to move Mass to the Columba reading room in O’Connell Hall for a few weeks, included updating the carpet and other flooring improvements. It was just a few months ago, however, that scaffolding surrounded the altar and tarps covered pews while crews worked diligently to address years of wear and tear across the historic structure. Those updates were preceded by extensive exterior repairs to the church’s roof.
“It’s been quite a road we’ve been down, starting with the replacement of the roof and the repair to the plaster and the paint,” Campus Services Director Will Rosenbaum said during an update on the project. Rosenbaum added the church was not “remodeled” but renovated, so there were no drastic changes made to its appearance. “The ambiance committee chose to have a carpet that a manufacture specially made for us to match what the former carpet looked like when it was new,” he said, providing an example of preserving the look.
In August 2021, a campaign was launched to raise an estimated $600,000 to make the needed repairs to the church and preserve “the heart of Nazareth” for future generations. Numerous donors – more than 1,100, in fact – contributed to that campaign and made the renovations possible.
“Sisters, Associates and friends, it has been the initiative and certainly the generosity of so many that we can be sitting in this church here again today,” said Sister Barbara Flores, Provincial of the Western Province, as she welcomed those who attended Mass Wednesday. Sister Barbara recognized some of those who made the renovation possible, including Campus Services and employees who oversaw the project and the Office of Mission Advancement who helped fundraise for the campaign. At the conclusion of Mass, a blessing of a representation of the Infant Jesus of Prague also took place.
Wednesday’s Mass not only celebrated a return to the sanctuary for the Sisters, but also for the public. A mixture of repair work and COVID-19 restrictions has limited public access to the church for quite some time, but the Sisters are excited to open their doors to the local community once again.
“It is great we have a place to go for Mass, but there is nothing like being together with the whole community again,” Sister Paschal said of reopening.
Sisters Mary Ninette Manning and Camille Panich were also excited to be back in the church this week, sharing their delight after Mass concluded. “I think it’s wonderful. Long awaited – the new church and spring!” Sister Mary Ninette said. “We want to bless all those who brought it about. It was not an easy job.”
Sister Molly Thompson said the reopening was something she greatly anticipated. “I was really thrilled to be back in church this morning. It was so exciting to get up today and know that we could come back, not only to see the beauty of the church but to join with everyone else here that comes in to join us,” she said. “[The church] is so beautiful, you have to see it to experience it and be here with a joyful spirit.”
To further celebrate the reopening of St. Vincent de Paul and other areas of the Motherhouse Campus, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth will host an Open House on Friday, March 24, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., offering tours of the church, Heritage Hall Museum, Archives and the Visitor Center.
Congratulations to all those who are responsible for making God’s dwelling place beautiful once again. I wished I could spend some time in the presence of the Lord in that beautiful, historical Church. I can only dream about it. Remember us in your prayer.
How great an honour to make God’s dwelling aesthetic and durable. I wish I could enter that holy place one more time.
It surely is wonderful to be back in St. Vincent Church and to be able to have our friends join with us again. Thanks Kacie for such a fine recap of the steps along the road that brought us back. A big THANK YOU and God bless you to everyone involved in this amazing effort.
It is a blessing to be able to celebrate in church once again.