New Altar at Lincoln Roman Catholic Church

LINCOLN — Calling it a “day of blessing for this community and for the church as a whole,” Bishop Louis Tylka dedicated a new altar in the renovated sanctuary of Holy Family Church during a Mass April 3.

“It is a great joy to be with you today to celebrate this Mass and to consecrate this altar which will be used to offer the sacrifice of the Mass and allow us to be nurtured and nurtured by the Lord for years to come” , said Msgr. Tylka, who presided over the rite of consecration during the Sunday liturgy.

Installed the night before, the altar is one of three sanctuary furnishings designed and crafted by Jason Hoffman, a local sculptor and furniture craftsman who is also owner and curator of the Lincoln Arts Institute. In addition to the altar, Hoffman created an ambo and presiding chair, all in cherry wood.

“Jason built it all up,” said pastor Father Joseph Dondanville in remarks at the end of the mass. Asking the artist to stand, he called Hoffman “a gifted carpenter, an artist, and dare I say you are a visionary.” The assembly applauds in agreement.

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Father Dondanville also thanked the members of the parish restoration committee as well as the donors responsible for carrying out phase I of the church renovation project.

The renovated sanctuary also includes a new rear wall that more closely resembles the original design of the Romanesque brick church built in 1904 and originally under the patronage of St. Patrick. A series of archways and three stained glass windows depicting the Crucifixion – topped with walls erected to create a rear hallway decades ago – have been rediscovered and lovingly restored. The central window of the Crucifixion, however, shattered during the removal of a brick wall.

A new main Crucifixion window has been created and is dedicated to the memory of the heart transplant donor for Elijah Cox, the son of Jonathan and Dr. Melissa Cox, members of the Restoration Committee. All of the church’s stained glass windows were recently restored by Jacksonville Art Glass.

A large crucifix that once hung above the tabernacle has a new home under an arch at the side of the sanctuary. On the other side are statues of Joseph and Mary.

The fresh paint in the sanctuary – including a ceiling of stars on a dark blue background and the words “It is good for us to be here” covering the main arch at the entrance to the sanctuary – was done by Max Autenrieb Edwardsville Church Interior Decorating. Brenda Weiss of that company added touches that include two angels bowing reverently to the window of the crucifixion and an image of the Holy Spirit.

Father Dondanville told the Catholic Post that the next phase of the renovation will include painting the nave as well as new flooring and pews. Fundraising has already started.

“It has been a wonderful adventure and journey to make this happen,” he told the gathering.

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In his homily, Bishop Tylka explained how the altar of a Catholic church “is the symbol of Jesus himself.”

“Whenever we gather around this new altar in this church,” Bishop Tylka said, “let us never forget the importance and significance of this table – this table that was built to stand in the middle of your consecrated community (and ) so that it may be the very presence and symbol of Christ himself.

Noting the approach of Holy Week, Bishop Tylka noted that the altar symbolizes “Jesus who offers himself for our salvation that we may know the power of God’s mercy and love in our life.”

The series of consecration rituals included a purification of the altar with holy water, which was also used to bless the congregation; the chanting of the Litanies of the Saints; the insertion and sealing of an altar stone; the spreading of the chrism on the surface of the altar; the placement of a bowl of incense on the altar symbolizing the prayers rising like incense and that the church “be perfumed with the aroma of Christ”; lighting candles; and the covering of the altar with the shroud.

Father Dondanville acknowledged that the process of restoration began under the pastorate of his predecessor, Msgr. Jeffrey Laible, and said it has led to a “very profound spiritual renewal” for the parish.

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