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St. Monica Church to Be Remodeled

July 11th, 2009, Promulgated by Dr. K

St. Monica parish, located in the city’s 19th ward, will soon begin a renovation project of its church campus on Genesee St. This building project is intended to make the structure more “inviting and welcoming” according to an October 2008 buildings report. Below is a conceptual design for the renovated St. Monica church. To see the full-sized version of the diagram with various notes, click on the image below.

There are a few changes of note which will be coming to St. Monica as a result of this six month renovation: 1) The front pews will be oriented diagonally to create a more “in the round” worshiping environment (not my cup of tea), 2) The tabernacle, presently located atop the high altar, will be moved to the left side of the church and placed atop a side altar, and 3) A baptismal font will be constructed in the back of the church. Other changes, such as ramps for handicap persons to get up to the sanctuary and improved handicap access in the bathrooms, should be improvements. Recognizing that St. Monica’s is home to the Emmanuel Church of the Deaf, I’m not really sure what is meant by “translucent screen behind altar for effective signing,” so I will defer any judgment on that piece.

Compared to other area renovation projects, namely Sacred Heart Cathedral, this is not the worst I have seen. It is sad that a renovation that only does minimal damage has suddenly become a positive, but that is the diocese we live in. One major positive of this project is that the high altar will remain, including the baldacchino which towers above it. The pews are also not going to be completely replaced by chairs.

As for the movement of the tabernacle, in this particular instance, I can understand the rationale. Anyone familair with St. Monica will know that the high altar is quite far from the altar presently used for the Mass, and even further from the front row pews. A person sitting in the back of the church has to squint to make out the tabernacle in its present location due to this great distance. Moving the tabernacle to the side will bring the presence of the Lord much closer to the people and promote adoration, while at the same time improving its visibility.

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15 Responses to “St. Monica Church to Be Remodeled”

  1. avatar Tony says:

    Instead of turning the pews since we all see one another, the pews should be facing the Lord Jesus Christ in the tabernacle. We are worshiping God, not ourselves.

  2. avatar Anonymous says:

    Another beautiful Rochester city church meets the jackhammer. How long, Lord, how long must this suffering go on?

  3. avatar Bernie says:

    This is difficult for me to comment on as I have not been in St. Monica's. But, I humbly offer a few observations from what I can make out from the plan (wish I could see an artist's rendering of what the interior will look like).
    1. placing a tabernacle near an entrance/exit is a bad idea. That's where it is in St. Anne Church –next to the busiest door. People will soon enter and exit without so much as a look in the direction of the Sacrament. People at St. Anne, who do stop to at least bow are soon bumped from those in a hurry to get out. Those who stop to genuflect are nearly run over. I'd leave it where it is. It might be distant but at least, since it's in the center, people will genuflect before entering a pew. (If they are still genuflecting at all.)If the door is not much used then the proposed location is fine.
    2. It's certainly a big plus that the baldacchino will remain. Its appearance in the history of church architecture goes way back to the earliest Christian churches. The symbolism of the baldacchino (also called a "ciborium" –although there is a slight difference– is rich and varied and is shared between the Western and Eastern Churches). It would be nice to see it brought forward and placed over the free standing altar –which I would place farther back. It's symbolic value is greatly lessened when not covering the altar.
    3. I suspect the free standing altar as well as the celebrant's chair will suffer from a lack of visual emphasis. (They probably do now). That, of course, is probably intended. The emphasis now-a-days is on the community. Hierarchic structuring is a no-no even though hierarchy as a concept is a basic aspect of Catholic thought and practice –Catholic tradition.
    4. While there is tradition for a rectangular altar the preferred shape is a square. I suppose the folks responsible for the proposed altar want more of an "around the table" feeling (same reason for slanting the pews). This is a too radical break with Catholic tradition. Nothing "Catholic" about it. (I can't think of one example from our tradition of a round or multi-sided altar.)
    4. When are we going to stop situating the choir toward the front of a congregation? Choirs should be heard, not seen, otherwise we in the pews fixate on who has changed their hair style, who's new in the choir, who's missing this week, who's doing the solo. Choirs belong in the back of the church; cantors in the front.
    5. Translucent "signing" screen (I suppose to project an enlarged image of the person doing the signing)? A screen to one side of the altar would be sufficient as the signer could be on the other side (where the choir would be).
    6. I am a firm believer in looking to our received tradition when designing, redesigning or renovating our churches. There should be continuity with our past as we make changes.

  4. avatar Dr. K says:

    Excellent points, Bernie.

    I believe the main entrance used by parishioners is the one opposite the tabernacle side rather than the one right next to it, but I can see how placing the tabernacle near a door could present a problem (i.e- the St. Anne setup as you mentioned).

    ~Dr. K

  5. avatar Mary Kay says:

    St. Monica's parish is the ONLY Catholic church in the entire southwest quadrant of the city.

  6. avatar Dr. K says:

    If St. Thomas the Apostle is to be closed while drawing around 500 persons each week, what does that mean for the future of St. Monica, which draws normally between 225-300 persons per week? And the same for a number of city churches which draw far less than that.

    For example:
    -St. Andrew & Annunciation average around 300-400 per week, combined.
    -Immaculate Conception & St. Bridget average around 150 per week, combined.
    -Holy Apostles gets around 450 each week
    -Corpus Christi has been struggling mightily since the mergers. I don't have any numbers available right now
    -St. Michaels draws terribly, especially for the English Mass
    -St. George is a small Lithuanian parish, probably around 40-70 per week there

    The Catholic Church is quickly losing its presence in our city. Many more churches could still be closed in Rochester.

    ~Dr. K

  7. avatar Anonymous says:

    Poor St. Monica, poor Rochester city parishes. I wish we had a bishop who loved reaching out to the poorest and weakest parishes and tried to make them strong. Instead we have a bishop who views them as a waste of time and resources. So sad.

  8. avatar Anonymous says:

    St. Stanislaus has the best attendance in the city (thank you polish people and Tridentine mass), and rivals the cathedral in attendance.

    Our Lady of Perpetual Help draws poorly as well.

    Another city church under 500? St. Mary's downtown.

  9. avatar Gen says:

    We're only talking about Catholic churches. St. Mary's doesn't count. I wouldn't be surprised if their "Mass" is invalid.

  10. avatar Anonymous says:

    St. Mary's is messed up. Seriously messed up. That is no surprise given that Grosswirth, Sobala and DeRycke all have had ties to that parish. Do they still use that genderless-corpus cross in the opening and closing processions? Does that nun on staff continue to offer communion services for the gay community as mentioned once on A View from the Choir?

  11. As a point of history, "back in the day" St. Monica's had one of the best choirs in Rochester. Very good singers with an equally good organist, Hugh Dodge. Another really good choir was at Holy Rosary on Lexington. They were directed by Don Meminger (who is still living and probably close to 90). The other great choir was SS. Peter and Paul's on West Main St. That was consider the "high liturgy" church in the diocese. The organist and choirmaster both came from the old St. Patrick's Cathedral.

    That's all folks!

  12. avatar Dr. K says:

    Nice information there, choir.

    Did you know Jim Callan (yes, that Callan) used to sub in as organist for the Holy Rosary choir on occasions?

    ~Dr. K

  13. Dr. K –

    No, I didn't know that. I"m glad you mentioned it. Was that during the Msgr. Shay days? Holy Rosary choir in the very early 60s made a vinyl record (remember those). I actually have one of 'em. It was a High Mass on Pentecost Sunday with Msgr. Shay chanting the Preface in Latin (obviously). His Latin pretty wonky, but a good, strong voice. The choir sang Hassler's Missa Secunda Mass.

    On the reverse side the choir sings Christmas Carols.

    I should go dig that up, but I don't have a record player anymore 🙁

  14. avatar Dr. K says:

    I think it might have been during the early 60s.

    ~Dr. K

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