Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part XVIII — Testimony of Pictures

September 1st, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

It is often said that “a picture is worth 1000 words”.  Try to keep in mind that these pictures show a cost (as best we know) of about $300,000.  The question isn’t only if the demolition/renovation at St. Januarius in Naples is worth the money, but was it worth dividing a parish, severing long time relationships, and deepening the alienation, for THIS?  (We regret that some of the pictures are fuzzy; people run in and run out trying not to get “caught” and that is the kind of fear that is so widespread when a parish is divided.  As better pictures become available, we’ll post here, so please check back.

(For reminders, the original pictures of the Sanctuary can be found in Part II, X and XVII of this series.)  This is what the Sanctuary looked like last week:

1. Overview from left Rear of Church


2. View from center, right side.








3. Close-up of Tabernacle


4. Presider Chair and Altar



5. Crucifix in Sanctuary







6A. Statue of Mary taken from St. Mary Rushville 6B. St. Joseph not shown




7. Rear of Church; Divider not repaired or replaced









It should be remembered that 1) about three-quarters of St. Jan’s parishioners opposed these changes, 2) that they were not allowed to discuss their concerns at Care of the Community meetings, 3) that the faith community did not have a vote (but the Parish Council which is not representative of the parishioners and is mostly hand-picked by Fr. Ring did have the vote), 4) that the parishioners and summer visitors were solicited for contributions with false information regarding the chief donor, the purpose of the donor, and the requirements of the donor (Zeal post XV) 5) that the work that needed to be done (divider wall repair or replacement and adequately securing the Tabernacle–Zeal V) were set forth as part of the project but were not done 7) that no accounting for the project has been given to parishioners; they don’t know if their parish is in debt or not   8.  that greatly insulting actions against the parishioners were taken such as conducting demolition during Holy Week and making the Church unusable for the Triduum, 9) that secret plans were drawn up for a Sanctuary without the organ and the pastor entertained selling it for $3000, its having a worth of $75,000-$100,000 10) that donations by parishioners of railings, shrines and other art, for example, were unceremoniously trashed.  And more….but that is enough to at least convey the hostility of pastoral leadership toward many of the parishioners. 

A very key question that yet has no answer is why would a pastor who knows he is leaving and who had presided in the Sanctuary for nearly a decade, insist on making such dramatic and damaging change in the weeks before he left?  Perhaps those with less vested interest can candidly comment on the fruits of Fr. Ring’s work in the St. Jan’s Sanctuary.  But for the moment, relating to each of the pictures above, we will try to point out the parishioners’ many objections to the final result.

By way of background, the bright balloon shapes of the windows are not the actual experiences in the Sanctuary but are due to the scatter of light in the picture taking, so we won’t comment on that effect further. If you look back at the earlier postings of Sanctuary pictures, you will have a better idea of the appearance, which is unchanged.

Comments by picture #:

1. People have, most of all, complained about the Holy Eucharist being removed from the prominent center position behind the altar and shunted off to the side near the exit door.  They have remarked about the architectural imbalance of the squared-off back drop for the wall behind  the Tabernacle being at odds with the sweeping lines of what is un-affectionately called “The Ugly Christmas Tree-UCT.”  Complaints have been heard about how the enclosure of the UCT has a separating effect, and how its architectural style expresses no continuity with the architectural style of the church, even with the ill-matching of the yellows of the wood to the blues of the reinforced concrete.  There are complaints that the massiveness of the Tabernacle Wall and Table unbalances the entire Sanctuary.  It is a bit of a shock that a firm like LaBella would put their name on such a debacle.

2.  This view shows the free-form steps, now only two (reduced from four) which impairs the view of children and small or infirm adults to fully see the liturgy.  Moreover, there has already been conversation that the free form steps, ascended and descended for lectoring, for example, are awkward and easier to stumble over due to the irregular shape.  Time will tell if this is just the newness, or actually an architectural defect.  However, in spite of Fr. Ring’s citing clutter in the Sanctuary as an excuse for his demolition, one should note the handrails on the wall behind the altar.  (The black horizontal lines which cut across the altar profile.)  These are handrails which follow a ramp up to the altar area, and the lighting causes shadows, almost as dark as the railings, to fall on the light wall, creating a hodge-podge of horizontal “cuts” across the field of view.  The presider chair (now elevated, while the Tabernacle is demoted) sits alone with those same lines and shadows creating distraction.  There are twice as many distracting lines on the left side, due to railings there on both sides of the ramp, and shadows from both.  The altar is a spoiler, but after the beautiful altar which the St. Januarians enjoyed previously, probably anything else would be a disappointment.  The prior altar, as best we know, has been demolished and pieces and parts plastered elsewhere, like on the ambo.  The replacement altar was from St. Andrew in Dundee and was literally falling apart and had to be reworked.  But it gave the Bishop a reason to come celebrate and consecrate a “new” altar, hardly something which happens often in the Diocese of Rochester.

3. The controversial ramp goes “up” behind the tabernacle.  Close behind this sacred space is a station for people to sanitize their hands.  Now it is unclear if Eucharistic ministers will also descend on the ramp, being out of sight of the congregation while carrying the Precious Blood.  This is a good opportunity to point out that the wall behind the Tabernacle, and the UCT wall both have a “fakeness” to them, like a movie set in a Western, where the storefronts are all propped up with a 2×4 brace.  There is a cubicle-quality cheapness (though not cheap) to such false dividers.  One can also see the seeming insignificance of the altar space as seen from the area of the church near the Tabernacle and its facade.  (The fan on the floor evokes a dissonant note too; perhaps A/C would have been a better investment?)  The scene is completed with a (white?) Sanctuary candle.

4. This picture gives a closer view of the altar and of the multiple bars and shadows that cut through the altar profile.  It is far more clutter and distraction, in some people’s estimation, than what Fr. Ring previously called clutter (which, sadly, included the Blessed Sacrament.)  Now people won’t have much to look at except the presider, but perhaps that was part of the purpose?  There is a sense of “congestion” in the available area for the altar.  As the Sanctuary begins to be used, what is becoming apparent is that there is less usable floor space than previously available.  Is that why the other two chairs, usually with the presider’s chair, have disappeared?  It isn’t just square footage, but how one can move around the space.  Can a priest step backward without stepping off the ramp?  Some believe that the ramp was a farce to try to prevent a Latin Mass from ever again being celebrated in this space.  Perhaps it seems far-fetched, but the hijackers of Vatican II have gone to greater lengths.  Part of the space reduction is the incursion by the choir and music area too.  Good news is that the organ is still there, and the pipes are behind the UCT.  But, as the instrument is positioned now, the organist doesn’t seem able to see the presider!

5.  Having a crucifix back in the Sanctuary can be a plus, but the planners found a smaller one than had been there, and the woods do not match well.  It seems that perhaps a smaller crucifix is used for scale because of the diminished Sanctuary space.

6. The statues of Mary and Joseph were taken away from St. Mary Rushville.  The Bishop continues to insist that St. Mary is still open, but there seems to be no hesitancy in letting the vultures descend on the bones.  Fr. Ring even expressed what seems a somewhat absurd opinion that having these statues in Naples would make the former St. Mary parishioners feel more comfortable there.  It belies a real lack of understanding of how people react in their spirits when they are continually subjected to what has been taken from them.  Or perhaps that is part of the intention?  Meanwhile, the statue of St. Januarius seems to have disappeared from the Sanctuary.

7. One of the few areas in which there was consensus was that the divider screen between the church and the parish hall needed repair or replacement.  People who gave were likely enticed by that being one of the promised renovations but it did not happen.  This photo shows the view into the parish hall, the state of the divider screen, and the tiny baptismal font in the middle of the aisle near the Paschal candle.  There is also no evidence that the Tabernacle has been secured, which also was important to do.  Instead of taking care of the most obvious needs, the Pastor’s decision was to spend on false walls, an unnecessary ramp, elevating the presider chair, lowering the Tabernacle, and for what purpose?  How much of this gives praise to the Lord, saves souls or serves people?

That brings up the final point which doesn’t show in any particular picture but is perhaps hinted at by all the pictures.  Why did Fr. Ring do this just before he left for St. Louis in Pittsford?  Is it just bad taste or did it have an element of retribution against a community that felt he had mis-handled the Fr. Emo sexual abuse situation, which held a parish forum and asked the Bishop to remove Fr. Ring, which had been silenced and suppressed during pastoral planning, and which has suffered as a step-child of St. Michael’s in Penn Yan for far too long?  You decide.

Meanwhile, it would be of interest for those who are perhaps too close to the current situation to hear from others with an independent view and willingness to share it.  Thank you.


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8 Responses to “Zeal for Thy House Will Consume Me — Part XVIII — Testimony of Pictures”

  1. christian says:

    Fr. Ring and those in the DoR that supported the demolition and remake of the sanctuary as the priority over repairs of other areas are like spoiled, unruly, irresponsible, immature children who choose want over need. Like the aforementioned selfish and imprudent children, they do not care who they hurt or alienate in the process of getting what they want.

  2. Susan of Corning says:

    I vote for retribution. Interesting that the divider wasn’t fixed….

  3. Gretchen says:

    Why not start a fund to renovate the ‘renovation’?

  4. Barnyard says:

    $300,000. $150,000 per step!!! That price does not make sense. It was a tear down and destroy. Was anything built that could have cost that much? Very little material is needed when something is being wrecked. Almost all of the $300,000 was spent on labor. Actually, there also was an additional $30,000 collected from parishioners. Maybe the $30,000 was for the wreckovation and the $300,000 was for bribes, payoffs, skimming and outright theft? There actually is another thing to consider. Maybe St.Jans has secretly been set up to be another St.Mary. If 75% of the people opposed the wreckovation, a large percentage of them might not go back to the church because they don’t want to see the destruction in a church they loved. They go to another church, or none at all because of the betryal. More souls left out in the cold for satan to tempt. AND, the idea of having a church that is not used is not a good financial strategy. There is probably some heat being kept on in the church to prevent frozen pipes and other problems that go with a building that undergoes radical temperature changes. One of the biggest expenses still must be paid whether the church is closed or open. Insurance.. I know St.Mary is still on ‘the books’ until every cent of the treasury is sneaked off, but they still have to carry insurance on the property.

  5. The Egyptian says:

    oops I must have landed on a Star Trek blog, Do the Vulcans do a high mass, I mean really this is a nightmare,

    really when was this “church” built and who approved of it, honestly I believe for that chunk of change the wrecking ball would have been cheaper at least for the sanctuary,

    Sorry for any disrespect but this has to be the weirdest church I have ever seen, any self respecting Protestant wouldn’t want it

  6. Gen says:

    So many times when I see a church that has been renovated, I can at least understand their reasons. I might not agree with the plan, but I can see the great deal of work that has gone into the renovated sanctuary . . .

    This being said, St. Jan’s renovation is *not* one of those. I see no way in which this is an improvement over what the parishioners originally had. The cathedral’s renovation, as scandalous as many find it, was at least done well (from an purely aesthetic/non-religious point of view). We dethrone Our Lord for what? Some kind of new-age palisade? Pathetic.

  7. Ben Anderson says:

    this is all just so sad

    This is a good opportunity to point out that the wall behind the Tabernacle, and the UCT wall both have a “fakeness” to them, like a movie set in a Western, where the storefronts are all propped up with a 2×4 brace.

    You described it very well. It looks temporary – very make-shift.

  8. Raymond F. Rice says:

    “You described it very well. It looks temporary – very make-shift.”

    The wall ruins the harmony and balance of the sanctuary. Why infringe on or block a stained glass window that lets in God’s light??

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