Wednesday, September 10, 2008

St. Peter's, North St. Paul-Maplewood, mixes old and new in a grand new church

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Father Dan Griffith believes that, in the future, other parishes planning new church buildings will be inspired by the Church of St. Peter in North St. Paul.

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The new St. Peter Church in North St. Paul combines a bright interior with traditional artworks, such as the marble baldachin in the sanctuary and the stained-glass windows, which were obtained from closed churches in Massachusetts. The icons on the ceiling and walls were crafted by artist Nicholas Markell, whose work is in the Cathedral of St. Paul and other local churches. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

The new $12 million church, which will be blessed and dedicated by Archbishop John Nienstedt at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 7, includes valuable artwork from churches that have closed in Massachusetts.

“I think priests building in the future will look at this option” of using items from closed churches, said Father Griffith, pastor of St. Peter parish, which includes the former parish of Holy Redeemer in Maple­­wood. Holy Redeemer merged with St. Peter in 2007.

“Our parishioners wanted a church that feels like a traditional church,” Father Griffith said.

The new St. Peter Church incorporates ideas and requests from both St. Peter and Holy Redeemer parishioners. After worshipping in a gymnasium that seated about 700 for 20 years, St. Peter parishioners wanted a similar bright open space, but with a traditional look. The space where the original church was situated and seated only about 200 now provides a gathering space and a chapel for daily Mass.

window.jpgTreasures from the East

A more contemporary high wood ceiling with cream-colored walls and floor tile encompasses traditional wood pews with detailed carvings. Boldly-carved marble Stations of the Cross that came from St. Gabriel Church in Brighton, Mass., grace the walls between 1890s stained-glass windows, depicting the life of Peter.

The windows, which had been stored for 15 years, came from St. Peter in Lowell, Mass., and exactly fit the space that had been built into the church before findng the windows, Father Grif­fith said.

A magnificent marble bal­dachin towers above the altar in the sanctuary, which is flanked by two side altars, all from St. Gabriel.

Intricately-carved marble also decorates the baptismal font, which sits in the bright new gathering space, formerly part of the old church. The marble artifacts, valued at about $3 million, were acquired and shipped with a special donation from a parishioner of about $500,000.

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Chapel honors parish

Although building plans began in 2006 before Holy Redeemer merged with St. Peter, parishioners and Father Griffith wanted to honor their new members and ack­now­ledge the loss of their church.

One special honor is the chapel, which is situated in the space at the back of the old church and next to the new church and gathering space.

It is named Holy Re­deemer Chapel in memory of Father Austin Ward, who was Holy Redeemer’s pastor from 1992 until his death in 2003, Father Griffith said.

Also in the chapel, hanging above the old St. Peter altar, a new icon cross designed by artist Nicholas Markell includes paint made with crushed rock from both churches. The inscription on the cross — “O Lord my rock [St. Peter] and my redeemer” — further merges the parishes.

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The Holy Redeemer icon. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Jean Costello, a former Holy Redeemer parishioner, said that she is looking forward to the new worship space.

“It’s better that we have a new worship space rather than being combined in the old church,” Costello said. “It’s a new beginning for both parishes.”

Peggy McCarthy, who also came from Holy Redeemer, said, “Fa­ther Dan listened to the people.”

Many Holy Redeemer parishioners are elderly, she said, and the new church has more space to accommodate wheelchairs, along with chairs with arms that help people stand up. In addition, more handicap parking spaces were put in the parking lot.

“Anything that people from Holy Redeemer wanted to be used at St. Peter, Father Dan has been sensitive to seeing to it that it would be used,” McCarthy said.

Frank Wood, a longtime St. Peter member who was chair of the building advisory committee, said that he and other St. Peter parishioners often attended daily Mass at Holy Redeemer when the parish still had two campuses.

“I think they in turn were very gracious and open,” he said. “We’re working on becoming one parish family.”

He said that the new worship space with artifacts from both churches will help bring people together.

“[Father Griffith] deserves the lions’ share of the credit for the wonderful new sacred space worship space,” Wood said. “Our parish is fortunate that he came when he did.”

The building project also includes new offices, a music room, nursery, bridal room, meeting rooms and a youth room, all in 26,000 square feet of new space and 12,000 square feet of renovated space. Catholic Spirit

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