Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki celebrated the Dedication Mass for the new altar at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in West Bend. (Submitted photo)
Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki was in West Bend in January to dedicate the new altar at St. Frances Cabrini Parish.
The dedication, which was performed during a Sunday morning Mass, is a ceremony involving a number of important components. First was the Deposition of Relics, when relics of four saints — St. Frances Cabrini, St. Matthew, St. Cecelia and St. Agnes — were placed in the parish’s altar. A Prayer of Dedication followed. Then, the archbishop anointed the altar with consecrated oil. This was followed by the Incensation of the Altar. In the final steps, the altar was covered, and candles were placed and lit.
“The altar is an altar of sacrifice. But it’s also a table where Christ shares himself with us, and brings us together, like bringing a family to the table,” Archbishop Listecki said.
The new altar was part of a larger renovation of the sanctuary, a project funded by the parish’s Love One Another campaign. It included new pews, replacing carpeting with new tile flooring, the installation of two side altars and a new baptismal font, the addition of a communion rail and infrastructure updates.
The most striking feature of the renovation is the 41-foot mural at the front of the church. It is a depiction of Christ the King surrounded by angels, apostles and saints.
Two artists at Conrad Schmitt Studios in New Berlin worked on the four-story painting for more than a year in the studio. Once complete, the mural was brought to the parish in five pieces to be installed over three months. It is the largest painting ever created by the studio.
Fr. Nathan Reesman was the pastor at St. Frances Cabrini for 13 years before being called to his position as Vicar for Clergy for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee one year ago. The renovation, which was set in motion in 2022, was his vision. After the dedication Mass, he gave a presentation to the parish about the inspiration for the renovation, and the symbolism found in the mural.
“The sanctuary is supposed to be the heart of a Catholic worship space. We did all this to make it as sacred a space as we possibly could,” he said.
The mural depicts Christ the King, enthroned in majesty, surrounded by symbols of the Trinity, as well as angels of the Passion and the Resurrection, the Holy Family, apostles and saints. The parish’s website provides a key to the identities of each of the 28 figures represented in the mural, as well as the meaning behind the symbols.
“For a liturgical space like this — a sanctuary — it’s important to have over the altar a representation of Christ in a majestic, glorified, powerful presentation,” Fr. Reesman said. “He sits over all of us, inviting all of us to join him there. And the goal is to move from the pews to the heavenly realm by way of the altar and the sacraments.”
“This is here to tell us what our lives should be about, what the world should be about, what we are heading to. This is what it’s all for.”
In remarks given during a reception following the dedication, present Pastor Fr. Jacob Strand acknowledged the many people involved in the project: those involved in the construction, the brainstorming and planning, and the Love One Another campaign, and the generous donors who pledged the funds for the renovation. He also drew attention to the parishioners and school children performing the less visible work of setting up and dismantling the temporary sanctuary each weekend during the construction, and dusting the many pews.
“Whether ornate or simple, the churches that stand the test of time have one common trait: they are beautiful. In constructing them, Christians express their desire to make something beautiful for God,” Fr. Strand said. “The beauty of a church building should reflect the resplendence of the acts of faith, hope, and love performed by you and me, members of the Body of Christ. Worshiping in our newly renovated worship space should illuminate us.”
Fr. Reesman was pleased with the finished sanctuary. “It came together pretty much as I’d hoped. It’s remarkably what we’d planned on,” he said.
Fr. Strand is also pleased with the beautiful new worship space. “May our newly renovated space inspire us to do something beautiful for God by daily giving him our hearts,” he said.