Broader view

July 20-Aug. 2, 2006
Broader view
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Holy Cross Church donates stained glass windows to Archdiocese of New Orleans

An element of Central New York will someday be a part of the structure of a small chapel in the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged area in New Orleans, La.
On June 16, Ed King, diocesan director of the facilities construction office, assisted by his son Dan King and brother Mike King, diocesan supervisor of maintenance at St. Mary’s Church in Baldwinsville, removed eight large stained glass windows from Holy Cross Church in Dewitt. The parish has built a new church structure for its growing congregation — a total of 1,850 families.

Father Robert Yeazel, pastor at Holy Cross, said the parishioners and church staff decided to donate some of the liturgical items from the original church to churches in need before it was torn down on June 20. The church pews were donated to St. John the Evangelist Church in Camden and the windows will be shipped to the cultural heritage office of the New Orleans Archdiocesan Archives. “We’re giving them away,” said Father Yeazel. “It’s a marvelous way to reach out to those in need.” New Orleans archivist Dr. Charles Nolan said the stained glass windows probably won’t be used right away. They will be stored in the office until some small chapels are rebuilt in the New Orleans area.

Because of a greatly reduced city population and physical damage to many churches post-Katrina, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has closed seven parishes and delayed the reopening of 23 churches. The estimate of the wind and flood damage to archdiocesan properties is in the area of $225 million.

Nolan, who is the director of the cultural heritage office, said that taking care of the sacred items from the churches in the archdiocese has been a major part of his work. He said that he and his staff regularly remove statues and other sacred items from the churches. They bring the items back to the office to be photographed, inventoried and stored. Presently, over 1,000 items have been archived. These items are loaned to other churches.

“The parishes are struggling to get back on their feet,” said Nolan. He said churches from throughout the U.S. are donating items to the New Orleans Archdiocese. “The wonderful side of Katrina is that people have opened their hearts to the spirit of generosity,” he commented.

The New Orleans Archives has four major sections: historical records, sacramental, cemetery and orphanage records, manuscript collections and a library. The archives houses approximately 915 volumes of records of early baptisms, marriages, funerals, confirmations, first communions and interments. Parishioners at St. Augustine’s Church in New Orleans are fighting to keep the doors open. Attendance at St. Augustine, down to fewer than 200 people pre-Katrina, increased significantly afterward. But archdiocesan officials said current attendance is not enough.

St. Augustine sustained about half a million dollars worth of damage to its roof and bell tower. The church, in the Treme neighborhood near the French Quarter, is one of the nation’s first African American Catholic churches. It was built in 1841 by slaves and by Italian and French immigrants. It was one of the first churches where slaves, free blacks and whites worshipped together. Its interracial congregation and services blend elements of Catholicism with African spirituality and New Orleans culture. St. Augustine’s is known for popular jazz Masses and jazz funerals. The parishioners of Holy Cross in Dewitt have been attending Mass in the Holy Cross School gymnasium while their new church is being constructed. The new church building is scheduled to be blessed at 2 p.m. on July 29. Then, following an open house, Mass will be held at 4 p.m.

The construction of the new church began in May 2005. Many of the sacred items from the original church have been placed in the new building. The altar and the pulpit have been installed in the daily Mass chapel and the chairs have been placed in the new choir loft.

The stained glass window over the altar in the main sanctuary is quite impressive. A large crucifix is situated in the middle of the window and the background consists of a yellow, blue and purple sunburst. A children’s chapel has been constructed in the downstairs area of the building. Father John Manno, parochial vicar at Holy Cross, explained that the chapel will accommodate children as they listen to the Scriptures during the Mass. Also located downstairs is a social hall that will accommodate up to 350 people.

Father Manno said that the classrooms earmarked for religious education have increased in number with the building of the new church. The former building had seven classrooms available — the parish now has 13 rooms available for the 750 people that are enrolled in the program.

Father Manno is very pleased with the new building. “It’s wonderful,” he said, “to think that in this day and age we built a bigger church. I find it’s very exciting. It’s a testimony to the faith of the parishioners at Holy Cross.”

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