To mark the culmination of thousands of hours of discussing, planning, designing, building and praying, our church, which was originally built in 1958, received its formal Consecration and the unveiling of the CHRIST AT THE CENTER project!
MASS OF DEDICATION WITH
CONSECRATION OF THE CHURCH
SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2019
TWO O’CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON
Highlights of the Mass of Dedication:
March 24, 2019
Our Christ at the Center sanctuary beautification project is a tangible manifestation that Christ is alive and working in the Church, even during the most difficult of times.
The Mass of Dedication of the Parish Church of Saint Catherine of Siena on March 24, 2019 is the culmination not only of the CHRIST AT THE CENTER project, but also of over sixty years of faith and sacrifice. Our church’s consecration today sets it definitively, permanently, and exclusively apart for divine worship. The enhancement and beautification of the sanctuary centers primarily around the new, custom-built limestone and marble retablo, (the large altarpiece on the back wall) the design and proportions of which have taken architectural cues from the existing language of the church, and are inspired by the altar of Our Lady, Health of the Roman People, Salus Populi Romani, at the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, in Rome – an expression of our Parish’s love for and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The retablo, wainscoting, and side shrines of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph are constructed of a total of over 20 tons of Indiana limestone (also known as Bedford limestone or Salem limestone) which was quarried in south central Indiana. This region has long yielded the highest quality limestone in the United States. The limestone in our church is primarily composed of calcium carbonate, and was formed over millions of years as marine fossils decomposed at the bottom of a shallow inland sea which covered most of the present-day Midwestern United States during the Mississippian Period, some 300 million years ago.
Within a pediment at the top of the retablo has been placed a wooden dove, finished in silver, representing the Holy Spirit, surrounded by a sunburst of forty golden rays. The dove is original to our church, and was affixed to the octagonal wooden tester which was suspended over the sanctuary prior to 1997. Since then, the dove had been located over the doors opening from the narthex to the nave, at the terminus of the church’s central aisle.
Within the retablo is situated the Crucifix, with the church’s original corpus, or statue of the Crucified Christ. The cross itself is constructed of African mahogany, and at the four points of the Cross are insets of botticino classico marble, as found in the Altar of Sacrifice, since it is on the altar that Christ’s once-for- all sacrifice of himself on the Cross for the salvation of the world is renewed in an unbloody manner.
Above the corpus is the Titulus Crucis. St. John, in his Gospel, writes: “There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek” (Jn 19: 18-20). The Titulus Crucis on our crucifix is a replica of what is said to be an extant piece of the original, now enshrined at the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, in Rome. Usually abbreviated as simply INRI (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, or Jesus the Nazorean, King of the Jews) our Titulus is as close to the original as possible, with the full text written in all three languages, its layout reconstructed from the extant piece of the original, which is also of walnut wood. All three lines of text are written from right to left in this rendering. Whereas Hebrew is always written from right to left, Greek and Latin are written from left to right. This suggests that the original was inscribed by a Jewish person whose first language was Hebrew, and who also knew Greek and Latin, and rendered the other two languages in the same “direction” as the Hebrew.
The proximity of the dove of the Holy Spirit and the Crucifix is intentional. As explained by the Servant of God, Archbishop Luis M. Martínez in his spiritual classic The Sanctifier (On the Holy Spirit):
The path of the divine Dove is ever the same. His flight is always toward Calvary. The shining white wings can always be described as above the blessed Cross, for that is where love is to be found on earth – just as in Heaven it is found in the bosom of the Father.
The four columns of the retablo are named for the four evangelists: St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John. Their names are carved, in Latin, in gilt letters, into the limestone frieze at the base of each column. The capitals of the columns incorporate some Ionic elements, but are principally Corinthian in design. This is an allusion to the earliest reference in Sacred Scripture to the Holy Eucharist, which is found in the eleventh chapter of the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor 11:23-26).
To the left of the retablo stands a new statue of Saint John Vianney, Curé of Ars and patron saint of parish priests. In this statue, carved in northern Italy, St. John Vianney is vested in the familiar cassock and surplice of a priest, and wears a violet stole, alluding to his heroic service in the confessional, through which he reconciled countless thousands of souls to God and set them on the path to eternal salvation. The right hand of the saint is raised in blessing, and the left hand gestures toward the tabernacle, drawing our attention to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
To the right of the retablo stands the church’s original statue of Saint Catherine of Siena, our patroness. Originally wood-toned, the statue has been polychromed to match the other statuary in our church. In this depiction, Saint Catherine wears the habit of the Dominican Order, holds both a crucifix and the lily of purity, and wears on her head a crown of thorns. St. Catherine bore the stigmata (the wounds of the Crucified Christ) though she alone could see them. For this reason, on the statue, the stigmata and the ring of her mystical union with Christ have been rendered in gold.
The free-standing Altar of Sacrifice is fabricated of cream colored botticino classico marble, quarried in Brescia, Italy, and golden-colored giallo reale scaligero marble, quarried in Verona, Italy. Into the top of the mensa are carved five Greek crosses (with each arm of equal length) symbolizing the five wounds of Christ. In the front of the altar is a bronze grille through which is visible the reliquary of Saint Catherine of Siena. Beneath the visible reliquary of Saint Catherine of Siena is a small marble sepulchre into which the Bishop has deposited authenticated, first-class relics of Saints Eugenius and Candidus, Martyrs; Saint Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney, Priest; Saint Pius X, Pope; Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious Foundress; Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Religious Foundress; Saint André Bessette, Religious; and Blessed John Henry Newman, Priest.
The Tabernacle, which houses the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, is fabricated of bianco lasa marble, quarried in Bolzano, Italy. This new tabernacle incorporates the doors of our original tabernacle, which feature beautiful reliefs of grapes and wheat. The eight pilasters of the tabernacle are carved of lapis lazuli, quarried in Afghanistan. The use of lapis lazuli adverts to the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, in which rests the body of Saint Catherine of Siena. The ceiling of that church is of an especially deep, rich blue, the pigment of which was achieved by grinding lapis lazuli into powder, and using it to color the ceiling. The words ECCE AGNUS DEI (BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD) are carved into the frieze of the tabernacle above the doors, and at the top of the front of the tabernacle is found a replica of the medallion of the Holy Name of Jesus which Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444) placed above the main doors of the Cathedral of Siena, Italy, the birthplace of our Patroness. The roof of the tabernacle is scalloped, and is surmounted by a gold cross.
The tabernacle rests on a pedestal of noble design, fabricated of botticino classico and giallo reale scaligero marbles. The volutes on the sides of the pedestal echo those on either side of the Holy Spirit pediment at the top of the retablo. The pedestal is set against a limestone wall which separates it from the Retablo.
High above the sanctuary, directly above the Tabernacle, is suspended the Sanctuary Lamp, in which a candle burns to indicate and honor the presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, whenever the Eucharist is reserved in the tabernacle.
Side Shrines of the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph have been installed on the north and south sides of the sanctuary, designed to complement the retablo. Comprised of limestone and giallo reale scaligero marble, these shrines house and frame the church’s original statues of Christ’s Mother and Foster Father. Near the top of the shrine of Our Lady is a gilded roundel containing a rose. This alludes to an especially beautiful title of Our Lady in the Litany of Loreto: Rosa Mystica –Mystical Rose. Near the top of the shrine of Saint Joseph is a gilded roundel containing a carpenter’s square. Looking closely, the viewer can discern three points joining the carpenter’s square, referring to the three members of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
In front of the St. Joseph shrine is placed St. Catherine’s original Baptismal Font. Moved from the narthex into the sanctuary in the 1997 renovation, the baptismal font is octagonally shaped. Four diamond-shaped mosaics adorn the north, south, east, and west sides of the font.
The privileged place for the proclamation of the Word of God, our new Ambo was designed to complement the Altar of Sacrifice, and is fabricated of the same botticino classico and giallo reale scaligero marbles found in the Altar. The Ionic capitals of the pilasters on the front of the Ambo match the capitals on the columns of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph shrines. The five vertical inset panels of giallo reale scaligero marble advert to the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – the Pentateuch or Torah – through which God first revealed Himself to humanity. These sacred books are revered by Jews and Christians alike.
A balustrade frames the sanctuary at either end, in front of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph shrines. A prayer rail which invites the faithful to kneel in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament or when invoking the intercession of the Saints, the balustrade is fashioned of the same Indiana limestone found elsewhere in the sanctuary.
The twelve Consecration Crosses are located within each of the six pairs of stained glass windows on the north and south walls of the church. They mark the places at which the walls of the church were anointed with Chrism on the day of the church’s consecration, and will serve thereafter to recall the joyful day on which the Holy Spirit was invoked “to make this forever a holy place, with a table always prepared for the Sacrifice of Christ.” The candles on the Consecration Crosses will be lighted each year on March 24, the anniversary of the church’s consecration, and also on days of especially significant liturgical celebration.
The fourteen Stations of the Cross are original to the church, having been carved and installed in 1958. In 2018, special meditation frames were crafted to surround each Station, each featuring an excerpt from Blessed John Henry Newman’s Meditations on the Stations of the Cross. The eye-level text enables individual members of the faithful to pray the Stations privately during Lent and at other times of the year.
In the narthex (lobby) of the church, a mahogany plaque with gold lettering has been installed above the main doors opening upon the nave. A quote from the Book of Genesis (28:17), it will remind all who enter our church of the sacredness of this place which is set apart for the worship of the living God. The text is rendered in Latin and English:
HIC EST DOMUS DEI ET PORTA CÆLI
THIS IS THE HOUSE OF GOD AND THE GATE OF HEAVEN.
The side chapel, added onto our church in 1997, formerly housed the church’s Tabernacle. As part of the CHRIST AT THE CENTER project, it has been recommissioned as the Memorial Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a special place of prayer for the Faithful Departed.
The Altar in the Memorial Chapel was relocated from the sanctuary, where it had stood since the 1997 renovation. The Greek letters Alpha (A) and Omega (W), rendered in gold mosaic, were part of the original high altar of the church. They refer to the words of the Book of Revelation, in Chapter 21, verses 5 to 8:
“The one who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ Then he said, ‘Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me, ‘They are accomplished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son. But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death.’”
The mensa, or tabletop, of the altar, was given by the Pia Family in memory of their late mother and grandmother, Jean Pia. Mass will be celebrated on this altar from time to time for all the Faithful Departed, especially those from this Parish, and those who are memorialized on the plaques on the side walls of the Memorial Chapel.
Resting atop the altar at the center of the Memorial Chapel is a new mahogany Triptych which houses our original statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From the Greek for “three folds,” a triptych is a three-paneled altarpiece. Triptychs, such as ours, typically have hinged panels that can be opened or closed during particular seasons, such as Passiontide. The statue, formerly wood-toned, has been polychromed to match the other statuary in the church. On the doors of the Triptych are paintings of angels, the design of which is based on Gianlorenzo Bernini’s angels on the Ponte Sant’ Angelo in Rome. The angel on the left holds the Instruments of the Passion (the Cross, the Crown of Thorns, the nails, the spear, the sponge, the whip from the Scourging at the Pillar, the dice, and the seamless robe of Christ). The angel on the right holds our church, and offers it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Images of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Chaste Heart of Saint Joseph complete the doors flanking the statue of the Sacred Heart.
Above the Sacred Heart Triptych are the three clerestory windows which were originally located on the west front of the church facing Shelton Road, and were relocated to the Memorial Chapel in the 1997 renovation. The center window depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the child Jesus. The window on the left depicts our Patroness, Saint Catherine of Siena. The window on the right depicts Saint Dominic, the Founder of the Order of Friars Preachers (the Dominicans) to whose Third Order Saint Catherine belonged. The small windows with red backgrounds, located at eye level to the left and right of the altar in the Memorial Chapel, are related to the clerestory windows. The window with the Crucifix alludes to St. Catherine’s mystical devotion to the Passion of Our Lord. The window with the dog refers to the Dominican Order: before the birth of St. Dominic, his mother, struggling with infertility, made a pilgrimage to the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos in northern Spain, and there she dreamt that a dog leapt from her womb, carrying a torch which set the world on fire with the truth of the Gospel. It is also a play on words: although that child would call his order the Order of Preachers, it would later come to be known as the Dominicans. In Latin it is Dominicanus, which is very similar to Domini canis, or “dog” or “hound” “of the Lord.” From the spiritual family of St. Dominic came our patroness, St. Catherine of Siena, as well as many other eminent saints and beati, among them St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Rose of Lima, St. Raymond of Peñafort, St. Martin de Porres, St. Pius V, Blessed Jordan of Saxony, and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. On the east wall of the chapel are windows of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and on the west wall are windows of St. Francis of Assisi and of St. Edward the Confessor, patron saint of our founding pastor, Msgr. Edward Halloran.
Cast Memorial Plaques have been placed on the east and west walls of the Memorial Chapel in remembrance of the faithful departed.
Fabricated in the Vatican’s mosaic studios, a mosaic of Our Lady, Mother of the Church (Mater Ecclesiae) is placed on the wall opposite the Sacred Heart triptych. Below the image, in mosaic, are the coat-of-arms and motto of St. John Paul II, “Totus Tuus” (‘[I am] Totally Yours [O Mary]’). A replica of the mosaic which Pope St. John Paul II had installed high above St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, the mosaic in our chapel is accompanied by a plaque with words from his Encyclical Letter EVANGELIUM VITAE (The Gospel of Life). The mosaic and accompanying plaque stand in perpetual memory of all children who have died through miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion, and as an inspiration for all of us to pray for an increased love and respect in our world for the gift of every human life.
In front of the mosaic is the parish’s Memorial Book, which records the name of every person whose funeral has been celebrated at St. Catherine’s through the years. The pages of this book will be turned from time to time.
On either side of the altar and Sacred Heart triptych are two matching devotional candle stands, which allow the faithful to light votive candles which accompany their prayers. Fabricated in Madrid, Spain, each candle stand features a roundel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Nine flags hang from the ceiling of the Memorial Chapel: those of the United States of America, the State of Connecticut, the Town of Trumbull, and the Parish of Saint Catherine of Siena; and of the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. These flags honor the sacrifice and valor of all Veterans, Law Enforcement Officers, and First Responders, especially those from this Parish of Saint Catherine of Siena.