GREEN BAY — One-hundred and twenty-two years to the day that founding members of St. Mary of the Angels Parish walked from the residence of Bishop Sebastian Messmer to their new church, the faithful once again made a special journey.
On Feb. 22, Bishop David Ricken led a procession from the gymnasium in the former St. Thomas More School building, across the street, to the renovated St. Mary of the Angels Church. Mass was held in the gym for 16 months while the church was restored.
Michael Poradek, project manager, said that the changes were inspired by the interior of the church at the time it was dedicated in 1903. He offered remarks prior to the procession and presented a “key” to Bishop Ricken for the newly restored church.
“We recall that part of the rich tradition of this parish is seen in its Franciscan heritage which has continued to be reflected in this space,” said Poradek. “We have been challenged by the example of St. Francis in rebuilding not only a physical church, whose namesake comes from the Franciscan St. Mary of the Angels of the Portciuncala, but of a spiritual building up and recommitment as a parish church community ground in prayer, welcome and mercy — built on living stones.”
Meetings to discuss plans for the church began in 2016, said Deacon Paul Umentum, pastoral leader. The renovation project included new pews with cushions, new tile flooring, new paint and lighting, a sound system update, new sanctuary furnishings, a new baptismal font, two new devotional areas and remodeling of the confessional and storage area. The new layout of the church created an open area in the back of the nave for gathering space.
Statues of SS. Francis and Clare were placed in the sanctuary in recognition of the church’s Franciscan heritage. In 1899 Bishop Messmer offered the parish to the Polish Franciscan friars of Pulaski. The name of the church was changed from Our Lady of Czestochowa to St. Mary of the Angels in 1900.
Following the entrance into the church for the Mass of rededication, Bishop Ricken blessed the water for a sprinkling rite in remembrance of baptism and to purify the walls and altar.
“It felt like to me great harmony and a beauty all at the same time with a connection to our tradition as well,” said Bishop Ricken in his homily in reference to his feelings when entering the church.
Bishop Ricken emphasized the importance of the ambo, “the sacred place where the word is spoken every Sunday” and the altar, “the place where we offer sacrifice and celebrate the supper of the lamb.” He shared that the altar was from a church in Wisconsin that closed.
“It’s too bad. I’m really glad that you made up your minds that was not going to happen here; that you were going to keep this church going,” he said.
The new reredos, the back altar piece, was also pointed out by Bishop Ricken. The piece is similar to the reredos in the church prior to interior renovations in 1969, thus a connection to the past.
“Even though since Vatican II, we don’t use that altar as the altar of sacrifice, it’s still a reminder because in there is the depository, the tabernacle for the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “Isn’t it incredible, that in every church, Jesus is present 24/7; that he walks with us on our journey of life?”
Following his homily, the litany of saints and the prayer of dedication, Bishop Ricken anointed the altar with sacred chrism. Concelebrating priests then anointed the walls of the church at four designated points.
Bishop Ricken then incensed the altar. Deacon Umentum walked through the church to incense the people and the walls. The lighting of the altar and the church followed. Deacon Umentum lit candles on the altar and candles at the four locations where the walls had been anointed.
A solemnity will be celebrated on Feb. 22 each year moving forward, said Poradek.
Franciscan Fr. Ponciano Macabalo, priest celebrant at St. Mary of the Angels, opened the gathering by leading the congregation in the Angelus in the gym. Deacon Umentum provided closing remarks before the blessing and dismissal.
“When we started this project three years ago, there were a lot of doubters,” he said. “We heard everything. We were too old. We did not have the money. The Franciscans wouldn’t approve it. The bishop wouldn’t approve it. The city wouldn’t approve it … on and on. They said we couldn’t do it, but Bishop, tonight we can say, ‘Indeed we did.’”
Deacon Umentum said that in addition to the many supporters, the parish had a secret in St. Mary of the Angels who “constantly for 122 years has interceded for this parish” and the Holy Spirit.
“The Holy Spirit wants this parish to continue to grow, to be on the corner of Cass and Irwin streets on the east side of Green Bay,” he said.
“Thousands have been inspired over the past 122 years on this holy and sacred ground,” added Deacon Umentum. “Through God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, and with the aid and assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Angels, we will be here truly for another 122 years.”
To view an album of photos from the rededication Mass, visit our Flickr page.