By John Heuertz
Special to the Catholic Key
BLUE SPRINGS — St. Robert Bellarmine parish in south Blue Springs celebrated its handsome new redecorating on Sunday, September 21 in a ceremony enriched by the Real Presence of Christ, a host of Guardian Angels, the thoughts of Mozart and Handel, the spirit of St. Matthew, and the presence and words of one of his successors.
“Today, friends, we ask God’s blessing not only on this sanctuary, but on the new start it may be seen to represent for the parish,” Bishop Robert Finn said.
“I urge you to use the occasion of this blessing to renew your own commitment to Jesus Christ; to the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, and to the life of the parish.”
Three decades of daily use is a lot of wear and tear on any building’s interior. Especially when the building is the house of God, and should be beautiful, as a matter of canon law and of Justice.
St. Robert’s had talked about remodeling for about five years. “It needed to be redone,” said St. Robert’s long-time Pastoral Associate Patrick Devenney. “It needed repainting. Everything was 30 years old, including the carpet.”
After the parish debt was retired about two years ago “some very generous folks put money into a special account that covered the entire cost” of about $95,000 to remodel the church’s sanctuary and nave.
A 12-member Liturgical Arts subcommittee started work last April. “They were very, very respectful of the needs of the larger parish,” says Pastor Fr. John Bolderson. “They listened to everything and took every suggestion seriously.”
“You can’t take something as important as a parish church and do anything to change its appearance without some concern. The main thing is, when people take ownership of their parish it’s very satisfying for the parish as a whole.”
The new interior is a study in restrained and harmonious elegance, expressed in complementary earth tones that promote the spirit of prayer and recollection. “It was the same committee for everything because we wanted every part to flow with every other part,” Devenney says.
Bishop Finn approved the St. Robert’s plan in June, and things began to move quickly after his approval.
The parish had a wedding June 14 and a wedding scheduled for the first weekend of July, “and we wanted to get it presentable for that wedding,” Devenney said. “We got the carpet and flooring done between them and after that and vacation Bible camp we got the painting and upholstery done.”
Anonymous parishioners donated the entire renovation cost. Parishioners also volunteered prep and cleanup work for the contractors so the building could be useable again immediately after construction. “And the contractors gave us an awful lot of the work at quite a discount,” says Fr. Bolderson.
Besides new paint and carpet, the nave and sanctuary have new stone tiles quarried in Italy. New kneelers and Stations of the Cross were installed just days before Sunday’s rededication.
The baptismal font was redone. Pew cushions “instead of a kind of faded maroon, now have a gold weave in them,” Fr. Bolderson said. “Very attractive.”
The tabernacle was moved closer to the altar “and is now quite easy for the celebrant to get to. The few changes we made are in accordance with the Roman Missal.”
A new marble statue of the Blessed Mother, over six feet tall, is perhaps the biggest change. “People have kept flowers in front of her since she came. It’s like people were always missing her,” Fr. Bolderson said. “At the same time, I don’t want to give the impression we are only concerned with beautifying the worship space.”
“We have increased our social justice ministry, formed a social justice committee, and have started several social justice projects. We are constantly looking at the larger mission of the church.”
St. Robert’s parishioners have almost universally embraced their church’s new interior. “We think the darker colors helped put the focus back on the altar and the sanctuary,” Devenney says. “We’ve had very little negative feedback.”
The new look is a way of evangelizing the larger world, Fr. Bolderson said, a point also made by Bishop Finn.
“You will come many times to this sanctuary, many times to this altar,” said Bishop Finn. “Let the gift you receive here, His Body and Blood shed for you and me, be a source of strength and an impetus for mercy in all we are called to do.”