The new worship center and adjoining tower anchor the parish center. In addition to the church, the second construction phase included an education center and new administrative space, all connecting to the original building which is now a parish hall, meeting rooms and preschool.
The worship center is octagonal. Eleven rows of pews with seating for 1,000 surround a central raised altar platform that creates a sense of congregational community. Behind the altar is seating for a 60-person choir as well as space for instruments. The Blessed Sacrament chapel is located on the north side, visible from the worship center through an arched opening with wrought iron gates. The reconciliation chapel is at the base of the tower, and is accessible from the worship center. The gathering space has a glass wall adjoining the worship area, allowing a view through the baptistery.
A cross-shaped roof, supported by four large columns rests over the worship area. A cupola is centered on the roof with windows that shower the space below with soft, indirect light. Clerestory windows and high, round windows on the four end walls balance the natural light. Stained glass windows at floor level include themes associated with nature and Franciscan spirituality. Portions of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis are incorporated into the reconciliation chapel windows. This picture was provided courtesy of Tom Kessler, Photographer and BVH Architects.
The windows in the Blessed Sacrament chapel illustrate the Gospel through the symbol of a grain of wheat: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it cannot bear fruit.” (John 12:24) This concept of Christ’s total gift of self in his death on the cross is central to the notion of Franciscan poverty resulting in “simple joy.” It is expressed in these three windows by the grain of wheat springing out of the earth, the wheat ready for harvest, and the harvested wheat.
Other Franciscan symbols and references are used in the worship center. The “burning sun and silver moon” referenced in St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun is painted on the ceiling of the cupola. The canticle itself is inscribed on the bulkhead surrounding the worship center. Portions of the ceiling above the worship area, painted deep cobalt blue with gold leaf stars, and the border recall the brilliant fresco ceilings of the Basilica in Assisi.
All of the furnishings and artwork in the worship center are original designs fabricated by craftsmen. They include: wrought iron candle stands, gates, railings, screens and hardware; the tabernacle of bronze, granite and exotic woods; cast bronze stations of the cross; and custom-made entry and chapel doors made of wood. Four niches on the perimeter wall contain hand-painted icons. In the floor at the base of the tower is a time capsule containing memorabilia, and a book of names commemorating the parish youth whose gifts paid for the tower construction.
The exterior character of the church, tower and education center not only carry through the flavor established in the original building, but also reflect features of the Basilica in Assisi, including the multicolored banded masonry walls inside and out; the red roof shingles; gable ends with rose windows and masonry buttresses; arched windows and stone trim.
To provide visual continuity with the original building, the same materials are used in the interior of Phase II. The worship center’s wood-beamed ceiling with wrought iron tie rods match the parish hall ceiling. The floor is covered in large ceramic tiles reminiscent of the stone floors of medieval churches. The altar platform is covered in carnelian granite, used elsewhere on furnishings and the floor. Pews, chairs and custom made liturgical furnishings made of oak complement those used in the original construction.
As you enter the worship center from the gathering space, you see the rock, of carnelian granite, which designates the baptismal pool. Blessing ourselves with the holy water at the rock bring s to mind our baptismal commitment and reminds us that Baptism is our entrance into the Church. In the same way, being sprinkled with holy water during the Mass calls to mind our baptismal commitment.
The altar and ambo are made of the same carnelian granite as the rock of the baptismal pool, linking the celebration of Baptism with the proclamation of God's word in the Sacred Scriptures and the celebration of the Eucharist.
Entering The Church
Our worship space is a holy and sacred space where we come together to praise and worship our God. It is a place of prayer, consecrated to this holy purpose. Before entering the pew, Catholics have customarily genuflected – the right knee bent to touch the floor. It is also an appropriate sign of respect to make a reverent bow from the waist. Ordinarily, one makes this sign of respect only on entering and leaving the worship space.
Blessed Sacrament Chapel
Our worship space features a chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle. The sacrament is reserved to be taken to the sick. It is also a place where we may come for quiet prayer and meditation. People may come to the chapel (outside of times when Mass is being celebrated) to spend time in prayer in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. A sanctuary lamp burns continuously near the tabernacle indicating the Lord’s presence.
Our Worship Space contains several icons. An icon is a painted panel with a representation of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or a saint or saints. These images are regarded as windows into the eternal world of revelation and meant to capture, to a very limited degree, the realities of the Gospel and the ways in which the person depicted revealed the presence of God through their life. For many years icons played a similar role in the Eastern churches that statues do in the West. Recently icons have been used more in the Western Church. It is important to note that the all veneration and reverence are referred to the one whose image is portrayed, and not to the image or icon itself. Our most prominent icon is the San Damiano cross which hangs above the altar platform. This is a replica of the icon cross which hangs in Santa Chiarra (St. Clare) Church in Assisi.
San Damiano Cross
This cross is called an icon cross because it contains images of people who have a part in the meaning of the cross. They are:
Christ is represented both as wounded and as strong. He stands upright and resolute.
The five center figures represent the witnesses of the crucifixion and witnesses of Jesus as Lord. On the left is Mary, mother of Jesus, and John, on the right are Mary Magdala, Mary, mother of James, and the centurion who represents a Christian witness.
Two smaller figures represented are Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus with a lance, and Stephaton, the soldier who offered Jesus the sponge soaked in vinegar.
Six angels are positioned at both ends of the crossbar.
On the top of the cross, Jesus, fully clothed and carrying the cross as a triumphant scepter, is climbing out of the tomb and into the heavenly courts.
Right Hand of God
At the top of the cross is Jesus being raised from the dead to the right hand of God the Father.