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135 years in the making
By Kathleen Ostrander

The architecture of St. Joseph Catholic Church, which celebrates its 135th birthday this year, is tailored to reflect changes endorsed by the Vatican Council II in the mid-1960s.

The church, at 1345 N. Sixth St., is certainly a change from the red-brick, Gothic-style architecture of the church built in the 1800s.

The Vatican Council's edict was that the community should be made part of the worship service, and in one voice they speak to the glory of God. Modern churches were studied before a final design was settled on for the new St. Joseph's.

Construction started in 1966, and the new design was a church in the round that was considered ultra-modern.

But the modern design is not austere. It is more of a promise to someone walking in that the congregation's faith in God surrounds each visitor with the guidance of the pastor completing the circle.

"When I walked in," said the Rev. Thomas Holinga, "I thought — this is a welcome space that is easy to pray in."

The cost of the church, which was erected on the site of the former St. Joseph's, was just over $500,000. The cost of the stained-glass windows was picked up later.

The exterior of the church is made of natural gray lannon stone assembled in a random fashion.

Care was taken when the interior was constructed to make sure the sides of the church sweep up to the ceiling. There are no arch supports visible in the interior of the church, and the fluted ceiling finish makes it seem like rippling fabric. It is a physical affirmation of the liturgical request that worshipers lift their eyes, hearts and minds to God.

The ceiling sweeps up to a round, flat area, and from that area, suspended over the altar, is a brass and aluminum baldachino shaped like a crown.

The lights inside the church are recessed in coated white tubes that are hardly noticeable.

The semicircular seating can accommodate 890 — double that of the old church. The modern design does not separate parishioners from their priest and the service by myriad steps and railings.

Also new for the time when the church was built is the music area on the same level of the congregation. At St. Joseph's, the organ and choir are on the same level as the congregation, which encourages additional participation in the musical portions of the service.

Although the interior is simple, the statues and devotional areas are charming and have their own sense of history. Statues of Saints Peter and Paul at the back of the church are from the old St. Peter and Paul Church, which was taken down in 2002.

A matching statue of St. Joseph is in the church's memorial garden at the front of the church, facing Eastman Street.

The statue of Mary in the devotional area is also from St. Peter and Paul.

The altar in the sanctuary is of white travertine marble. The tabernacle pedestal on the right and the lectern on the left are of matching marble. The tabernacle, with red-enameled doors, was made in Switzerland.

St. Joseph's has a variety of chalices ranging from simple to ornate, and they are varied depending on the type of Mass being celebrated and the time of year.

The reredos features a six-foot statue of the risen Christ. The reredos is also simple, carrying through the architectural theme. It is created from bricks in varying reddish tones.

The whole architectural theme combines to encircle the congregation in warmth and security.

Story published Friday, July 2, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 4 )

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