By John Burton
Holy Cross gets sacred windows from closed church
RUMSON – When planning began for the renovation and expansion of Holy Cross R.C. Church, stained glass windows didn’t seem to be possible. That has all changed with the help of St. Francis of Assisi.
Well, it wasn’t exactly St. Francis who intervened on behalf of Holy Cross. It was the project’s architect, James McCreary, who informed the parish about the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s recent closing of St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, Pa. He told the parish that many of that church’s artifacts were being placed in storage by the archdiocese, said Lori La Plante, Holy Cross’s pastoral assistant.
McCreary, an architect noted for church restorations, was actually in Raleigh, N.C., on another project when he was invited by archdiocesan officials to inspect the items taken from St. Francis. “He came upon these beautiful treasures” and thought about the Holy Cross project, La Plante said.
The 16 windows that Holy Cross will eventually incorporate into the Ward Avenue church date back to the early 1920s, when construction on St. Francis was completed.
The vintage windows will “change the whole interior of the church,” the Rev. Michael Manning said. “It’ll make it more reverent looking, more prayerful.”
The Philadelphia church’s stained glass windows were the work of noted designer and mural artist Nicola D’Ascenzo (1871-1951), whose other noted commissions include the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and in Washington, D.C., the Folger Shakespeare Library and the National Cathedral.
For the St. Francis project, D’Ascenzo relied on the assistance of Edwin Joseph Sharkey, an American artist born in Ireland, who incorporated Celtic influences into D’Ascenzo’s Gothic Revival style, according to information provided by La Plante.
Many of the 16 windows feature episodes from the life of Francis and other facets of traditional Catholic teachings. They are, on average 190-inches high and 40½-inches wide, according to Manning.
The windows are larger than the space into which they will be installed and will have to be trimmed somewhat to fit into church’s space, Manning said.
Parish representatives initially decided to forgo installation of stained-glass windows when planning for the long-discussed project to refurbish Holy Cross, a church that dates back to the 1890s. The installation of such windows was deemed too costly for the project, which is being done to enlarge the structure to accommodate the increasing number of parishioners.
The church project, which has been under consideration for more than a decade, is estimated at $6 million with a capital campaign raising about $4 million, thus far, according to Manning. Adding new stained glass to the mix would have added approximately $50,000 per window to the tab.
“It would have been more than we could afford,” Manning said.
Instead, the plans were to use a more modern-style window with a tinted pane, La Plante said.
That idea, however, really didn’t sit well with Manning or most parishioners.
“Nobody here was really excited about a modern look,” he said. “With the clear glass you don’t get the same sense of a sacred space.”
Church representatives had opted to not use most of the existing stained-glass windows because they were deemed as being of a lesser quality and not warranting the cost of refurbishing them, La Plante said.
Manning wouldn’t say what the cost of the windows from St. Francis will be but to help defray the costs, Holy Cross is conducting a campaign asking parishioners to make donations and have the windows memorialized. Church representatives are asking for $50,000 and $25,000 for each window.
Along with the 16 windows, Manning said, three of the church’s existing windows will be restored and installed, too.
The church has contracted with Joseph K. Beyer of Philadelphia, noted for his stained-glass restoration work, to work on the St. Francis windows prior to their installation in Rumson, La Plante said.
Along with the windows, church members are in the process of acquiring other items, including a baptismal font and candlesticks, which correspond with the church’s age to keep the look consistent, Manning said.
“It’s a way of bringing the past and future together,” La Plante said.
A ceremonial groundbreaking is set for Sunday, April 14. Work on the church is expected to take about a year.