by Ed Wilkinson
One of the fun things about being a journalist is that you get to do things that other people do not. Last week, I found myself climbing a seven-story high scaffolding inside St. Joseph Co-Cathedral, Prospect Heights, to get an up-close look at the restoration of the building.
I wasn’t alone. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Msgr. Kieran Harrington, rector, along with members of the architectural and construction teams, led the way up for the inspection tour.
The highlight of the church’s renovations is the new American saints and candidates for sainthood mural that will adorn the back wall above the choir loft. You can see it on Page 1 of this week’s edition. Featured are some modern-day saints such as Father Damien of Molokai, Kateri Tekakwitha and Mother Katherine Drexel. There are also saintly hopefuls like Pierre Toussaint, Dorothy Day and Msgr. Bernard Quinn of Brooklyn, whose worthiness has been well chronicled by Msgr. Paul Jervis, pastor of St. Martin de Porres parish in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
On the same level but in front above the main altar, one can find majestic pieces depicting the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. In the ceiling are symbols of the seven sacraments, making the church a veritable lesson in catechetics.
All of the stained-glass windows have been cleaned and repaired. On the top level, we came eye-to-eye with St. Patrick, St. Jude and St. Peter.
Here’s something to look for. The window of St. Matthew was damaged, and the face of the saint had to be repainted. From the floor of the church, it may be imperceptible, but when on the same level, the difference in style is noticeable.
One level below the top, the rondelles in the ceiling will be home to different Marian images, donated by the ethnic apostolates of the diocese and depicting images of Mary that are native to their homelands. Already in place are the Immaculate Conception (U.S.), Our Lady of Knock (Ireland) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico). While we were there, artists were preparing to place Our Lady of Pompeii (Italy).
On roughly the same level but on a side surface, spaces have been left for the seals of the diocesan bishops. We could see Bishop Francis Mugavero’s coat of arms, with his episcopal motto “Love One Another,” being readied.
One of the magnificent features of St. Joseph’s sanctuary are the angels on the wall behind the main altar. It’s difficult to appreciate now because scaffolding is still in place, but they have been restored and should lend a heavenly atmosphere to the background.
The “new” Stations of the Cross have been installed. They come from the old St. Vincent de Paul Church in Williamsburg that was closed a few years ago. They are such a fit for this church that it’s hard to believe they were not part of the original.
The restored organ will begin to be put in place this week. It was removed piece-by-piece and carted off to Paterson, N.J., where the Peragallo Brothers have been painstakingly restoring it to proper working condition.
In the lower church, Mexican parishioners are donating their time by sanding and varnishing the pews. They already have refinished the front doors of the church.
St. Joseph Co-Cathedral, which is set for dedication in May, will be the site of large diocesan ceremonies, beginning with the ordinations of 13 priests this June. Located in a part of the Brooklyn that is becoming the hub of the Downtown area, it is destined to be a busy place for local residents and business people as well as a destination of pilgrimage for Catholics from around the metropolitan area.
The work currently being done surely befits its once and future magnificence.