Editor's Space

Holy Name’s ‘New’ Altar Is a Historic Piece

The parishioners at Holy Name parish, Windsor Terrace, have a long memory. They know their past, and they want their present to be remembered in the years to come. That’s why as part of their church renovations that are currently taking place, they are preparing a time capsule to be built into the new historic altar (see photo on Page 2) that is being reconstructed there.

“Each family was asked to submit a family photo inscribed with their name, date and a brief description of what Holy Name parish means to them,” said Father Jim Cunningham, pastor.

The photos have been collected and will be placed in the time capsule that will be incorporated into the altar in the newly restored church.

The altar is the handiwork of master architect James Renwick, who was not a Catholic but designed some of the greatest church structures such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. This piece originally was designed as a side altar in St. Patrick’s, but it proved to be too large and was then installed at St. Vincent de Paul Church on North 6th Street in Williamsburg.

A recently uncovered marble slab reveals that it was dedicated on July 23, 1881 by Brooklyn’s first bishop, John Loughlin, during the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII.

It remained there for more than 100 years, but when the building was recently sold, it was broken down into more than 400 pieces and stored in the patrimonial warehouse the diocese maintains in Bushwick under the watchful eye of Msgr. John Bracken.

Each piece is meticulously numbered, and artisans are now reconstructing it piece by piece like a sacred jigsaw puzzle. Other appointments, such as statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, also were rescued from St. Vincent de Paul and are being cleaned for placement in Holy Name.

At the moment, scaffolding takes up most of the church’s interior, and Sunday Mass is being celebrated in the parish’s Shepherd’s Hall. Daily Mass is in the rectory basement.

Every inch of Holy Name Church is being repainted, replaced and renewed. The heating and air conditioning systems, which were in need of repair, are being replaced. The outdoor shrine area will also be redone.

The project was delayed a few months when engineers realized that the building would have to be reinforced to support the altar.

Past and present parishioners, many of whom were displeased with liturgical renovations in the church in the 1980s, have pledged more than $2.4 million for the restorations.

Father Cunningham is planning a series of liturgical as well as social celebrations for the “new” church.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will rededicate the building on May 18. Also planned are 40 Hours Devotions and a celebration of the Mass in its Extraordinary Form (Latin), which seems only appropriate given the high altar was used prior to Vatican II when Mass was said with the priest’s back to the people.

For now, Father Cunningham is busy showing off the new look of Holy Name to parishioners by posting photos almost daily on his Facebook page. As the project nears completion, he will be bringing people into the church to see the progress.

At Holy Name, everything old seems new again, and parishioners there want to make sure everyone knows their story – yesterday, today and tomorrow.

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