Dear Members of St. Gall’s Catholic Community,
Old, or new, I believe that all Catholic churches need and should have a representation of the author of our salvation, Jesus Christ, who died so that we might have eternal life. To this end, the Church has adopted the presentation of Jesus crucified, and that is normally placed in the sanctuary of the church.
In Protestant churches, they normally do not use a crucifix, but a plain cross, as their theology focuses on the resurrected Christ and not on his suffering. When I came to St. Gall, I was very disappointed to see that we did not have a crucifix proper, but a processional cross that was brought in and out at the beginning and end of each Mass. Personally, I found that it be out of synch with what the interior of a Catholic church should appear to the worshipers.
Since my arrival, an enormous amount of people have asked if our church could have a proper crucifix, and I agreed. In this bulletin you will see a representation of the proposed crucifix that I would like to see in our sanctuary. It has been kindly donated by a parish member who wishes to remain anonymous. I would very much welcome your feedback as regards to the crucifix itself. It is a large version of the new processional cross that was kindly donated by the Hanifan family. I believe in my short time here I have not made any changes in the church, but only restored the tabernacle, etc., to their rightful place. The Eucharist is the center of our Catholic lives, and so the altar on which the sacrifice is offered should be in a central position. Also, the tabernacle, which is a focus of our prayer outside of Mass, should be positioned in a central place, for the benefit of our prayer time.
The choir was moved back to its original place because it encroached on the sanctuary and became a focus of our attention during Mass, rather than the altar and the ambo. In Protestant churches, where the Eucharist is not celebrated, the choir is given a very prominent position, because of their focus on the Word and music. In our tradition, the choir helps to support congregational singing, and does not need prominent visibility.
As your pastor, I am obliged to ensure that our worship celebrations take place in a space that is faithful to the tradition of the Church. That is not always possible. For instance, recently I was asked to celebrate Mass for 800 marines from 29 Palms, who were training in Coleville. Obviously, the celebrations were in the open, in many different hilly locations.
Having just watched the Funeral Celebration for former president George Bush in St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, I was most impressed by the layout of the church, and the way in which the sacred furnishings, and their position, helped the faithful in their prayer. I could never imagine anyone who would object to having an image of Christ crucified being in a prominent place in any Catholic Church. However, one of the strengths of our Church is the variety of persons, and of opinions, of our parish members. To that end, I welcome heartily your feedback on the proposed new crucifix.
At the beginning of my pastorate here, I asked all of you to come to me personally if you had issues regarding my ministry to you, and many have chosen that route. But, remember also that the overall responsibility of our diocese and parishes is in the hands of our bishop, Bishop Calvo, and each one of us is entitled to make him aware of any concerns we might have regarding the administration of this or any parish.
I am very pleased with the positive response of those who have spoken to me about the re-ordering of our worship space. I realized shortly after my ordination that I could never hope to please all parishioners, and that is something you learn to live with. I am very pleased and honored to be your pastor, and again, finally, my hope is that you feel the freedom to come to me with any issues that are of concern to you, positive or negative.