by Joe Bollig
OVERLAND PARK — The pews were surprisingly full for a Friday night at Holy Cross Parish here on Oct. 23. It was, after all, a very special night — the dedication of the renovated church.
Oh, and that “other place” across town? Kauffman Stadium was full, too.
While the Mass was being celebrated, the Kansas City Royals played the Toronto Blue Jays for a shot at the World Series. It seemed as if the whole city was consumed with “Royals fever.”
Except at Holy Cross.
“Some might be tempted tonight to check their cellphones, but I commend you for your priorities tonight, coming to this dedication,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann in his homily, drawing laughter from the Mass-goers.
Holy Cross Parish was formed in 1968 and, before the church was built in 1971, founding pastor Father Robert Burger celebrated Mass at the Glenwood Theater. Parishioners joked they were members of “St. Glenwood Parish.”
“Father Don Cullen was a parishioner before he became a priest,” said current pastor Father Michael Stubbs. “He could tell who the Holy Cross parishioners were when he went to the movies. They were the ones who genuflected before taking their seats. That amused him.”
The liturgy began outside. Parishioners waited behind a rope while parishioner and renovation committee member Megan Viviano handed Father Stubbs the front door key.
After Father Stubbs unlocked the door, the rope was removed and four more parishioners processed in with the large sanctuary crucifix, which they mounted in a space behind the altar designed for that purpose.
Archbishop Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist. The concelebrants were Fathers Michael Stubbs, parochial vicar Anthony Saiki, Gary Pennings, Thomas Kearns, Dennis Wait, John Reynolds, Al Rockers and Scott Kellal, AVI. Father John Riley was master of ceremonies.
Before the Scripture readings, Archbishop Naumann blessed the altar, the walls and the whole church with holy water.
In his homily, the archbishop talked about the importance of a church in the lives of Catholics.
“Churches are symbols of what we value and what we believe in,” he said. “And, in one sense, you could never build a church that in any way is worthy of God. But it’s important that, as believers, we make our churches the best expression we can of our love for God, of our absolute awe at what we celebrate here, what will transpire on this beautiful altar. That here, Jesus Christ will make himself present to this congregation, and all who come here, in a unique way.”
“And what was accomplished on Calvary will be made present to us,” continued the archbishop, “the love poured out, the mercy that flowed forth from Calvary, will be present to us on this altar.”
After recitation of the Creed, the choir led parishioners in the Litany of the Saints. Archbishop Naumann next anointed the altar with chrism (consecrated olive oil with balsam, also used for baptism, confirmation and ordination) and incensed it.
Before the dismissal, Archbishop Naumann congratulated Father Stubbs and parishioners for the hard work and dedication and said he brought the prayers of the founding pastor.
“Earlier today, I was able to visit with Father Bob Burger, the founding pastor here at Holy Cross,” said Archbishop Naumann. “He regretted very much that he could not be here tonight. At 92, he’s the oldest priest in the archdiocese. I also told him he’s the smartest. He agreed with that. He has great love and affection for this parish community.”
Holy Cross Church, originally designed to be a gymnasium, never served that purpose. It was one of many “gym churches” in the new suburban parishes of the 1960s and 1970s.
It was renovated superficially during the early 1990s, but it was obvious in recent years that more than new carpet and paint were needed 20-plus years later.
“The renovation doubled the size of the windows,” said Father Stubbs. “We held a town hall meeting for parishioners a few years ago, and they said they wanted more light in their worship space.”
The church was gutted and completely redone.
The carpet was replaced with off-white tile. Inset in the center aisle are three tile medallions featuring Jerusalem crosses. The old pews were replaced with unpadded pews.
The liturgical furnishings are a mix of new and old items refurbished to match perfectly. Each item has dark wood with a gold-colored grapevine motif running horizontally near the top. The old altar was refurbished, covered with the darker veneer and gold grapevine motif and topped with white marble.
One item is an adult-size, boxlike, above-floor baptismal font. On its wooden cover are the words “Buried with Christ, we rise to New Life.”
Two new statues were ordered: the Child Jesus and Our Lady of Guadalupe (which did not arrive in time for the dedication Mass).
Also replaced was the lighting, wiring and sound system, as well as heating and cooling ductwork.
Renovation began in April, shortly after Easter, and was completed in time for the dedication Mass.
A few minor projects still need to be completed: light wood paneling for the wall behind the altar, an 8-by-45-foot skylight above the altar, new doors from the narthex to the sanctuary and wood louvers for the top one-half of the sanctuary windows.
The total cost of the project was $1.5 million. The architects were SFS Architecture of Kansas City, Missouri. The general contractor was Kelley Construction Company of Topeka.
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