St. Joseph Catholic Church Renovation, Richardson, Texas
Recipient Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art, and Architecture - National Design Award
The community desired a closer relationship between themselves and the celebrant during the liturgy. They wished to restore their awareness of the reserved Eucharist, which was in a remote and isolated location. Baptism by immersion was to be provided near the entrance of the church, the font visible and accessible to the community for blessing and as a reminder of entering the Church through baptism.
A painting of the crucifixion, which replaced a mirrored glass cross, was commissioned as a first step in the overall renovation. The existing altar platform, high and remote, was freed from the back wall, lowered, and brought forward into the congregation. Some of the pews were redirected to face the altar from the sides, thereby gathering the faithful around the altar. Removal of the stage-like altar platform permitted an opening to be cut through that wall to the existing daily chapel, which now serves also as a place of reservation for the Eucharist.
The sarcophagus shaped font, symbolic of death and rebirth in baptism, provides for full immersion. It is made of limestone and encloses a stepped bronze pool over which water gently flows. At the Easter Vigil, the water level is lowered slightly, and stone steps are set in place to allow both the pastor and the baptismal candidate to enter the water.
The architects designed new liturgical elements and furnishings of limestone, bronze, and wood. A travertine floor was installed throughout the church to replace carpet, and a massive chandelier in the center of the space, unrelated to any liturgical activity, was dismantled and removed.
The renovation has created a strong axial relationship between font, altar and tabernacle. This progression as one moves from font to altar to tabernacle signifies the journey of the faithful - beginning in baptism, to the altar where faith is nourished, to Christ eternally present in the Eucharist.