God became man and dwelt among us. He loves us so much that He wished to remain among us even after He ascended into Heaven. His real presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist means that a church where He dwells becomes His house, a true foretaste of Heaven. Throughout history the faithful have honored the splendor of God’s majesty in our midst by building beautiful churches where man, with his senses, could experience the Divine through the beauty of sacred art. The tall spires, the colorful frescos, the gilded altars, the aroma of burned incense, the realistic statues and paintings of saints and angels, the resplendent and vivid stained glass windows… all of these capture the senses, elevate the soul to God and fill the faithful with awe as they enter an extraordinary place, a place that speaks more of Heaven than of earth.
In May 1914, The Fennimore Times reported, “St. Mary’s Church […] is one of the most magnificently adorned church edifices in this part of the state.” As we remember the faith and reverence of her founding fathers and honor the grandeur of God’s majesty, we are committed to her renewal. With your help, we can restore her brilliance so that she will shine as the gem she was created to be. She will be a vision of Heaven.
O Beauty, ever ancient and ever new! In this way Saint Augustine addressed God in his Confessions. Beauty is indeed always ancient and always new; it does not pass away. It withstands passing trends and fashions. It is ageless because it is always perceived as something extraordinary, “out of this world,” and not subject to change.
In 1905, when the cornerstone of the new St. Mary’s was laid, an impressive Solemn High Mass was celebrated. The prayer of the clergymen and the congregation was that the choicest blessings might rest upon the work undertaken and that the new church might be perpetuated as a monument to the piety, devotion, and generosity of its people. God indeed blessed the hard work of the entire community; skilled artists and craftsmen built a church with unique beauty.
With the passage of time, however, St. Mary’s Church has lost some of the original beauty that gave such magnificent glory to God and was a testimony to the pious faith of Catholics in the area at the beginning of the twentieth century. We now, more than a hundred years later, have the opportunity to restore St. Mary’s to its original beauty.
The new design scheme for St. Mary’s borrows heavily from the original church while introducing new elements that incorporate the circumstances of our current faith community. As such, it pays tribute to the unique history of the Catholic faith in Southwest Wisconsin. Saint Augustine’s maxim becomes real in this new scheme, for it restores the beauty of old, yet feels uniquely new.
The new furnishings of the sanctuary are inspired by the high and side altars that adorned the original St. Mary’s, a design typical of the churches built by Fr. Mazzuchelli in the nineteenth century. At the high altar, our beautiful crucifixion scene once again holds a place of honor over the entire church. On either side, the statues of St. Peter and St. Paul are for us reminders of these two pillars of the Catholic Church; powerful intercessors and role models to imitate at a time in our history in which we must boldly profess and practice our Faith.
Above the sanctuary in the apse ceiling, the celestial heavens are depicted in beautifully adorned murals. Our Lady Queen of All Saints is portrayed in the center panels in queenly apparel. She is surrounded by saints offering their crowns to her in a gesture of reverence. St. John Nepomuc and St. Lawrence O’Toole stand by her sides as co-patrons of our parish community.
St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Teresa of Avila also appear in the back panels. St. Thomas Aquinas is a Doctor of the Church who composed the angelic hymn Pange Lingua, dedicated to the Eucharist. St. Teresa, another Doctor of the Church, is noted for her mystical contemplative prayer. Together St. Thomas and St. Teresa honor the parish’s deep devotion to constant prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Above the sanctuary and at both sides of the apse lies the proscenium in which angels contemplate in adoration the wonder of the Sacrifice of the Mass on the altar. Our statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph are enshrined in their own side altars and the Novus Ordo (free standing) altar features a hand carved Last Supper relief, in commemoration of the first Eucharistic banquet.
The altar rail once again defines the sanctuary area, marking off this space as especially sacred. It is the Holy of Holies, set apart, where God dwells in the Tabernacle. It is the place where the Sacrifice of the Mass is re-enacted. It is a prefigure of Heaven, into which we need to enter by the narrow gate. The altar rail is not only rich in symbolism, but also serves the practical purpose of accommodating those who would like to kneel in reverence while receiving Holy Communion.
Elsewhere in the church, new stone flooring adds beauty to the nave and create a harmonious effect to the decorative scheme. The addition of wood frames to the Stations of the Cross, new decorative lighting and the restoration of the pews complete the renovation - a renovation that will not only continue the legacy of piety and devotion to God of our parish community, but will also provide a glimpse of Heaven.