October 20, 2017

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Fr. Patrick Beidelman

Commission assists archbishop in guiding parishes in building, renovating churches

Fr. Patrick BeidelmanFrom time to time in the life of a parish community, the decision is made for the construction of a new church or chapel or for the renovation of an existing worship space.

We know from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) (2011) that “churches or other places should be suitable for carrying out the sacred action [of liturgy] and for ensuring the active participation of the faithful. Moreover, sacred buildings and requisites for divine worship should be truly worthy and beautiful and be signs and symbols of heavenly realities” (288).

These signs and symbols of heavenly realities can come in many styles and forms, and making good decisions about the art and architecture of a space for the worship of God can be challenging, especially when you set out to build something beautiful and in accord with what the Church teaches.

Since the promulgation of the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (1963) at the Second Vatican Council, the Archbishop of Indianapolis has utilized the services of a commission to evaluate and guide the plans for the building and/or renovation of churches, chapels and devotional spaces in the archdiocese.

Established after Vatican II, the Archdiocesan Church Art and Architecture Commission meets with pastors and parish life coordinators (and those who assist them) when they are considering or planning a project in a parish. This follows the guidance of GIRM: “For the proper construction, restoration, and arrangement of sacred buildings, all those involved should consult the diocesan commission for the Sacred Liturgy and sacred art. Moreover, the Diocesan Bishop should employ the counsel and help of this commission whenever it comes to laying down norms on this matter, approving plans for new buildings, and making decisions on the more important matters” (#291).

So, all work must be reviewed by the Archdiocesan Church Art and Architecture Commission and approved by the archbishop before construction may begin.

Currently, three priests and three members of the laity who have knowledge of the Church’s instructions have been appointed by the archbishop and serve on this commission. Generally, the pastoral leaders of the parish and those who assist them will meet with the commission two or three times over the course of several months as a project is developed. As soon as the archbishop reviews and gives approval to the project, then construction can begin.

Finally, it is best that the parish community also spends some time in catechetical and spiritual formation as the building or renovation project is being considered. The liturgical rite of “Dedication of a Church and an Altar” (1989) is a wonderful resource that expresses what we believe about the arrangement of and the sign and symbols within the churches we build to the honor and glory of God. Further, the guidelines contained within “Built of Living Stones: Art, Architecture and Worship” (2000) explores the specifics and ideals for which we should strive in projects of this sort.

In this time of reflection and prayer, the faith family working on the enhancement of a physical space can also accomplish something greater: their hearts can be renovated and enlarged in their love for God and for others.

This conversion is the best “renovation” project for any of us!

(Father Patrick Beidelman is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Worship and Evangelization.)

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