St. Joseph to bless new church built for growing congregation Members will welcome Keeler to dedication

October 09, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

For the third time in its 130-year history, St. Joseph Catholic Community in Eldersburg is dedicating a new and larger church.

Cardinal William H. Keeler, the Baltimore archdiocese's archbishop, will preside at the dedication today, blessing the $3.3 million brick building and its elements of worship.

"We will have a blessing of the walls, the baptismal pool, the

altar, the choir room, everything in the church," said Fran Seymour, parish business manager.

The 18,000-square-foot church, constructed in a crescent shape, stands behind the building on Liberty Road that has served the parish since 1965.

In the past 30 years, the parish has also added a gymnasium and classrooms. Old and new buildings are linked. On either side of the new front entrance are bricks with the dates 1868 and 1998.

Congregations are growing in South Carroll, the county's most populous area. The sanctuary at St. Joseph will seat about 850, about 300 more than the older space.

"Sunday Mass is often standing-room-only," said the Rev. Patrick Tonry, a Marianist priest who has served as pastor for nearly three years. "We are really blessed here with many young families and a great deal of lay involvement."

St. Joseph started with a few farm families who built a stone chapel in downtown Sykesville in 1867. Now, more than 2,000 families swell Sunday Mass attendance to nearly 3,000, some at the chapel but most at the church on Liberty Road.

"This is a great opportunity for those of us who have been worshiping in two churches to worship as one community," Tonry said.

The old chapel will become a shrine that parishioners can use for weddings, baptisms and other family events. The existing church will be converted to much-needed offices, meeting areas and classrooms. St. Joseph has numerous outreach ministries, for which the cardinal recognized the parish with a distinguished service award in 1996.

Designers chose a Renaissance-style architecture. The pitched roof, rounded arches and exposed wood beams are reminiscent of the majestic cathedrals of the Middle Ages.

To the left of the foyer is a small chapel that is open for private prayer and daily Mass.

Inside the sanctuary is a baptismal pool with continuous flowing water. The pool's floor holds a sunburst mosaic.

Pews fan out from the altar, so no one is more than 65 feet from celebrations. Ends of the pews are low and open as a reminder that no barriers should divide worshipers, the pastor said.

"The floor is slanted slightly toward the front in a version of stadium seating," said Tonry. "Nothing blocks the view."

A Marianist brother built the altar from rich dark wood. A Franciscan nun carved the crucifix that hangs over the altar. The church plans to place a circular stained-glass window above the crucifix.

As the cardinal leads the procession into the building today, he will cross bricks engraved with the names of 80 saints, including many familiar to Roman Catholics, and the names of some, like Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero, who might be canonized in the next century.

"We walk with the saints to the altar," said Seymour.

The congregation has raised $2.8 million since it began its building campaign five years ago and broke ground in 1996.

"We have a hefty mortgage for the rest," said Tonry, who added he was not concerned about making the payments.

Pub Date: 10/09/98

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