Church built on devotion

Manchester parishioners worship in a new sanctuary they helped construct

January 07, 2007|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Sun Reporter

The new $6 million St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church sits on a hill at the south entrance to Manchester, almost as a welcome to the small town.

Its pastor, the Rev. Michael Roach, proudly details the items in his new sanctuary - the pulpit was handmade by Jim Moore, the tables by Mike Gary, and the 14 Stations of the Cross were restored by Elinore Frush, all parishioners.

The 180-year-old painting of the crucifixion came from a Carmelite convent in Baltimore, the baptismal font from Pittsburgh, a crucifix from Mexico, a statue of Christ from Spain (one of the few new things in the church, Roach noted), and one of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests, made in Holland, from Roach's church history students at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg.

The 70-foot peaked Country Gothic ceiling with soaring stained oak trusses gives the church the feel of a European cathedral.

"We wanted it to be warm and inviting," Roach said. "The wooden trusses are fantastic, really beautiful."

St. Bartholomew's congregation built its first church in 1864 on what is now Park Avenue in Manchester. A mission of St. Alphonsus Church of Baltimore, the little brick sanctuary held 175 people, hardly enough for today's 1,100-member parish.

"It was a mission of other churches who sent a priest to take care of the German farmers," Roach said. "Just 40 years ago, the church got its first priest."

Fifteen years ago, Roach's predecessor started a campaign to raise money for a new church on the edge of town, where the congregation owned 34 acres, purchased for $25,000 in the mid-1950s.

When Roach arrived 11 years ago as the church's fourth pastor, he continued the campaign. Through basket bingos and raffles, going house to house, and selling investment club tickets and commemorative medallions, the congregation raised $3.5 million for the sanctuary.

Construction started in August 2005. On Dec. 16, the congregation dedicated its new church in a two-hour ceremony attended by diocesan officials and 850 to 900 parishioners. The new sanctuary seats up to 790 people.

"This is the first of three phases - church, offices and social hall," Roach said. "There's a great need for a social hall in Manchester."

Roach credited the project's success to the "marvelous sense of community and hard work" of the congregation.

"For a hundred years, they didn't have a priest, so they had to hustle and do things themselves," he said.

Frush, a lifelong St. Bartholomew's member and volunteer who helps "where and when needed," bought the 14 Stations of the Cross secondhand from an estate and restored them over last summer.

"Steve Miller, he's not a member but a friend of the church, made the crosses, and Mike Gary made the base on the stations," Frush said.

Moore said that when the church started talking about the cost of the pulpit, he offered to draw up some plans and make it himself. Having worked in construction, he was familiar with woodworking design.

"I tried to put some touches in from the old church," Moore said. "The altar is like the best piece I've ever made. It looked like it fit right in, the colors matched - it really worked out well."

Moore's wife, Mary, also helped with the church's furnishings, picking the colors for the priests chairs and getting them upholstered. In charge of doing the altar flowers, she did the floral design for the dedication, and arranged for an Advent wreath for the ceremony.

"I found a wrought-iron chandelier and contacted a member of the blacksmiths guild who made a base with a shepherd's crook for it," said Mary Moore.

When the church obtained a 150-year-old Nativity scene from the House of the Good Shepherd in Baltimore that needed some work, Jim Moore made a barn for it from wood on the couple's farm.

"The altar has a carving of a sacrificial lamb and cup that came from a walnut tree on our farm, so we have a connection to some things in the church," Mary Moore added.

Roach noted that "a lot of things are from other churches," including a hanging sanctuary lamp from St. John's of Westminster.

A statue of Mary the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph with the baby Jesus came from Europe. A baby Jesus Infant of Prague, an Eastern European devotion, was clothed in garments handmade by parishioner Dorothy Holden.

The side windows feature stained glass portraits of various saints and the Gospel writers. The front stained glass includes four symbols: the Carroll family arms, the pope's arms, the Maryland flag and the Archdiocese of Baltimore's symbol.

Standing by the back pews are holy water fonts with angel bases, made in Poland. "They're great for little kids, they're eye-level with them," Roach said.

The collection baskets are from Longaberger. A framed copper cross from Ireland was a gift from the Lady Hibernians of Carroll County. A sculpture of Christ on the cross hangs on the wall in the hallway leading to the restrooms.

The main entryway features 75-year-old framed altar cards from the old Latin mass. A small balcony holds about 25 people, and "gives a nice view of the church," Roach said.

The church still needs its spire, which is scheduled to arrive next month, Roach said. The grounds have to be landscaped and the priest hopes to open someday a church cemetery for parishioners.

"I hope people find comfort and hope here - that's why we're around, to offer peace and serenity," Roach said.

ellie.baublitz@baltsun.com

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