Renovation of St. Bernard Church, Madison, creates a home of prayer and devotion Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Pam Payne, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Sep. 01, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
st bernard renovation

St. Bernard Parish, Madison, celebrated the blessing of the new reredos, side altars, and Stations of the Cross by Bishop Robert C. Morlino on August 21. Pictured, near left,  Bishop Morlino celebrates Mass with other priests including, closest to the altar, from left: Msgr. Michael Hippee, former pastor; Fr. Luciano Labanca, in-residence priest; Msgr. James Bartylla, vicar general of the Diocese of Madison; and Fr. Michael Radowicz, pastor. For more photos go to
(Catholic Herald
Photos/Brian Payne)

MADISON -- It all began with the acquisition of a relic of St. Bernard in December of 2013.

Fr. Michael Radowicz, pastor of St. Bernard Parish, Madison, planned on constructing a simple place in the church for the relic, but “the Lord was kind of tugging at my heart strings to do more than that.

“I spent five or six months in prayer discerning where the Lord was leading me. I told the Lord I was willing to do more, but you have to give me the people and the resources to do it,” Father Radowicz said.

Prayers answered

The Lord answered Father Radowicz’s prayers, and on Sunday, Aug. 21, Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison blessed the newly restored sanctuary, side altars, and Stations of the Cross in St. Bernard Church. The reliquary, where the relics of St. Bernard and St. John Vianney will reside, were also blessed.

Bishop Morlino, principal celebrant and homilist of the Mass of Thanksgiving, was joined by diocesan priests as concelebrants.

“Welcome to this beautiful house of God,” Bishop Morlino said in his homily. “St. Bernard Church has always and continues to be a beautiful house of God, and it continues to be with the blessing of the reredos, the new side altars to Mary and Joseph, and of the restored Stations of the Cross.

“What a beautiful day this is,” the bishop continued. “It is so beautiful because of all of these things, and in particular, the placement of the tabernacle in the center of the church where you can’t miss it when you come in.”

A church building should “create a fitting receptical, a fitting vessel, for the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist front and center,” the bishop said, “telling us all what we are tempted to forget sometimes; telling us all that this is God’s house. It is not our house.”

Entering God’s world

“We come here to enter into God’s world, not to extend the ordinariness, the casualness, the informality of our world,” Bishop Morlino said.

When entering the church, the bishop said, we come into a world where the beauty of God’s house and his presence in the Blessed Sacrament strengthens us to face whatever problems or concerns that we have in our lives.

“This is a place of beauty, this is the place of truth, this is a place where God himself has pitched his tent among his people,” the bishop emphasized. “And it is no ordinary tent -- it is an extremely beautiful tent. When we are here like this, it is easy to pray. This is a place of special communion with God.”

Bishop Morlino expressed his gratitude to all who played a part in the renovation of St. Bernard Church and thanked them for “making together something beautiful for God.”

‘Zeal for God’s House’

Following Father Radowicz’s decision to move forward with the renovation, he said “there were other things I wanted to do in the church; things that needed attention,” which included, among other things, upgrading the sound system and handicapped seating.

Paul Lang, a parishioner skilled in architecture and carpentry, completed sketches of some of Father Radowicz’s ideas. Lang worked around the clock with Father Radowicz in creating blueprints that fit the pastor’s vision.

Lang also provided several items constructed from wood for the project as well, using his home garage for a woodshop to complete his work.

The pastor named the restoration project “Zeal for God’s House” as it described the “desire we need to have in our hearts for making our home [the church] a place where we can encounter Christ, the saints, our Blessed Mother, and provide a place of prayer and devotion,” he told his parishioners.

The project campaign was combined with the Priests for Our Future campaign. Father Radowicz made the choice to combine the campaigns as “they are naturally attracted to each other.” The combined goal of $610,000 for both campaigns was met by the parish.

“The Lord blessed me with some wonderful people,” said the pastor.

Construction begins

Greg Ballweg, owner of Greg’s Custom Carpentry, did most of the large construction for the project. Ballweg lived at the parish while he raised the floor so the altar was on one level while converting the space to hardwood flooring.

Father Radowicz praised Ballweg’s dedication and willingness to undertake the enormous renovation.

The project went very smoothly, Father Radowicz said. “When the Holy Spirit is in control, He gives you all that you need and He makes sure everything is in the right place.”

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