||Beloit's Our Lady of the Assumption Church recently dedicated their new Stations of the Cross windows. Catholic Herald photo/Bill Boyce
BELOIT — Two traditions essential to Catholic worship were brought together at Our Lady of the Assumption (OLA) Church during the recent parish feast day, August 15, when Pastor Fr. Gary Krahenbuhl blessed newly installed Stations of the Cross.
The new stations are made of etched glass and are placed in the 14 windows of the church that surround the pews and altar. They were installed from the inside of the church by placing an etched glass pane onto the original windowpane.
They allow natural light to enter the church, an important priority in the design of the new OLA Church that was dedicated August 15, 2004.
According to Randy Gracyalny, OLA director of music and liturgy, after extensive work and research by a parish committee it was decided to use “The Way of the Cross According to Scripture.” Gracyalny said these stations have historic roots dating to the very early Church. These stations were brought back into use by Pope John Paul II in 1991.
Bringing two traditions together
Father Krahenbuhl stated, “The Church has a tradition of using sacred art in her worship space and a long tradition of praying the Stations. We were able to bring those two traditions together. The etching in the windows offers a new dimension of sacredness to an already sacred space, but also provides the opportunity for us to enter into the sacred prayer of the Stations of the Cross.”
Parishioners received pamphlets briefly describing the Scriptural Stations of the Cross. New booklets will be available in the near future. “Presently committee members are reviewing various sources to find one that fits our needs. The stations are a prayer, so we are seeking a devotional prayer series that will be similar to booklets in use now. We anticipate the use of a combination of scripture and reflections,” stated Gracyalny.
Inspiration of the Spirit
The new stations were made possible by a generous memorial donation to OLA. With his usual humorous outlook, Gracyalny explained how the gift was used. “I guess the decision was an inspiration of the Spirit, not by the architect’s design. One day, Father Gary just remarked that there were 14 windows in the church. That guided our decision.”
Over a two-year period, a six-member committee met and studied all aspects of the project. Members included: chair Gracyalny, Ellen Joyce, Kathleen Klespis-Wick, Mary Madaus, Maryanne Messier, and Joe Stadelman.
After study, they decided to use “The Way of the Cross According to Scripture.” Gracyalny pointed out that the stations have gone through numerous changes and adaptations over the centuries and all 14 of these particular stations have biblical references. “In our research of the stations of the cross, we came to understand the stations never have been said or followed in any one way,” said Gracyalny.
“This means, as seen in our new stations, some stations, such as Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus and The Three Falls, are not part of our new stations. In their place are stations such as Jesus prays in the Garden of Olives, Jesus Encounters the Women of Jerusalem, and Jesus is Denied by Peter,” said Gracyalny.
He added that the “traditional” stations originally used at OLA are located in the Holy Rosary chapel for private and communal prayer.
The artist chosen for the project is Linda Muldoon of Coventry GlassWorks in Appleton. The OLA committee did extensive work on this project, beginning with developing the actual design of the windows. After reflection and discussion on each of the stations, they created “word pictures” which were given to Muldoon. She made initial sketches which were subsequently reviewed and revised as necessary, said Gracyalny.
Gracyalny said using stations based on Scripture impresses him. “I feel it gives our parish an opportunity to reflect in an unique manner, another way to connect to Scripture in a positive aspect,” he said.
He pointed out that in the church, everything away from the altar and sanctuary is neutral. “The etched glass blends in well with the rest of the church art. The stations complement the simplicity of the worship space and thus attention is drawn to the windows.
“I especially appreciate how the images on the windows offer such different perspectives when viewed from the inside and from the outside of the church, during daylight and at night,” said Gracyalny.
“For me it adds another dimension of sacredness to church. This allows for different kinds of reflection. People can pray as complete Stations of the Cross, or spend time reflecting by just one station.”
Gratified that the committee spent almost 2.5 years on study, reflection, and work and grateful for Father Krahenbuhl’s guidance, Gracyalny said, “This process took longer than we thought it would. We planned images, reflected on Scripture and on the stations, created word images for the artist, and then agreed on our final approval.”
Father Krahenbuhl concluded amicably, “All in all, it was great to be able to do both the blessing of the windows and the burning of the mortgage on our parish feast day. We broke ground on the Feast of the Assumption, dedicated the church on the feast, and now are able to add a couple more memory-making moments to that day.”
He added, “The artist and the committee that designed the windows worked so well together. One of the design features of our church that people have come to appreciate is the natural light that flows in through our windows. Etching the glass takes advantage of that light while surrounding the congregation with sacred story.”
Committee member Ellen Joyce is “pleased” the committee used these stations initiated by Pope John Paul II because they are scripturally based. “People can meditate on the Scriptures and on the images together,” she said. “One can see the images of the stations without blocking the wonderful natural light from the windows.”
Joyce is an associate professor of history at Beloit College and holds a doctorate in Medieval Studies. Her experience in church art extends to her work on the committee for illumination and text of The St. John’s Bible at St. John’s Abbey and University in Minnesota.
She concluded, “It was a joy to work with all the people who came to meetings, reflected about the images and about how we imagined the images would move other people to prayer. I think it expands one’s own private view and certainly deepens the relationship with the committee members to talk about such things.”
Parishioners’ comments include: “Nice addition to our worship space”; “The stations are not distracting”; and “The stations are stunning and very restful in appearance for prayers.”