Sacred Heart Church in Frontenac completes a heavenly transformation

The wall theme around the altar and reredos and the star theme in the dome above at Sacred Heart Church in Frontenac focuses the eye on the sacrifice of the Mass but reflects the celestial connection to the Mass. (Courtesy photo)

When he saw tears in his own parishioners’ eyes, Fr. Josh Evans knew the renovation of Sacred Heart Church in Frontenac was a success.

“It’s sort of shocking every time we enter church,” he said a few days after Bishop Carl A. Kemme blessed the renovation.

“It’s the transcendentals bishop talked about in his homily: truth, beauty and goodness. Everything from the floors to the ceiling with the stars – the celestial heavens – all point to God.”

Work is phenomenal

Fr. Evans, Sacred Heart’s pastor, described the update and improvement work as phenomenal.

“I pray that this renovation helps us evangelize the area anew and bring people to the faith and back to the faith who have been away.”

Fr. Evans arrived at the parish in July of 2021 with a minor to-do list of water damage and other necessary repairs.

That was followed by the first domino: a need for new kneelers, he said. “But a lot of our pews were needing more extensive repairs and it moved to the next stage of needing new pews.”

Then other dominoes soon followed.

From the floor to ceiling

“With new pews the opportunity arose to replace the flooring,” he said. “When the carpets changed and the pews changed, it allowed us to change the color scheme and then it just kind of went on from there. It went from a simple refresh to a complete renovation very, very quickly.”

Exterior work began in the fall of 2022. The interior renovation began at the end of June and was completed in mid-October.

The interior of the church was completely renovated. Marble floors were installed along the main aisle and in the sanctuary and new carpet was laid under the pews.

New color theme

The interior has a new color theme, including a ceiling medallion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The wall behind the altar and reredos features a repeated theme of crosses and Sacred Hearts.

The dark blue canopy above the sanctuary is adorned with gold-leafed stars which highlights the white marble altar and side shrines that previously existed. In addition to a new roof and fresh paint on the church’s concrete base, the church’s steeple cross has new gilding.

Fr. Evans said he was greatly assisted by numerous men and women throughout the project and the women on the renovation team who were able to address what the parish envisioned.

Artisans from Conrad Schmitt Studios, Inc., of New Berlin, Wisconsin, were contracted for the project.

Bishop Kemme’s homily at Sacred Heart’s blessing

Photographs don’t do justice to Sacred Heart Church’s renovation, Bishop Carl A. Kemme told parishioners at a Mass Saturday, Oct. 21, celebrating the completion of a sanctuary renovation.

“Until a few moments ago, I had only seen the interior renovations of your beautiful church in photos that Father Josh showed me while we were together this past week at our annual clergy convocation,” the bishop said in his homily.

“I have to say the photos did not do justice to the beauty I see now with my own eyes. Let me say first and foremost then that I am very proud of Father Josh and of all of you, his parishioners, for undertaking such a noble task as renovating your parish church, rendering it into a space even more extraordinarily beautiful and as such, worthy of God.”

Fr. Josh Evans is the pastor of the Frontenac parish, located just north of Pittsburg.

For future generations

The bishop said the cost of the project might have dissuaded parishioners from moving forward with the work. “But doing this signals your desire to have a church where you can gather for right praise and worship every day. Not only for you but for future generations, a church that will inspire, a church where the sacraments – especially the Holy Eucharist – can be celebrated with proper dignity and reverence. So, I say well done, and may the Lord bless all of you for your noble and heroic efforts in this regard.”

Bishop Kemme said ancient Greek philosophers often spoke of the transcendentals: the good, the true, and the beautiful.

“For us, who are believers, these are windows into the divine, into the inner life of God. Whenever we see or experience something good, something true, and something beautiful, we can get a glimpse, however imperfectly, into the life and love of God. What you have done here, I can attest, is to offer the people who will enter the doors of your church something that is, by all accounts, beautiful.”

The beauty of God

Those who gaze into the beauty of the renovations see a reflection of God, Bishop Kemme said, “who is not one among the realities in time and in eternity that is beautiful, but who is beauty itself.”

We need beauty, he said.

“It makes life worth living. It brings color and exuberance to our lives. It makes us more human. It inspires in our minds, hearts, and souls, thoughts and feelings, aspirations that lead us beyond the mundane, beyond the ordinary, beyond the disorder of our human life, to the order, to the divine plan, to the life that God has set in motion for us and which will find its completion in the Kingdom of Heaven, where we will be surrounded by beauty unending and eternal.”

Such beauty is a window to God, Bishop Kemme said, where one can enter into a relationship with God, a relationship he desires more than we do, a relationship of love and life centered on Jesus Christ.

Bishop issues challenge

Bishop Kemme then challenged the parish with another project.

“I now urge you and encourage you to undertake an even more urgent project, the renewal of your parish community, by being a community of radical hospitality and welcome, by becoming a parish where the Eucharist is celebrated with greater reverence and devotion, where the music at the Liturgy lifts up the faithful who come here to worship, where ministry beyond the parish is something inherent to the parish itself, where more and more people in this vicinity will be inspired to come and be a part of this community of faith.”

But missionary discipleship is not as easily achieved as a church renovation, he said.

“It will require much from everyone, pastor and parishioners united for mission, to being the Good News of Jesus’s salvation and life to each soul in this parish boundary, Catholic and non-Catholic, believer and non-believer. It is my hope and prayer that your new renovation will light a fire of discipleship in and among you for this purpose.”

Render unto Caesar

Bishop Kemme closed his homily by referring to the day’s Gospel regarding Jesus’ reply to a question about rendering unto Caesar.

“What belongs to God?” the bishop asked. “Everything. All that we see here. It is given from God and belongs to God. Our relationships in our families and in our parish; these belong to God, our sacrifices of time, talent, and treasure, for the support of mission of the church in this parish. All of this belongs to God.

“As we offer this Mass and as the Mass is offered here now in this space of beauty and transcendence, let nothing that truly belongs to God be withheld from him, for the more we give of ourselves to God and neighbor out of love, the more blessings we receive in return.”