St. Thomas Aquinas Church renovations to be blessed by Bishop Kemme on Oct. 15

Fr. Matt McGinness looks down the row of statues that will be returned to the church after they are freshened by an artist. The work, which includes the stations of the cross, is part of the renovation of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Wichita. (Advance photos)

Blessed Stanley Rother is indirectly connected to the renovations that are nearly complete at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Wichita.

Fr. Matt McGinness sat next to Edwin Rambusch during the beatification Mass of Bl. Rother on Sept. 23, 2017, in Oklahoma City. Father learned that Edwin is president of Rambusch, a New Jersey-based family business of decorative arts, and told him he would like to brighten the church.

“I said the next time you’re near Wichita, stop by and see me,” Fr. McGinness said. “So, months, maybe a year later, he contacted me and came to us for a visit when he was in Oklahoma City. We started talking about designs and he presented us with several thoughts. Some of them we are using.”

Covid changed parish’s plans

Like many other ventures during 2020, Covid infected the plans the parish had for renovating the church.

“I was just about to begin my silent phase of fundraising when Covid hit,” the pastor said. “I mean, the very week. So we had to step back from any of that. But in the meantime, we kept working on the designs and fleshed things out. The time of Covid allowed us to do a lot more discernment, prayer, discussion – fine-tuning.”

With the pandemic mostly behind them, the parish took off their masks and began implementing plans.

“We went to the Diocesan Building Committee and they approved them – with tweaks, of course,” Fr. McGinness said. “Then we started the fundraising.”

Church closed May 15, reopens on Oct. 15

The church was closed on May 15 and is scheduled to reopen on Saturday, Oct. 15, when Bishop Carl A. Kemme will bless the new organ, the ambo, the presider’s chair as well as the entire space.

The renovation includes new flooring, decorative updates and restoration throughout the interior, new lighting, a new sound system, and a new kitchen for the parish hall. A prayer garden dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the east entrance of the church is also part of the work.

“We gilded the cross on top of the steeple,” Fr. McGinness said, “so it shines brightly.” New lighting will be directed to the cross giving further praise to God. “I’ve had a fantastic team who have seen this through. But when people see the renovation, I hope they will not only say, “What a beautiful church!” but also, “What a beautiful God!”