Magazine article U.S. Catholic

New Homes for Old Treasures

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

New Homes for Old Treasures

Article excerpt

As Catholic demographics shift and shrinking budgets demand consolidation, churches close. Because canon law prohibits the sale of sacred objects--such as crucifixes, chalices, and Stations of the Cross--and calls for their disposal only if they are damaged beyond repair, several archdioceses are cataloging, warehousing, and finding new homes for these artifacts. This can be a boon to parishes that are building on budgets--if the objects are in good condition and fit the new church's iconographic and structural needs.

Twenty years ago, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia created the Ecclesiastical Exchange Program, one of the first in the nation, to steward the transition of sacred objects from their original locations. "The priority is to place objects first in parishes within the archdiocese, but we have worked with churches throughout the country," program director Father Zachary Navit says.

Three altars and many furnishings at St. Bede the Venerable in Holland, Pennsylvania originally graced Philadelphia's Most Blessed Sacrament (MBS), a church with a long history that once had the largest Catholic grade school in the United States. St. Bede invited former MBS parishioners to visit and see how objects from their beloved church are still being used. "It's important to maintain that connection, so that when a church is lost, its community is still recognized," Navit says. "Items that have been entrusted to a community of one time and place have been preserved and passed on to another. It's a trust and a serious obligation, and, for members of the original church community, an act of selfless giving."

St. Raphael the Archangel, now rising in Old Mill City, a northern suburb of Chicago, will incorporate the classical facade and twin towers of St. John of God, designed by the eminent Chicago architect Henry J. …

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