FAIRFIELD—On Saturday, January 11, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano celebrated a Mass of Dedication at St. Pius X Parish in Fairfield to dedicate the newly restored church and consecrate the altar. With Father Sam Kachuba, pastor of St. Pius X, Father Tim Iannacone, parochial vicar, and other diocesan and visiting priests concelebrating, it was a beautiful Mass to mark this historic event in the life of the parish.
St. Pius X was selected by the diocese to be a pilot parish in the We Stand With Christ capital campaign in 2018. The funds accrued from this campaign went directly toward the Restore All Things in Christ project. Far from being just a renovation, this project was a true restoration of the church to its original beauty, when the church was built sixty-plus years ago. Entrusted to Baker Liturgical Art, LLC, of Plantsville, Conn., the goal of the restoration was to maintain the church’s Colonial style, while enhancing its beauty. Brian Baker, president of Baker Liturgical Art and Wojciech Harabasz, principal of Hara-Arch LLC, achieved this by maintaining the light, brightness and simplicity of the church’s interior, while crafting liturgical elements of high quality. “We wanted to keep it so that as soon as you walked in, you knew that you were in St. Pius,” said Father Sam.
Before consecrating the new altar, Bishop Caggiano spoke about the spiritual significance of the altar, itself, saying it is “the place where heaven and earth kiss…what goes on here is more than meets the eye…because it meets the heart.” The beautifying of a worship space helps to “create a worthy living temple that we might find our way on our pilgrimage to heaven,” he said. His prayer for the parish and those gathered in it that evening was “that this place will resound to the glory of God.” After his homily, Bishop Caggiano deposed the relics of Sts. Pius X, Eugenius, Candidus, Andrew the Apostle, Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney, and Catherine of Siena in the altar and anointed it with sacred chrism.
The proposal for the renovation of the church was put forward before St. Pius was chosen as a pilot parish in the We Stand With Christ campaign. There were many practical needs that needed to be addressed: the pews were 60 years old and starting to crack, the carpet was also old, worn and in need of replacement, the linoleum tile in the floor contained asbestos and the church had not been painted in at least a decade. Once St. Pius was selected to be a pilot parish, Father Sam saw this campaign as an opportunity to go forward with the restoration project.
Work on this restoration project began in September and was finished in time for Christmas Eve. “The miracle of this entire project,” said Father Sam, “was that there was nothing major that delayed anything. Even small things that we needed to address were easily fixed. Everything just went so smoothly—it was fantastic.” There were some complications with the floor, once the carpet was taken up: the concrete base floor in the nave was damaged, and marble in the sanctuary had been ruined by the installation of carpet. “Once we saw that, we were able to repair it. That way, the new floor went on a proper surface,” he said.
A new marble floor has been installed in the sanctuary, and the nave is now porcelain tile. In the vestibule, the floor contains the Coat of Arms of the parish’s patron saint, Pope St. Pius X. The Coat contains the words of the saint’s motto: Instaurare Omnia in Christo, which translates to “Restore All Things in Christ:” the inspiration for the restoration project. This sentiment is echoed throughout the church, especially through one of its original features that has been restored: the altar rail. The altar rail, also referred to as the “communion rail” or the “people’s altar,” is an extension of the altar for the people. While it can be used during Mass for the reception of Holy Communion (parishioners are able to receive the Eucharist kneeling, if they wish), it can also be used as a place for prayer anytime. As Father Sam highlighted in a recent homily to his parishioners, the “rail” component of the altar rail is meant to provide support—physically, as people approach the altar for Communion, and spiritually, as they rely upon the grace, love and mercy of God to sustain them in their lives.
The gate of the altar rail came from a former chapel of an orphanage in Brooklyn that was operated by the Sisters of Mercy. On the gate are the images of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This gate’s original location is particularly meaningful for parishioners, who see it now, as it reminds them of their adoption by God as His sons and daughters, and that, through Jesus and Mary, the rewards of eternal life have been won for them.
The sanctuary area was also restored through the addition of a marble altar, Blessed Sacrament Throne, ambo, side shrines, and baptismal font. The type of marble used is similar to that seen in the liturgical elements in St. Thomas Aquinas Church (also in Fairfield), a symbol of the unity that exists in the Catholic faith, particularly in its churches.
Photos by Amy Mortensen
Elements that are original to the church include the crucifix that is displayed above the tabernacle and the statue of Pope St. Pius X, which is now located in a side shrine to the left of the altar. The Confessionals have also been restored to their original location in the church, instead of the entryway, as a symbol of the constant availability of God’s mercy through the sacrament.
Ryan Walsh, a long-time parishioner of St. Pius and a current college freshman, saw the renovations for the first time at the Mass of Dedication. He said “It was beautiful: different enough to look completely new and familiar enough to let me know that I was at my home parish.” The young people of St. Pius were indeed on Father Sam’s mind, as plans for the renovations unfolded. “This parish will be where the major family events in their family life lives will take place. All these important things will happen here: baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, weddings and funerals. I wanted this church to be something they would look forward to coming back to…something really beautiful for them,” he said.
His hope for all parishioners “is that they would see it (the church) as a place of prayer, where they can consistently encounter the living God who wants to give them grace and blessings, and that as they pray and worship here, they would be inspired to follow Jesus more closely.”
The significance of the church’s restoration is profound in the life of the parish and in the diocese. “In a time when it feels like the church takes ‘second place’ in many lives,” said Father Sam, “I think that this project is a reminder of our very real, legitimate, and serious priorities as a parish community and it’s a witness—I hope—that our faith matters and that this is a community that is looking forward to the future. I hope it’s a testimony that we’re looking to the future with great confidence and hope.”
By Michelle Onofrio