St. Michael Parish renovates sanctuary to center on Christ
BEDFORD — Three years of liturgical planning, hard work, and sacred preparation came to fruition when Bishop Michael Olson blessed St. Michael Parish’s newly completed altar, tabernacle, and statuary at evening Mass on Saturday, Sept. 25.
The liturgy celebrated the multiplicity of cultures present within the Bedford parish — matachines led a jubilant entrance procession which included Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, and Guadalupanas.
The evening’s first reading was proclaimed in Spanish, the second in Tongan, and the Gospel in English. The mix of singers were all diverse as well, featuring adult, children, and Tongan choirs.
Father Balaji Boyalla, SAC, the pastor of St. Michael who spearheaded the renovations, reports 42 different nationalities within his community. To help raise money for the project, parishioners sold traditional foods from their home or native countries.
The Bedford congregation of 3,400 families raised more than $80,000 through generous donations, five weeks of these food sales, and a raffle, which included prizes such as a vacation to Navarre Beach, a $1,000 Visa gift card, an iPhone 12, and more.
Despite the hardships of the pandemic, Fr. Boyalla stated that people were happy to donate towards the project. “Because of the pandemic, there were a lot of expenses. More than what we projected,” the priest said. “But still, people are happy — very, very happy — to support.”
The chancel (the space around the altar) received many reverent and liturgically beneficial changes in the renovation, according to Fr. Boyalla. The Pallottine priest first decided to undertake the project because he wanted the altar and crucifix, previously located off center, to be placed directly in the middle of the sanctuary, leading to a clearer focus on the great sacrifice of the Lord and a more prayerful atmosphere within the church.
The new altar is centered within the sanctuary and a new, larger crucifix hangs on the wall directly behind it. A statue of Our Lady of Grace sits in an alcove to the left of the tabernacle, and a statue of St. Joseph rests in a corresponding alcove to the tabernacle’s right.
In his homily, Bishop Olson said the remodeled sanctuary calls onlookers to “not forget what God has done for us and continues to do for us, not only in this church as a building, but in our being as the Church, through the grace of Baptism, and the nurturing by the Eucharist.”
He encouraged parishioners to come before the altar and tabernacle — often. “If we spend time with Christ in prayer here before His tabernacle, if we worship God reverently through the Sacrifice of the Mass, if we ask Saint Michael’s protection from our becoming enamored by evil, then, in God’s grace, we will be able to pray honestly with the Church the Psalm that we proclaimed minutes ago: ‘The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart!’”