Sunday, June 20, 2010

Holy Child to close June 27, 2010

On Sunday, June 27, 2010, phase 1 of the consolidation of Roman Catholic parishes in the City of Nanticoke, Pennsylvania will conclude with the closure of Holy Child church in Sheatown.

I don't have much history with Holy Child. I seem to recall being there once when I was young, maybe in first grade, maybe later; we were at the nearby St. Stanislaus nursing home to sing Christmas Carols for the old folks, and afterwards went to a Mass at the church. But I never went there again until, I think, sometime last year or the year before. I went there out of curiosity, and because the 9:00 Sunday service was sometimes a convenient alternative to the 8:00 service at St. Stan's on rotations when Saturday night was my last night of work, and I felt like dawdling at breakfast at Cracker Barrel or wherever.

The church is built in what I believe is a Dutch style, complementing the buildings of the old, long-vacant St. Stanislaus Orphanage that tower over it on either side. The church, I have heard, was originally a chapel for the children of the orphanage - some of them children whose parents had died, some of them children whose parents were very much alive but had decided that they were not interested in playing the roles of parents. Despite its small size and crowded location, it is a surprisingly bright and airy church - the brightness the result of the extensive use of clear glass in the stained glass windows, and the airiness brought about by ceiling fans and vent windows.

The main altar is located in a recessed area that creates a sense of separateness between the celebrants and the congregation. The altar itself, as well as the side altars, all appear to be carved from a single piece of pinkish stone with gray veining - soapstone, perhaps? The large wall-mounted depiction of the crucified Christ is surmounted by a Rose window (see below), and windows on the sides of the recess admit additional natural light.

The angels on the sides of the altar were of special interest to me. From my youth through the last major renovation in 1998, the area behind the main altar of St. Mary's church, my home parish, featured an image of Mary and Jesus (in their dark-skinned, cut-faced Czestachowa appearance) attended by two angels. I always had the impression that rather than being directly painted on the wall, these were actually appliques of some sort, like large, painted pieces of wallpaper cut into specific shapes. (This impression came from seeing various corners and edges curl up from time to time.) The angels exactly resembled the two angels seen here. I wonder if these are the appliques from St. Mary's, removed and repurposed after the renovation? Or could the two churches have received similar decorative items from the same supplier?

A close-up of the Rose window. The four central panes appear to be the symbols of the four Evangelists: clockwise from upper left, the Lion of Mark, Man of Matthew, Bull of Luke, and Eagle of John.

I don't know if I have seen pendants like this elsewhere. There are two of them, one in front of each of the two side altars. The letters are a Christogram. From Wikipedia:
In the Latin-speaking Christianity of medieval Western Europe (and so among Catholics and many Protestants today), the most common Christogram is "IHS" or "IHC", denoting the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, iota-eta-sigma, or ΙΗΣ. The Greek letter iota is represented by I, and the eta by H, while the Greek letter sigma is either in its lunate form, represented by C, or its final form, represented by S. Because the Latin-alphabet letters I and J were not systematically distinguished until the 17th century, "JHS" and "JHC" are equivalent to "IHS" and "IHC".

A votive light of a style I have never seen before.

As mentioned earlier, the stained glass windows in this church use lots of clear glass, admitting maximum light. The style of these windows is unique among the churches of Nanticoke; aside from a single similar depiction of a saint in both the St. Mary's and Holy Trinity windows, each of the churches of Nanticoke has a distinct set of windows in a style different from all the others.

The right side of the church as seen from the front. The hanging lights had ornately decorated glass, though much of the detail is washed out in this image. Note the large duct for the air conditioning system in the choir loft. Details like this give the church an almost industrial feel.

The left side of the church as seen from the front. Each of these windows bears a dedication inscription, and I'm sure the names present a history of the parish over its lifetime. I am also sure that the small, intricately carved Stations of the Cross have a story of their own, though as an outsider to this parish, I am unfamiliar with it.

The choir loft, dominated by a large stained glass window depicting the Nativity.

A close-up of the Nativity window. One of the choir members seen here commented to my mom that she hoped I got a picture of this window, which is apparently the only window in all of Nanticoke to depict the Nativity. You can judge how well I captured this in the image above. I hope that sometime before the doors are locked forever, someone with a better camera and a more in-depth knowledge of this parish photographically documents Holy Child church.

The rear entrance. The buildings of the orphanage, undergoing renovation as they are turned into apartments, seem to envelop the church - something that is not apparent from the front. But as of next week, this will no longer be a church.

I have attended Mass here three or four times over the past year or so. Most times the church, while small, was only partially full. Today as I arrived I was surprised to find no parking available near the church or even in the lot of the nursing home (no longer St. Stan's) that still operates on the other side of the lot. Inside I found a packed church, and needed an usher to locate a seat for me. If this penultimate Mass was any indication, next week's closing Mass will be very crowded - standing room only. Tragically, it seems that if this had been the case all the while, this church might not be on the list of churches being closed as part of the local parish consolidation.

1 comment:

Betz said...

this is so sad.
my church is scheduled for closing, and it sucks the life out of me to think of it!