The lower church at St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street in New York City has received a long-overdue renovation that makes the sanctuary space more inviting for worshippers and visitors. Electrical upgrades paved the way for a modified sound system that enables connection to live-streaming so that Mass can now be broadcast from St. Anthony Shrine via the Internet.
In the sanctuary of the lower church, gone is the carpeting that absorbed the light and always made it seem dark, replaced with red oak hardwood flooring that reflects the improved lighting to give the space a brighter, cleaner and more inviting look.
The space on the opposite side of the sanctuary that housed the reconciliation rooms was completely transformed – from old carpeting, paint-starved walls, and dark and dingy surroundings, to modern lighting, fresh coats of paint, and budget-friendly terrazzo-look tile that creates a warm and engaging atmosphere. Rows of pews on that end of the lower church were removed and the space has become the new area for reconciliation, which is offered daily for three hours. Partitions and doors separate the sanctuary and reconciliation space.
“It was time for a facelift. The space really needed sprucing up,” said Thomas Gallagher, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church.
“The lighting was poor in the entire lower church. The renovations – the paint colors we chose for the walls, the improved lighting, and the new flooring – collectively create a prayerful, peaceful, and more welcoming space for our worshippers and visitors,” continued Thomas, especially those who come for reconciliation, as well as others who spend time with the Lord during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which takes place daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the lower church.
“The facelift also provides greater versatility for the space – particularly the area we use for reconciliation. In addition to providing worshippers with a prayerful place to reflect and pray after the sacrament of reconciliation, the transformation to an open-space concept by removing rows of pews now lends itself to large-group activities, such as adult religious education classes and group spiritual direction sessions,” explained Thomas.
The pastor said that electrical improvements led to installing a sound system that enables Mass to be live-streamed from St. Anthony Shrine, which means that daily weekday Masses can be held in the lower church and avoid cooling the cavernous upper church, and thus result in cost savings and energy conservation during summer months.
“People’s reaction to the renovations has been very positive. They welcome this brighter, more attractive atmosphere in which to worship,” said Thomas.