By Tanya Connor
WORCESTER – A chapel modeled on a church attended by movie stars was dedicated May 27 in memory of one of its donors – the day after her funeral.
St. John Parish’s lower church was renovated to look like the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, Calif., said St. John’s parishioner Francis R. Carroll. He planned the renovations with his wife, Mary, whom he credits with paying for them. He said the final cost is expected to be close to $200,000, and there will be no charge or debt for the parish to pay. Mrs. Carroll’s funeral was held at St. John’s May 26.
Mr. Carroll said he wanted to copy Good Shepherd Church, where he attends Mass when visiting stars who are his friends, who have helped raise money for St. John’s Food for the Poor Program.
“I was impressed with the simplicity and the beauty of the altar” at Good Shepherd, he said. He was impressed that when you walk into the church, what you notice is the altar, the tabernacle and the crucifix.
“We … went to Beverly Hills to make sure that we got it right,” said the general contractor for the renovation, Thomas Lamarche, of First Call Contracting in Worcester. “The idea was to keep as much of the church’s history” as possible, “but to bring in more light.” A St. John’s parishioner and nephew of Mr. Carroll, he said they also made a connection with Ascension Parish, which merged with St. John’s in 2008.
At the dedication Mass Bishop McManus blessed and anointed the new altar, and Mr. Carroll and his adult children adorned it with an altar cloth and candles. Father John F. Madden, St. John’s pastor, pointed out the unplanned timing.
“Yesterday we buried Mary Carroll,” he said, his voice breaking. “Today we dedicate this chapel in her memory. Only Christians can do this.” He expressed gratitude to the Carroll family.
“Mary would be proud,” Bishop McManus added.
Mr. Carroll told The Catholic Free Press he had asked Father Madden if they could dedicate the chapel in his wife’s honor. They were thinking of holding the dedication a few weeks ago, but that didn’t fit Bishop McManus’ schedule, so May 27 was chosen, he said.
“The timing was coincidental, but what a blessing from heaven,” he said. “Mary is smiling down. We know that Mary’s in heaven. So, because she’s in heaven, I know she’s here.”
“I feel her here,” said their daughter Lisa Carroll. “She was a woman of very deep faith. … We never expected to have her funeral the day before the dedication.”
Mr. Carroll said he got the idea for the renovation and began taking photos of Good Shepherd Church five years ago. He enjoyed working on the project with his wife, who’d never been to Good Shepherd.
“What I liked about this –– everyone worked as a team,” Mr. Carroll said.
He said Geoff Kostecki, the artist who restored the murals in St. John’s upper church, made a model of the lower church for the renovations. He repainted and restored St. John’s Stations of the Cross and the statues of St. John, Mary, and Joseph with the Child Jesus.
“We preserved the original metal ceiling,” Mr. Carroll said.
The pews and the stained glass window in the back wall came from Ascension Church, he said.
“We bring a piece of home” to the former Ascension parishioners who joined St. John’s, said Mr. Lamarche.
Mr. Kostecki made the new colored windows behind the altar, which are illuminated from behind. Connie Cremin, of Cremin Builders in Northborough, made the crown molding and furnishings, including the altar, lectern, presider’s chair, candle holders, kneeler and cross, though not the corpus, which came from Rome, Mr. Carroll said.
“I had to give poor Jesus a hug before I put him on the cross, said Mr. Cremin, who hails from St. Rose of Lima Parish in Northborough.
Mr. Carroll said there are a few more things to do, including plaques, additional lights, flower boxes on each side of the crucifix and padding on the kneeler in front of it.
“And then I have to photograph the altar so I can send it to Beverly Hills,” Mr. Carroll said.