Raised from the ashes: the new Saint-Joseph church a symbol of hope after a devastating fire

The altar of the newly reconstructed Saint Joseph parish is blessed with incense during the dedication of the church.

By Tony Gutiérrez, The Catholic Sun

The parish of Saint Joseph in North Phoenix has a lot in common with the mythical bird that bears the name of the city in which it is found. After a devastating fire burnt its old church to ashes on May 1, 2019 – the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker – a beautiful new structure now stands in its place.

“Doesn’t a sacred edifice as beautiful as this make us love Christ with new enthusiasm? Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted asked in his homily when he dedicated the new church on January 8. “

Macbeth Torno, a member of the parish’s Filipino community who has attended St. Joseph’s Church since the late 1980s, recalled seeing the aftermath of the blaze as firefighters put it out, recounting in tears to Sun at the time it was a “real devastation”. Being able to pray in the new church was emotional for her, she said, to see the fruits of the community working together.

“This is the first time I’ve seen something like this when I’m 71,” she said. “I just hope it inspires people that there is hope.”

Torno said the Filipino Club of Arizona and the Phoenix Phil-Am Lions Club of Arizona were among the organizations that helped raise funds to support the new building.

Members of the parish Knights of Columbus St. John XXIII Council 7159 also helped support the building fund, donating $ 10,000 from their various fundraisers over the years. Grand Knight Frank Atherton said that “the troops moved very quickly” to help in any way they could.

“It’s been a long time to come, but it was worth the wait,” said Grand Knight Frank Atherton. “It’s like being able to come home – get out of a temporary building and come to our place, which in this case is St. Joe’s. “

From the start, the rebuilding was entrusted to Saint Joseph, said the parish administrator, Father Reggie Carreon. That most of the construction took place during the year of St. Joseph is appropriate, he said, noting that the parish made a consecration to St. Joseph during the year, and that he also did one independently.

A rose window depicting Saint Joseph sits above the entrance to the newly reconstructed Saint Joseph parish.

“This is why we took advantage of the Year of Saint Joseph. We prayed for the consecration of the parish to Saint Joseph with this book of 33 days of prayers, ”he said, referring to“ Consecration to Saint Joseph: the wonders of our spiritual father ”by Father Donald Calloway, MIC . “A good effect, even if there were a lot of problems, especially with the permits and with the authorizations and with the money, the selection of the right architect,…

The exterior of the church is accented with turquoise – both a nod to the South West region and to the fact that Saint Joseph is associated with the color green as it symbolizes his fidelity to the call of God. The ceiling of the church is painted in shades of wood, emblematic of Saint Joseph’s carpenter profession.

Pat Edwards, co-chair of the reconstruction committee and chairman of the parish finance committee, said the designs were intentional. Also an architect, he worked closely with the hired architect as the designs progressed.

“In my 40 years as an architect, I have completed incredible projects around the world. I have completed billion dollar projects, and I am proud of many of them. This is by far my proudest project, ”said Edwards, a parishioner for 25 years. “To see this church, there were only ashes before. Now, we’re setting here two and a half years later … we’ve got a beautiful church.

Meredith Sánchez-Castillo, who has attended Saint Joseph for 24 years since the age of 11, said she felt the Holy Spirit as she read the second reading of the liturgy.

“It’s honestly a very surreal experience, and I feel so blessed to be a part of this community,” she said.

Sánchez-Castillo is a member of the Young Catholic Professionals, who also claim Saint Joseph as their patron. She said that wherever she went, Saint Joseph was a part of her life, noting the Saint Joseph Chapel she attended when she attended College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“In every little corner of my life, there is always Saint Joseph somewhere,” she said, “so I have the impression that he is the spiritual father who guides me and my community. . Thanks to his intercession, I have just been so blessed in my life.

Since the fire, the community has been praying in the parish hall, renamed Saint-Joseph de l’Ascension hall when the parish celebrated its 50th anniversary a little over three months later. The hall had been a set of several classrooms, but some walls had to be demolished to allow for more worship space.

Bishop Olmsted anoints the altar during the dedication mass for St. Joseph’s parish.

The tabernacle of the sanctuary and the monstrance of the Adoration chapel are part of the original church. The tabernacle was slightly damaged, but it could be repaired, while the monstrance needed cleaning. Embedded in the ground in front of the tabernacle are burnt remains of the old church, serving as the foundation for the new church. This includes pieces from the ancient ciborium, a crucifix, and medals, among others.

“We put some leftovers from the fire and put them right in front of the tabernacle,” Father Carreon said. “They represent the old church.”

Another plan to remember the old church is underway, Father Carreon said. He hopes to build some kind of edifice, inside or outside the church, that will contain burnt objects that have retained their shape.

“We are planning a small building to store all the various objects that we still have in good condition, in particular the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The form is still there – the face, the body – but all in black, ”he said.

Other remains include a large crucifix and a large rosary. A parishioner brought a bag of ashes that had stolen from his property on the day of the fire to be used for Ash Wednesday, as it came from a consecrated building.

The relic on the altar is that of Saint Pius X, who, as Pope, wrote the “Prayer to Saint Joseph for the workers”. The relic was taken from the house of the late Father Frank Fernandez, who was Pastor of Saint Joseph from 1995 to 2010.

Saint Joseph Parish was rebuilt after a fire destroyed the original church in 2019.

The church is built with a cruciform imprint, a traditional design intended to lead the faithful to the altar and reflect on the Eucharist. Two large rosettes are placed in height, one of Saint-Joseph at the entrance and the other of the Holy Trinity in the sanctuary. The high roof and bell towers are visible from the street, testifying to the community.

“It’s a wonderful thing for this parish to have a house like this and to be so visible from the street,” said John Minieri, director of real estate and facilities for the Diocese of Phoenix, who helped the parish throughout the reconstruction efforts. . “It was a real joy because the people here at the parish were very dedicated.”

In his homily, Bishop Olmsted congratulated the parishioners for not focusing on their loss and for having trusted in Jesus.

Bishop Olmsted blesses parishioners with holy water while dedicating the newly reconstructed parish.

“Of course you mourned the great loss; you cried at the memory of so many important sacred events that had taken place in the old church and would not happen again there. But you didn’t get stuck in the loss, ”he said. “What the parish priest and the people of Saint-Joseph parish did in building this magnificent church was much more than building an edifice of steel, mortar and stained glass.

“With the grace of God you have overcome discouragement. You have built something beautiful for God and for generations to come, ”he added. “What is happening in this building will awaken hearts to the needs of our brothers and sisters. For the Lamb of God that we meet here in the Sacred Mysteries will be our strength. He will fill our hearts with love, so that we can give him joyfully.

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