Construction began in September, 1997. The new structure includes a Blessed Sacrament chapel and is connected to the 1965 structure by a gathering space. It is with gratitude to God and all who have been part of the planning and construction process that we dedicate our beautiful new worship space today, October 9, 1998.
St. Joseph’s has come a long way in the 130 years since its foundation as a parish to serve a handful of Catholic farmers and workers in the Sykesville area. It is now a more suburban parish, serving both residents who have borne the heat and burden of the day in building and financing three churches, and the many newcomers who continue to arrive in great numbers. With the continued spirit of cooperation and compromise, and the help of God, St. Joseph Catholic Community will carry this tradition into the future, so that generations to come will grow in their understanding of what it means to be Catholic Christians, praying and working together to bring about the Reign of God.
The Eldersburg church was dedicated October 9, 1998. The following description of the design is taken from a booklet prepared for the dedication.
“Through his death and resurrection, Christ became the true and perfect temple … and gathered together a people to be his own. This holy people … is the Church, that is, the temple of God built of living stones… ”
—Rite of Dedication
We, the Church of St. Joseph Catholic Community, reverence the long tradition that is ours and seek to build on that tradition as we embrace the challenge of making God present in our own time and culture. We remember our shared history, we celebrate who we are and are called to be, and we believe in a future full of promise for all God’s people. This is the story that finds expression in the House for the Church of St. Joseph Catholic Community.
The general design of our House for the Church flows from Renaissance architecture, as is evidenced by the pitched roof, rounded arches, stained woods, and the relationship of the daily chapel to the larger worship space. All furnishings and liturgical objects are chosen to complement this early Renaissance design. The distinctive simplicity that characterizes early Renaissance creates an environment of beauty and warmth. The octagon, with its equal sides and circular design, appears many times throughout the building. This dimension conveys equality and inclusivity: all people are brought together here as one.
The outside plaza area and the one main entrance invite all who come seeking community, nourishment, and the comfort and challenge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just inside the doors, the gathering space (or narthex) is designed to be a place of hospitality and welcome. The paver bricks in the floor are inscribed with the names of saints, our ancestors in the faith who have walked the way of discipleship before us. Gathering for worship, the community of believers becomes one with the communion of saints in worshiping the God who transcends all time and space.
Walking through the glass doors highlighting the etched glass entitled “The Shield of Grace”*, we are reminded of God’s abundant life and love which constantly surrounds us. Once through the doors leading into the main body (or nave) of the building, we come face to face with the baptismal pool. The flowing, life-giving waters boldly remind us of our identity as a people baptized into Christ.
We reaffirm our baptism and the call to embrace the cross by using this one source to mark ourselves with the sign of the cross. We are further reminded to take up the cross that leads to glory by the shape of the pool’s interior floor and the processional cross that stands nearby. In reaffirming our baptism, we accept the challenge of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, so that God’s healing presence can find expression in the world today through us.
The cabinet with the holy oils (or ambry)* holds a place of reverence near the life-giving waters. These oils are used at various times along the Christian journey to mark us as a people of dignity, consecrate us for service, and offer us healing.
The focus of our attention and our worship together is around the Table of the Word (ambo or lecturn) and the Table of the Eucharist (altar). The liturgical actions at these complementary tables nourish us, challenge us, and send us forth in mission.
The Word of God comes alive for us when it is proclaimed from the ambo. As we hear this Word, we remember our common story and struggle with the change of heart that the Word continually demands of us.
Acknowledging our common history and accepting the challenge of the proclaimed Word, we turn to the Table of the Eucharist. This holy table functions as both altar of sacrifice and banquet table for the Eucharist. Here Jesus becomes present in bread and wine. We remember, we celebrate, and we believe that we are all members of the same Body, with Jesus as our Head. Therefore, we share in the one Bread and one Cup and are sent forth to proclaim God’s presence and to transform the world by lives of compassionate service.
Our call to unity, transformation, and compassionate service is further addressed by the large “Reconciliation Cross” hanging on the reredos (back) wall. The cross itself is equilateral, showing the reconciliation (or bringing together) of north, south, east and west—all points of the globe and the diversity of all people. The horizontal and vertical beams symbolize the reconciling of heaven and earth, God and people. We are reminded of all the opposites and extremes so characteristic of our own lives and our society.
The death of Jesus on the cross was the free outpouring of love through which all extremes are unified and all woundedness is healed and made whole. It is at the moment of reconciliation and healing that new life—resurrection—occurs. The center of the cross (the place where opposites are reconciled) is open to show us that the cross, with all its burden and pain, is not an end in itself but a passageway or prelude to resurrection. We are invited to place our crosses within that open center so that God’s love can transform them into opportunities for resurrection and new life.
The corpus or image of the crucified Christ suspended in front of the cross is modeled after the treasured San Damiano Crucifix. In 1205 St. Francis of Assisi was praying before a similar crucifix in the little church of San Damiano when he heard Christ calling him to a life of service. Can we recognize this crucified Christ in the poor, suffering, and oppressed of our time and culture? Can we accept the challenge of responding? This image of self-emptying Love reminds us of our identity as disciples of Christ, people who love one another through lives of compassionate service.
Although the major space of a House for the Church is designed for gathering to celebrate the Eucharist together, the Church has had the ancient tradition of reserving the Eucharistic Bread in a tabernacle. The purpose of this reservation is to bring Holy Communion to the sick and to be the object of private devotion.
The place of reservation is specifically designed and separated from the major worship area for two reasons. First, it makes clear the distinction between worship as a gathered assembly and private devotion. Second, it gives the reserved Sacrament a special place of reverence and importance.
The wood used for the tabernacle near our main worship space complements the altar and ambo. Its artistic design imitates the pitched roof of the church building. Just as this “little house” holds the Body of Christ within it, the House for the Church holds the Body of Christ, the People of God.
A second tabernacle can be found in the daily chapel, a smaller worship area near the gathering space or narthex.
Private prayer and personal devotions allow us to intercede for others, express gratitude, and lift up our personal concerns to intercessors who will help us shoulder the burden. Visual images such as sacred art, statues and paintings can be important in helping us to focus our attention, our concern, our prayer. Two devotional niches are found in close proximity to the baptismal pool. One images Mary*, the first and foremost model of discipleship. The other images Joseph*, man of faith and patron saint of the Catholic Community in Eldersburg.
It has taken several years to shape the physical aspects of our church building. Now it will shape the people of St. Joseph Catholic Community for generations to come. The principal beauty of this House for the Church will be the hospitality of our assembly, the eagerness with which we hear the Word of God, the devotion with which we share the holy Eucharist and the love which we take forth to transform the earth.