HASKELL Shortly before Christmas, the chapel of St. Francis of Assisi Church in the Haskell section of Wanaque received a gift of its own: a makeover that revitalized the much-used worship space. The chapel accommodates not only its daily Masses during the week, but also numerous religious activities and devotions, which two new large paintings on display here now reflect.
Last month, Décor Professionals of Wallington took four weeks to finish the project. Renovations updated the interior of the 50-seat high-ceilinged chapel that replaced and extended the church’s former baptistery — part of what as a $2 million renovation of the building and the former parish elementary school completed in 2001. Workers installed new black marble tile, a larger oak altar and matching oak ambo, which replaced the chapel’s original tile, altar and ambo. They installed additional lighting and moved the tabernacle from one side of the altar to center of the altar, which emphasizes the Eucharist as the center of the Mass and at the center of the Catholic faith and worship. Also, workers placed over the altar a wooden crucifix, which Msgr. Remigio Rocco, St. Francis’ pastor emeritus, who initiated the 2001 renovations, bought in Italy years ago, said Father Greg Golba, St. Francis’ administrator.
“After so many years, the chapel was looking outdated. It needed something extra,” said Father Golba, who was impressed with the contractor’s work, during a visit to St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Parish, Linden, in the Newark Archdiocese. “The work happened, because of our generous parishioners. Once the work began, donations to the project increased because our faithful were seeing the progress of the work. Now, the chapel looks great. Our parishioners like it,” said the priest, who said the renovations totaled some $22,000.
Also, workers repainted the walls of St. Francis’ chapel, transforming them from tan to a warm blue color, cleaned the stained-glass window over the altar and framed it and the crucifix with an oak border. Meanwhile, volunteers cleaned and repaired the chairs for the congregation. In addition, two new religious paintings — Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Perpetual Help — now reside on the walls on either side of the altar, said Father Golba.
The two paintings especially reflect faith-filled facets of St. Francis’ devotional life. The chapel houses a weekly novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and a weekly recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, as well as meetings for St. Francis’ prayer and rosary groups and Confirmation candidates. The chapel also accommodates about 50 parishioners for daily weekday Masses. This move adds up to significant savings for the parish since it does not have to expend as much energy for lighting, heating or air conditioning as when using the much-larger main worship space of the church. Already, St. Francis has been looking at its next project: refurbishing the altar in main worship space in the church, Father Golba said.
“Many people think that the renovated chapel has more of a spiritual effect on them. It has a warmer feeling because of the colors. It’s also very intimate and makes me feel more intimate with God. It makes me want to stay and pray and never leave,” said Jane Wright, St. Francis secretary and bookkeeper.