Latest artwork adds splendor to new Immaculate Conception Church
Sanctuary of beauty and peace in Forest City
FOREST CITY — Parishioners at Immaculate Conception Church in Forest City have been enjoying the beauty surrounding them in their new church, dedicated a little more than a year ago, but even more so lately as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception approaches this week.
The 11,120-square-foot church, built of gray granite on a hill just off Main Street in downtown Forest City, features a soaring Gothic-arched ceiling and 10 windows that until lately have been made of plain glass that look out to the rolling North Carolina mountains nearby. But now, six of the 10 windows contain intricate stained glass art made by Statesville Stained Glass Inc.
The colored glass panes, depicting scenes from the life of Jesus and his mother, cast a rainbow of lively colors through the church, beckoning people to come in and sit with Our Lord, pray, and take in the peaceful beauty of His Presence.
One in particular is unique to Immaculate Conception Church: the pane depicting Mary Queen of Heaven. Similar to the image of the Miraculous Medal, the Blessed Virgin Mary is standing above the earth and moon, and she is being crowned as Queen of Heaven. God the Son is handing her a scepter, and God the Father is handing her a rosary.
The design was developed by Father Herbert Burke, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church. He has been closely shepherding the construction of the church and the installation of its decorative religious elements, with the primary aim of showcasing art and designs that help educate and inspire the faithful.
Four more stained glass windows remain to be installed, as the church raises the necessary $21,000 for each one, Father Burke said. The four will be: the baptism of Jesus by St. John, Pentecost, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and St. Francis of Assisi.
Also still to come is an extensive mural that will be displayed inside the 23-foot high Gothic arch niche that rises up from behind the altar.
The mural will depict God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, angels and the two thieves behind the crucifix and life-sized statues of Our Lady of Sorrows and St. John the Evangelist – presenting a three-dimensional image of Calvary.
It is another design crafted by Father Burke, and it has as its inspiration the Italian Renaissance frescoes found in Old World churches.
Retired Father Gabriel Meehan, former pastor, has donated $20,000 toward the $90,000 total cost, but the church still needs to raise the remaining funds before the mural can be installed.
Besides the stained glass windows, statues of St. Anthony, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a collection of saints from throughout the Church's history are on view in strategic positions throughout the church.
To the left of the sanctuary will become a chapel dedicated to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and to the right, there is already a chapel to St. Anthony.
Statues of the saints and the two chapels were selected by Father Burke and a popular vote by parishioners.
The Stations of the Cross are the only element not designed and created especially for Immaculate Conception Church. They came from a closed church in New York, Father Burke said.
Parishioners will get to enjoy by candlelight the new artwork and stained glass windows during midnight Mass on Christmas. And during the Mass, the choir will sing a special arrangement by choir director Diane McEnnerney of a Christmas poem that Father Burke composed, entitled "Shepherds and Kings":
Shepherds and kings, special gifts they bring
Shepherds and kings, for them the angels sing
Shepherds and kings, with devotion they cling
Shepherds and kings, kneel before the baby King of kings.
The kings travel far, but the shepherds are near
The kings follow the star, to the little infant King
And the shepherds are guided by the angels who sing.
Approaching they kneel in the light of the star
The darkness gives way to the Light of the world
And Mary adores in the dawn of the King.
See a slideshow
To see a slideshow of images from the new Immaculate Conception Church in Forest City, go to the Diocese of Charlotte's YouTube channel.
The parish is in the process of raising funds to complete the mural that will be displayed behind the altar of the new church. To donate to the fund, send checks payable to Immaculate Conception Church, 1024 Main St., Forest City, NC 28043. For details, call the parish office at 828-245-4017.
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor