A parish church altar restoration and ad orientem worship

WDTPRS reader Fr. Fr. Dennis Duvelius of St. Louis Church in Batesville, Indiana sent me some fine photos.

Priests – take notice.

It can be done.



And the result!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mpm says:

    Very nice improvements.
    Of course, the reredos was already there and quite beautiful itself
    but it looks even better with the gold leaf.

  2. Sean says:

    Hurray, no more picnic table! I am glad they are using only the high altar instead of preserving both.

  3. Mitchell says:

    Looks so nice….I love it really…Praise to our Holy Pope who is making all of this possible…The final result has that timeless look to it…..Before the redo, notice the 70’s panelling swatch round the arch, and the plants instead of statues….I hope the congregation is thrilled with it…I am curious to know what the people think…

  4. Deusdonat says:

    Yes, it absolutely can be done; even in cases when the bishop does not want to “commit” to such permanence. For those who haven’t seen it, ENJOY.

  5. Padre Steve says:

    Wow, that is really a beautiful transformation! God bless them!

  6. The southeastern portion of Indiana is dotted with little towns settled by German and/or Swiss Catholics, some of them named for the parishes themselves (St Leon, St Peter, etc). Many of the churches have not been completely “wreckovated.” According to one account, this church was last extensively restored in 1962, which would have been right before… well, you know. But what I wanna know, is whether they say all the Masses with the High Altar, or do they bring out the free-standing one for them?

  7. JML says:

    I rejoiced because they said to me, we will go up to the House of the Lord.

    This looks like a Church as opposed to some concrete and steel box that is indistinguishable from an office building.

  8. TJM says:

    Simply beautiful and uplifting. Congratulations Father Duvelius. Tom

  9. gorgeous! Now that’s a Church

  10. Fr. Michael says:

    And the tabernacle? From the “after” photos I couldn’t tell.


  11. Arthur says:

    Fr. Michael: And the tabernacle? From the “after” photos I couldn’t tell.

    I am not a parishioner, but I am an infrequent visitor so I can say with certainty that the tabernacle benefited from the improvements as well. As I understand it, the tabernacle actually had a transparent face within just a couple of years ago (before Fr. Duvelius arrived). However, rest assured that the tabernacle has now been restored to its former glory as is proper. Overall, the restored altar looks vastly better now (even better in person).

  12. Ken says:

    Very, very nice. It is rare to see something this good without some sort of step backward. A job well done removing that table in front of the altar.

    Next up would be to rip up the carpet (most likely there’s something nice and preserved under it) and find a matching marble pulpit and altar rail from a closed church somewhere.

    Kudos to this pastor and parish.

  13. Mac McLernon says:

    WOW ! Simply beautiful!

  14. katyater says:

    Here is a link to the carving shop that restored the altar. They have great pictures of the restoration in progress.

  15. Padre Steve says:

    Wow, that carving shop does some fantastic work! Are the prices reasonable?

  16. Maureen says:

    Re: southeastern Indiana

    Southwestern Ohio, too — same settlers. We call that region of little towns “God’s Country”.

  17. Anne says:

    I am a parishioner at the parish featured above, so I will attempt to answer some of the questions/comments.

    First of all, our parish offers both the Novus Ordo and the Extraordinary Form. Currently, the Extraordinary Form is offered twice a month. In fact, three of my sons are the servers shown in the bottom photo!

    The free-standing altar is still used for the Novus Ordo. It is simply wheeled out of the way for the Extraordinary Form. The Novus Ordo is not done ad orientem.

    The altar was restored to its original form thanks to a most generous anonymous donor. Weberding’s Carving Shop, located in the same city as our parish, painstakingly examined old photographs of the altar in order to get everything just right as they worked on recreating everything that had been removed over the course of many past renovations. Our parish dates back to 1868.

    The tabernacle shown in the first photo was semi-opaque and it was removed when the massive renovation was completed earlier this year. The wooden arch shown above the tabernacle was about 6 to 8 inches deep and, in my opinion, was much uglier in reality than the first photo makes it appear.

    Weberding’s Carving Shop is famous for its work in churches. They specialize in custom pieces, so anyone who is interested in them would have to contact them. Visiting their workshop is quite an experience, and it is a Catholic family owned and operated business. Of course, it was very convenient for our parish that they happen to be parishioners, too!

  18. Anne says:

    One more thing:

    Someone asked about the location of the tabernacle. It is located directly behind Father Duvelius in the last photo. And, thanks to a newly formed Altar Society at our parish, it has tabernacle veils to match the church calendar.

  19. Fr. Michael says:

    Thanks, Anne.

  20. JPG says:

    Wonderful, is there an altar rail?
    It would be great to restore that as well and a housling cloth to go with it.

  21. Matt Q says:

    MPM wrote:

    “Very nice improvements. Of course, the reredos was already there and quite beautiful itself…”


    It does look much better but the previous one looked nice also but those wood accents did have a cheesey, 70s look.

    This brings up another question. What the did they to with the “Protestant” altar? Is it still there and they wheel it out for the Novus Ordo Masses, or do they say the Novus Ordo ad orientem?

  22. “Southwestern Ohio, too—same settlers. We call that region of little towns ‘God’s Country’.”

    My people came from those towns. My father’s side, in particular, was from Darke and Shelby Counties. “The Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches,” they call it. They can be found here:


    I’ve never been to Batesville, Indiana, but I went to a wedding in the town of St Peter once. The town consists mainly of… St Peter’s. Also not completely ruined.

  23. Hello David I am from St Johns in Maria Stein, (Mary of the Rock) Ohio, named by Fr Brunner who brought the CPPS, (the Society of he Precious Blood) here, after his home in Switzerland. almost all of the parishes in the link you provide could be used for the EF with almost no work at all, however Bishop Pilarczyk, has no intention of allowing any use of the EF if at all possible, most parishioners and several deacons and one priest that I have talked to are scared, ( yes I mean scared ) to try for fear of having their parish closed, thank goodness he will retire in a year, I was working on a blog about the parishes in this area and the church interiors, however I have not posted in several months, organic dairy farming is very demanding this time of year, hope to get back at it soon http://germanegyptian.blogspot.com/ The best one in the area is St Rose, located in St Rose, Ohio, the alter and church have been redone with a large amount of gold leaf on all the fancy work, A visiting Priest will preform a wedding mass in the EF for a parishioner who is marring a SPPX follower, the brides father is a friend I hope to sneak in to participate

  24. David:

    I’m trying to find your e-mail address, but cannot. Please contact me privately. manwithblackhat at yahoo dot com.

  25. therecusant says:

    By way of interesting footnote, Fr. Duvelius was a priest with FSSP an assigned for a time at Holy Rosary in Indianapolis, which has been referenced a handful of times on this and other blogs. He is now a diocesan priest. So, he obviously knows what he is doing vis-a-vis the EF and fitting liturgical appointments.

  26. Irenaeus says:

    Can any old priest just do this, or does he need permission from his bishop?

  27. Adrian says:

    Hey did anyone else notice how there was originally one step at the high Altar, then there were Three? Does anyone know how the accomplished that? Please let me know.

    God Bless!

  28. Johnny Domer says:

    Wait…so he changed it around like that…after probably thoroughly explaining the reasons and motivations for the change…and the people’s heads didn’t explode?

    No way!

  29. Anne says:

    As I stated in my original post, I will be happy to answer any specific questions I can regarding this transformation, as I am a parishioner at St. Louis Parish.

    To Irenaeus: The Archbishop’s office did have to approve of the renovation. They were very supportive.

    To Adrian: Good eye! Yes, the original 3 steps were restored. The carpet was ripped up and the steps were simply built back in. The sanctuary was quite a mess for awhile, but may I again put in a plug for Weberding’s. They did all of this work and we never had to move Mass out of the church to an alternate site. They worked around our 2 daily Masses and funerals to get it done. For a brief period, the tabernacle had to be kept in the sacristy while they finished, but other than that, the work was pretty much transparent. It was so beautiful to stop by and see each step.

    To Johnny Domer: As I said before, only the Extraordinary Form is said ad orientem. The daily Novus Ordo Masses and Sunday Masses are still said using the freestanding altar, facing the people.

    Father Duvelius is a great blessing to our parish and he should be commended for taking these steps to restore the altar. Our parish is composed of primarily German Catholics who tend to be, shall we say, a bit stubborn and resistant to change. Given that our parish is Father’s first assignment since he left the FSSP and became a diocesan priest, you can imagine that some parishioners were probably a little unsure of what that meant. But with that German stubbornness comes a great deal of compassion and faith, and the parish has accepted him and I have only heard wonderful comments about the changes to the altar.

  30. Fr. Duvelius brings up an interesting, if often neglected phenomenon:
    FSSP (and even SSPX) priests who end up entering the diocesan clergy, and in many (not all) cases adopting the Novus Ordo as their
    normal form of Mass. I think the “transformation” happens more often
    in France; it’s a surprise to know that it has also happened in the US.

    Does anyone here know of other FSSP and “traditionalist” priests who
    became diocesan clergy and now regularly offer the Ordinary Form?

  31. TJM says:

    Anne, is it fair to say that Father Duvelius being a priest who can celebrate the EF brings additional dignity to the celebration of the Novus Ordo.
    Also has he incorporated any Latin into the Novus Ordo by way of music,etc. Thanks, Tom

  32. Ken says:

    “Can any old priest just do this, or does he need permission from his bishop?”

    I WISH any old priest could do this without a bishop getting involved. The bishop of Arlington, for instance, has banned any traditional fixed altar from being installed in a new or existing church. At one parish, he even demanded brick replace the original plan for stone because it looked too traditional.

    (By the way, before apologists for that bishop start whining, my source on this is the actual architect.)

    So, count yourself blessed that this bishop was so embracing of a gorgeous restoration.

  33. “By the way, before apologists for that bishop start whining…”

    …we’ll remind ourselves that one whiner is bad enough. Besides, I’d rather reserve judgment before getting the whole story from the architect or anyone else involved. I hear all kinds of stuff about what’s okay and what’s not okay. I do know that the Bishop of Arlington insists on a prominent location for the tabernacle, and put at least one parish’s well-laid plans on hold while they straightened up.

  34. Eric says:

    To answer the question about the kneeling rails.

    The kneeling rails have not been restored (yet). It makes it somewhat tricky at communion because we are kneeling at about ankle level to father. I hope his back holds up!

    Yes there are many beautiful churches in SE Indiana, St Louis being the largest. St. Louis was run by the Franciscan’s until about 6 years ago(maybe 7). The first diocesan pastor, Father Mahan, made several good steps in returning to tradition. He added an adoration chapel. They found an old side alter that had been removed from the church and use it in the chapel. It was in someone’s barn for 30 years. The area is heavily Catholic and Father Duvelius is a local product. In addition to the adoration chapel at St. Louis there are two more within a 20 minute drive. St. Nicholas in Sunman and St. Mary’s in Greensburg.

    I hear there is a pretty cool Catholic Store in Batesville too. :-)

  35. Anne says:

    TJM: Yes, Father Duvelius does bring additional dignity to the Novus Ordo, although I must in all fairness say that we have been abundantly blessed these past six years with priests who have celebrated it very reverently. Six years ago, the Franciscan order, which had served our parish for 134 years, decided that they no longer could staff our parish, so the Archdiocese took it over. Our first diocesan pastor and associate pastor laid a lot of the groundwork that allowed Father Duvelius to have an easier time when it came to this renovation. These priests went into the church attic and found things long since forgotten — like elaborate candlesticks for the high altar and bells for the servers to ring. And cassocks for the servers. Besides these items, they also celecbrated the Novus Ordo very reverently.

    So these priests also played a big part in this whole transformation. Father Duvelius continued what they had started, and likes to take things one step at a time. Everything cannot be accomplished overnight.

    Our family especially enjoys Father Duvelius’ daily Novus Ordo Mass homilies. He provides great theological insight and knowledge to the readings. And, as you can imagine, his homilies at the E.F. are also great.

    In case no one noticed, if you look on the last photo, right below Jesus’ feet, you can see the red tabernacle lamp. Father Duvelius found this in the attic and Weberding’s restored it and it now hangs there in front of the sanctuary. It is quite beautiful.

    Another marvelous feature of the high altar which was restored: The niche where the crucifix sets (it is right above Father’s head) actually rotates 180 degrees to display a different paint pattern which is used only for Benediction. When we have weekly Benediction, Father can place the monstrance there. When he is finished, the niche is rotated again, and the crucifix is replaced there. My father (who is almost 81) remembered this feature from years past, and is was wonderful to see it restored.

  36. Eric says:

    The pre-fixed up alter is on the cover of one of Father Mahan’s books.


    click on Father Mahan

  37. TJM says:

    Thanks much Anne. One last thing. Is there any Latin in the Novus Ordo? Regards, Tom

  38. Patronus says:

    “I WISH any old priest could do this without a bishop getting involved.”

    But this cuts both ways. I am aware of instances where a priest or parish went ahead and “wreckovated” elements of a church without the approval or the sacred art committee or the bishop – and the latter were none too pleased. Such a system is prescribed in Canon Law and Sacrosanctum Concilium, I believe.

  39. “I WISH any old priest could do this without a bishop getting involved.”

    …which MIGHT be possible if the parish church were owned by the priest, but it’s generally owned by the diocese, and that would make the bishop…

  40. Anne says:


    Regarding Latin in the Novus Ordo: Not yet. I am hoping, but as I said, Father likes to take it one step at a time. I believe that one of our music groups does sing the Sanctus in Latin sometimes during Lent, and I know that our choir sings some Latin songs during Holy Week and at Christmas. But no Latin in the Mass yet.

    But there is incense at one Mass every Sunday.

  41. TJM says:


    Thanks for responding. With your choir already doing some Latin and a pastor supportive of tradition, it will likely occur.


  42. This is our old priest from Holy Rosary in Indianapolis. He baptized the first of our six babies!
    He is a wonderful priest! We miss him! But so glad he is transforming the church in Batesville! Wonderful job, Father!

    Mrs. Sullivan in Houston, TX

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