Great church makeovers… gotta see this!

This is a GREAT … I mean GREAT post from John Sonnen’s Orbis Catholicus.  Well done John.  Keep up the good work!

Day and night, friends. This pastor had the vision, distinct taste and guts to make it work. See it all here:
And this….

This pastor got it right, big time. See his site here and many thanks for the pics – an inspiration!

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  1. Margaret says:

    Holy smokes, that is beautiful! It gives me hope– nearly all of our Silicon Valley churches date from the 50s through the early 80s, which was probably the nadir of church design since churches have been designed… How gorgeous!

  2. Agnes says:

    What is so astonishing is not only the beautiful physical makeover, but the *spiritual* makeover that had to happen for the pastor to lead his flock in this better direction! I wonder if it took many years of battling the parish council or some kind of quick jolt from the Holy Spirit in an eloquent homily or what? Even if the priest were changed out, and the new guy had this grand vision, how did the whole parish culture change so dramatically?

    May such wonders never cease.

  3. Peterk says:

    That is amazing. I lived in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston for close to 10 years. The Bishop at that time Fiorenza put all sorts of obstructions in place for the celebration of the Latin Mass. He limited it to one parish downtime and required that there be a minimun attendance of either 100 or 200 at the Mass for 3 consecutive Sundays otherwise he would remove his permission. The amazing thing is he would send an individual every Sunday to take an attendance count.

    do check out this Anglican-rite Roman Catholic Church from the same diocese.

  4. Woody Jones says:

    Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds, the pastor, is a great priest and everyone I know who is around him for any length of time seems to end up saying: he will be a bishop some day. Let us hope soon, as perhaps in: new auxiliary bishop for Houston (supposedly Cardinal DiNardo is busy in the breaks at the synod talking to the curia about getting one or two more auxiliaries here).

    Before he became absorbed by duties at St. Theresa’s, Fr. Reynolds used to give dynamite reflections at the local monthly evening of recollection. He was always inspiring.

  5. G says:

    My word, that second one is hardly to be believed! Well done!

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  6. Woody Jones says:

    Thank you Peterk for posting the link to our (personal) parish church here in Houston. One will need to go the “photos” section on the left side bar to see the interior shots (click on the thumb nail to enlarge). The reredos is a (slightly enlarged) replica of that in the Slipper Chapel, the only remaining period building at the Catholic shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, in Norfolk, England, and was done by Granda, in Spain. The tabernacle, also produced by Granda, is a gold rendition of the Ark of the Covenant, complete with carrying poles, and was an original design for our church; it is now also in Granda’s stock for production and sale to others.

    You will notice the altar rail if you scroll down to a wider view of the interior of the church. It was the only one installed in a church in Houston during Archbishop Fiorenza’s tenure.

  7. Willebrord says:

    This is astounding! Truly Marvelous.

    One thing though: Are they planning on using the new altar-rail in the first picture? Seems like a very short amount of space to go with, with a huge gap in the middle.

  8. WFW says:

    The work was done by the same architect that was behind the new Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse.

  9. Let’s have more of these. Inspirational!

  10. beautiful…I think this can be done at lots of areas…Let is pray for more Church makeovers

  11. avecrux says:

    Please see what happened at St. Mark’s in Peoria, IL.
    This is the site of the painters who had never painted a Church before working on St. Mark’s.

  12. Charivari Rob says:

    For some reason, I’m not getting any link to photos from the parish home page. Could someone please post the address of the page with photos, please? Thank you.

  13. Mitch says:

    Charivari Rob,

    go to the architects site: and look on their portfolio page for pics of all their projects including these two. St. Theresa Sanctuary and St. Theresa Chapel

  14. Charivari Rob says:

    Got it!

    Thank you.

  15. Michael says:

    What one sees on the two tops is as ugly as sin; on the two bottoms – two houses of God. The tops are a great offence against Him; the bottoms are humble attempts to bring down to earth the heavenly liturgy of the Book of Revelation.

  16. Visitor says:

    I think the original in the first set of pictures is much better than that which replaces it. The dominant cross of light is beautiful, though the wall on which it is positioned could use further decoration. The pews and furnishings are unremarkable and could do with improvement, but the overall effect is very prayerful. The ‘new’ version is visually cluttered, with very little of artistic merit, and looks more like a colonial dining room than a church.

    In the second case, the photographs are taken from different places so it is difficult to judge the full effect. The original is muddled. The altar is the same in each case I think, though better positioned in the original. The pillared baldachino is fine enough viewed close up, but the wider shots show it is totally out of scale and type to the church around it. It looks, to quote a famous Englishman, like a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a friend” It just doesn’t belong in a building with that roofline. The church clearly needed a bit of architectural ‘oomph’, but that is not the right answer.

  17. josephus muris saliensis says:

    look no further on their website that this:


    …that is why it all works.

  18. R says:

    The second set of photos aren’t from different places, they’re the same. Look again. The light from the window on the left falls in the same spot, there’s the same baptismal font, and the altar stairs are the same.

  19. R says:

    Never mind – I misread your comment.

  20. Visitor says:

    To R

    I should have said ‘slightly different’ positions, the photo of the ‘new’ version is taken I think from right on the steps, whereas the original is taken from slightly further back.

  21. Andy K. says:

    *Does not believe!*

  22. Iggy says:

    Unfortunately, this parish seems to have a big influence from the hideous “Life Teen” program…the website has rubber chickens all over it instead of any references to our faith, Christ, God, saints, etc. One of the pages takes you to “ROC” (Rite of Confirmation), which I thought was a Sacrament, not a rite as the Episcopalian call it. Oh, but let’s all be Ecumaniacs and not offend anyone!

    This pastor–like my pastor–apparently focuses on the health of the brick & mortar, while his teens are being drawn to a program founded by a man of questionable morals, and of whom the bishop of Phoenix warns his flock to stay away from. I’ve seen a “Life Teen” Mass and it’s a travesty and resembles a protestant mega-church praise session.

    The pictures are nice and the interior of the church has been done well. I hope he now focuses on the spiritual health and well-being of his flock, especially the children.

    Life Teen is a sad development in our Church, and until we confront this abomination, our kids will suffer.

  23. Padre Steve says:

    Wow, those are some beautiful changes! I hope to see more of these kinds of changes in the future!

  24. Richard says:


  25. Richard says:


    Neither renovation is perfect – ideal – but both represent major upgrades over what they replaced. Specifically, both now actually look identifiably Catholic, particularly the second one.

    The originals represent the depressing iconoclastic sterility that typifies so much post-conciliar architecture. Sacred art is thrown out; bare walls are in, supposedly for the purpose of focusing all attention on the the Mass/the Word of God/or even the community (though I gratefully note that at least neither church has seating in the round). Whatever might be said of such an approach to liturgical architecture, it is not at all Catholic.

    The chief upgrades of #1 – which I grant still seems a little artificial in an upscale suburban way – are that the Wal-Mart endtable is replaced by something that actually looks like an altar; that there is actually a significant amount of (recognizably) sacred art; and that the restoration of the altar rails restores a sense of the sacred and boundary to the sanctuary which the originally utterly lacked, and which will better allow proper reception of the Eucharist (kneeling, on the tongue).

    The buildings in both cases are obviously severely deficient on a number of levels, and only so much can be done. But both renovations do a reasonably good job of restoring a sense of Catholcity and sanctity that seems largely absent in the original arrangements.

  26. Liz F. says:

    This is amazing! It give me hope for “Ugly as Sin” churches everywhere!

  27. Fortitude says:


    I agree. Fr. Reynolds is an excellent priest, and St. Theresa’s is a great parish.

    I’ve been to a couple of his reflections at the monthly evening of recollection, and only wish I lived closer to Sugar Land to hear him say Mass at St. Theresa’s more often.

    It brings me so much joy to see this holy priest of God highlighted on Fr. Z’s blog.

    The saying, “Save the Liturgy, Save the World” makes perfect sense when I’m able to visit parishes like this.

  28. Charivari Rob says:

    At my hometown parish, about 50-60% of our congregation was relegated to a gymnasium for about 40 years. It wasn’t even particularly impressive as a gymnasium. Yet, somehow, the Mass and the people were identifiably Catholic.

    Reading their website, I gather this parish experienced tremendous and rapid growth, necessitating a number of building/expansion/renovation projects in a short span of decades. Sometimes one must make concessions to the realities of cost, how much money can be raised, and the concerns of the diocese (which has a good deal of authority as to what can be raised and spent).

    I can understand when some people do not prefer such designs as ‘church in the round’. What I have trouble understanding is how, for some, that proceeds to the judgement that such architecture, as a class, is ‘not Catholic’.

    The ones I’ve seen are focused on the altar. To what other point should the people be oriented? I’m sure there are examples of bad, tacky, or downright ugly ‘churches in the round’, just as there are in rectangular and cruciform layouts. There are also beautiful examples of each.

    Personally, I’ve been fortunate to have had repeated direct experience of at least three churches or chapels in the round. Each one has beautiful architectural, artistic, and sacred elements. As in any other church building, they pale beside the people gathered within and His Presence, for which we are gathered.

  29. TJM says:

    It looks like they abandoned the “Father Vosko” look for something Catholic. Thanks Father Z for posting these wonderful and uplifting
    photos! Tom

  30. Baron Korf says:

    The confessionals are manned 17 hours a week.

  31. Mitch#2 says:

    Perfect example of what can be done. They look spectacular. I bet the parishoners feel better about their place of worship. Does anyoone prefer the old setting? I think not, and that should be reason enough to stop any further construction looking like those empty shells……The second one is just Stunning. My jaw dropped when I saw it. All involved should be commended

  32. dominic1962 says:

    Catholic architecture should be orthodox ecclesiology in stone, so to say. I wish I could remember the title of the book (and I’m sure there are more than one work which tackled this) but it set out why churches should be built in the “traditional” sense and what all of the elements of the basic design meant.

    The “church in the round” tends to be built with the intention of focusing on the “assembled community” more than on the vertical worship of God with the Church Triumphant. We are not “gathered to be in his presence”, we are gathered to assist the priest in offering the one true and acceptable Sacrifice of Christ. The Church building itself is an accidental, but so are the people. People can come and go, even the priest can come and go. The building should be designed so as to focus on the true intent of worship, but ultimately it is a passing thing as well. However, though passing, these elements play an indispensable role in shaping a properly Catholic ethos in worship and life and if they are not designed properly accordint to that end in mind, they are deficient and act as a hindrance to knowing and loving God. Regardless of subjective feelings or tastes, there is an objective order to what a church should be. What we’ve got in the past 40 or more years has generally failed miserably.

  33. I wonder if the makeovers were expensive?

  34. This eases my heart after a site that horrified me in St Louis a few years ago. As a fairly new convert, young mother, & lover of beauty, we were wondering around the town entering beautiful old Catholic Churches to visit Our Lord. I went in one beautiful one and was just mortified to see that they had torn out all the pews and reinserted just a few dozen in the front of the church, perpendicular to how they used to be, with the altar in the center so that the folks could worship … stadium style … each other? Dh & I were coming in to go to Mass, but as the 60-something congregants rushed to welcome us (and they *were* very welcoming), and I nearly tripped over the swimming, er, baptismal font installed in the floor, we stammered something about “just looking” “gotta keep going” and headed out, vowing to do penance to console Our Lord’s heart about the desecration in His house.

    Check out their “renovation”:

    I cried. Sad to the heart, too, is the reason I’m sure they felt the need to renovate – loss of attendance and feeling lost in a giant church with no congregants.

  35. If you just feel like sharing in my horror, here’s the detail of the renovation. One gem is a quotation from the pastor who had the original building built, and captures something really missed by today’s church builders: “I wanted this church to be as beautiful as possible, that the poor, of whom there are many among us, might also have a beautiful home they could call their own.”

  36. Margo Geddie says:

    The warmth of the colors draws one’s soul out of the moment and into the mystery.

  37. Richard says:

    There are many problems with seating in the round, not least that there is no precedent – perhaps a handful of questionable items of archeological evidence – for it in Church history.

    Forget the ancillary developments that always seem to accompany it – tacky altars, removal of the altar rails, elimination of beautiful reredos – the real problem is the theological implications of the radical alteration of the directional praxis of worship.

    What’s lost, even more than just versus populorum worship per se, is the common direction of worship, all facing towards the Lord together, with the priest at our head. The altar (and Eucharist) may be at the center, but what we end up looking at to often is, in fact, each other – what the Holy Father has called a “circle closed in upon itself.” It’s all of a piece with the undue emphasis on the mass as communal meal, diminishing the aspect of the True Sacrifice.

  38. John Womack says:

    Here we have more examples of good triumphing over evil…

  39. Charivari Rob says:

    Richard – “There are many problems with seating in the round, not least that there is no precedent – perhaps a handful of questionable items of archeological evidence – for it in Church history.”

    Well, in the history of our Church there are many things that were without precedent, yet became part of licit practice.

    “Forget the ancillary developments that always seem to accompany it – tacky altars, removal of the altar rails, elimination of beautiful reredos…”

    Yes, because they are by no means exclusive of church in the round. Nor are they necessary to the style.

    As to looking too much at each other… I believe the answer is taking simple care in design that the sanctuary keeps the altar elevation sufficiently above the pews that the Faithful are looking up, not across.

  40. Origenal says:

    It looks amazing in person. I got here shortly before the renovations started. The changes are vast in the architecture as they are in the community. Our daily masses are typically pretty full at 8:30 and 5:00. Baron Korf is also right about offering Reconciliation 17 times a week. I have never heard of any parish offering so many opportunities. There is usually a line to boot!

    Father Reynolds is a fantastic pastor. He brings us as a congregation to the heart of the faith especially in the sacraments.

    Iggy, I see you found our website. I am the youth minister at St. Theresa’s. Our website is fairly new, so I appreciate the direction you offered as far as adding content to lead us to Christ and His Church. I went ahead and started adding a few quotes and a simple widget with information on the saints. The chicken, on the other hand, is more of an inside joke with our community, so you’ll have to bear with us on that.

    I’m not sure where you get the impression that our parish community is under a ‘big influence’ from Life Teen. We certainly attempt to bring as many teens and their families to Christ and the sacraments as we can, but that is probably much more credit than we deserve.

    I’m very sorry to hear about your experience with Life Teen. I have heard of a number of abuses of our liturgy the have come under the ‘Life Teen’ title. You make a valid point. I can assure you that Fr. Reynolds does not allow any such abuses and is quick to correct any aspect of our liturgy that is not correct. This is also the case of the Life Teen national office who is working to correct all of these as well.

    Lastly, I’m still learning a great deal about our faith, so correct me if I’m wrong, but we Catholics do call it the ‘Rite of Confirmation’. The sacrament is what is conferred by the anointing with chrism and offering of grace, but the rite is the liturgical practice by which the sacrament is received. (See CCC 1297-1301.) Of course we teach the teens that they are receiving a sacrament, but it is certainly not improper to call it a rite.

    Please contact me if you have any questions regarding what we do here at St. Theresa’s. My email is I do encourage you all to come and check out our renovations here. It really is beautiful as is our community.


  41. AM says:

    Whenever we are in Houston (a couple of times a year) we go to St. Theresa’s for Mass. The pictures here do not do it justice. It is really quite awe-inspiring. I find it slightly annoying that we are so quick to critique a place that we probably have not seen or have been to just by looking at the pictures (or what you read on their bulletin online). There is so much more to these pictures or the website. Isn’t it curious that no one is quick to point out how they have NFP as part of their marriage preparation? Fr. Z you have so many “expert” commenters on your blog, you can build your own PERFECT church! :-)

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