By Peter G. Sánchez
Standing in front of his altar in Saint Joseph Church, looking up, Father Jaromir Michalak is “ecstatic.”
The pastor of the Somers Point parish is gazing at the newly-installed crucifix behind the altar, the product of months of work that included the effort of a parish deacon; more than 1,200 LED strips; and gallons of white paint.
“This crucifix puts you in the right frame of mind,” he says.
“It reminds us of what we celebrate: Jesus’ sacrifice to save humankind.”
The reminder of Christ’s love in this church is just one of several being placed in churches throughout the diocese, as directed by Bishop Dennis Sullivan.
Last year, the Camden prelate notified pastors that by the first Sunday of Advent 2018, each parish be in compliance with the liturgical regulations regarding the image of the Crucified Savior on the Cross, which state that:
“There is … to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation. It is appropriate that such a cross, which calls to mind for the faithful the saving passion of the Lord, remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations.”
Father Ernest Soprano, pastor at Saint John Neumann Parish in North Cape May, said his community’s new crucifix was installed this past Ash Wednesday. Abbott’s Religious Goods Store and generous donations from his parishioners made it possible, he added.
When the crucifix was first revealed to the faithful, “so many who saw (it) remarked at the beauty and the significance of the crucifix in the example of His love for us, even unto death on the cross.”
When Bishop Sullivan was at the parish last May to impart the sacrament of confirmation on its youth, he took the occasion to bless the crucifix, witnessed by not only confirmandi and their families, but crucifix donors.
“Bishop Sullivan generously affirmed their kindness and gift to the community at Saint John Neumann,” Father Soprano said.
Talking about the challenges of installation at Pennsauken’s Saint Stephen Parish, its pastor, Father Daniel Rocco, mentioned that a 10-foot wall had to be built to fit the crucifix.
The corpus (body of Christ) and the cross both came from Italy, and took four months to ship.
The 17-year-old image that the crucifix replaced, that of the Resurrected Jesus, is now placed in the vestibule of the church.
His parishioners have noted the crucifix’s beauty “and appreciate the effort that was made,” Father Rocco stated.
Like the corpus in Pennsauken, its counterpart in Somers Point came from Italy, with help from Vermont Church Supplies. Saint Joseph deacon Robert Oliver made the wooden cross in three weeks, just in time for the May 19 confirmation, when Bishop Sullivan blessed the new crucifix.
“The school children ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ when they first saw the cross,” Father Michalak said, smiling.
The wall behind the altar was repainted from orange to white to accommodate the crucifix, and the LED lights behind the cross have created an intentional glow, with a hint of the heavenly realm placed in the realm of earth, the pastor said. “The light reminds us of the eternal light, and the life we’re going to,” he said.