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Parish Life

Teamwork puts new Ransomville altar in place

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Father James Bastian (from left) stands with Bishop Michael W. Fisher, Deacon Howard Morgan and Deacon Timothy Chriswell during Mass at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ransomville. The bishop visited the Niagara County parish to consecrate the new altar. Photo by Patrick J. Buechi

The new altar, ambo and tabernacle stand at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ransomville fit in well at the small rural church. The curved legs share certain design aspects with the support beams in the ceiling and the color matches the woodwork that surrounds the sanctuary. Unity is a strong theme in the building and the people. When Bishop Michael W. Fisher came to Immaculate Conception on July 25 to consecrate the new altar, it was a culmination the entire parish could enjoy.

“It was a collaboration of everyone working together,” claimed pastoral associate Laurie Muth.

It took a few years for the items to come together, but parish leaders know it was done right, because everyone at the parish had a say in it.

“Five years ago someone kicked me in the side and said we ought to get a new altar,” said Father James Bastian, pastor. “I don’t think of things that way. Cover it up. Do something. It’s still good,”

A grant from Upon This Rock allowed the Niagara County parish to refurbish the 49-year-old church with new rugs and a paint. Then the question, what are we doing with the altar, came up again.

Bishop Michael W. Fisher waves incense over the new altar at Immaculate Conception Parish in Ransomville as Deacon Timothy Chriswell (left) and Deacon Howard Morgan observe. Photo by Patrick J. Buechi

Muth was put in charge of the project. She immediately sought to find out what the parishioners wanted.

“It’s all about people talking to people, communicating,” Father Bastian said. “So, we had a committee that worked in all kinds of ways asking question. Anyone who had an opinion, who wanted to voice and opinion, had a chance to do that.”

After looking at a series of designs, the liturgical team voted on what they liked best. They even asked, Father Thomas Ribits, OSFS, an artist himself, for his expert opinion. Once the design was chosen, parishioner Guy Christopher came into play. He had taken part in a similar process while living in Illinois, so he contacted his Midwest mates Doug Wolters, who designed the pieces, and Amish craftsman Eli Gingerich from The Woodpeckers, to construct the items.

Christopher, considers himself the “transport donkey” as he made the drive to Illinois to pick up the furniture, driving 400 miles in an ice storm to bring the pieces back to Buffalo. “The last 300 weren’t too bad,” he said.

Although there were delays in getting the items to Ransomville, Father Bastian was in no rush, and the day of the consecration turned out to be perfect. “Deacon Howard (Morgan), our Worship and Liturgy Committee, along with the Altar and Rosary society, everyone was chipping in to make something super beautiful happen,” he said, adding musicians from outside the community came in to sing at the joyous occasion.

Bishop Fisher remarked on this being a special occasion as he began the Mass. The dedication of an altar is a rare occurrence, however, as a bishop for only three years, Bishop Fisher has already dedicated five.

“It’s not a usual kind of occasion. When they put an altar into a church, it’s put in there pretty permanently. The altar should really be the permanent fixture that is in our church. It is the place, we know, that we gather around and we celebrate the Eucharist,” he said.

Father Bastian expects the new altar to last a long time.

“I pray that in 40 years from now, after there’s maybe five or six more new pastors, that they look at go, ‘Hey, that Father Jim did a good job with his people. They did a good job for us,’” he said.

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