When the commitment was made for the building of the new church, the pastor requested that the Pastoral Council establish an advisory committee to assist the architect in planning the new building. The Planning Committee invited Sister Mary Peter Tremonte, O.P., to serve as liturgical consultant for the new facilities. A sculptor and liturgical designer well-known throughout Texas, Sister Mary Peter was teacher and chairman of the Art Department at the Dominican College in Houston before adapting her talents to assist new and renovated churches in liturgical reforms. Holy Family is blessed with a magnificent collection of liturgical are designed by Sister Mary Peter, who was called to her eternal home on March 4, 1997.
HOLY FAMILY SCULPTURE
Welcome To Our Home
Placed at the main entrance of the church, the Holy Family sculpture shows an intimate and informal grouping of the three figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Their gesture is one of welcoming the viewer into their home. As sculptor, Sister Mary Peter Tremonte told the Building Committee: “When a family comes to Holy Family Church, I would like them to think of visiting the home of the Holy Family. I want them to have a feeling of at-homeness with their patrons.”
The composition engages the viewer from up close, as well as from afar. The figure of Jesus reaches out to the spectator, as if asking to be held. The kneeling Joseph pauses from his day’s work to balance the boy on his knee, allowing the son to assert his independence, but ready with a fatherly hand to give a firmer grip, if necessary. The young mother Mary, seated, is also at rest, but alert to the child’s every move. Mary holds a bowl of pomegranates, an ancient Christian symbol of fertility: the one pod containing many individual cells of fruit is a metaphor for the Church-family united in its many members.
“The Holy Family” is a signature piece because it names the church, and because it is a one-of-a-kind work of art, bearing the signature of the sculptor. Cast in bronze, the metal has a pompeiian finish that will continue to weather into the classical blue-green color seen on antique sculptures.
STAINED GLASS WINDOWS
The Environment For Worship
Like an intricate mosaic of color, the stained glass windows help create the environment for worship in the church. Restful, cool colors of mauve, lavender, green and blue are accented with the sparkle of opal, magenta, and gold. The broken and “faceted” slabs of glass are arranged into subtle abstract designs that change with the changing light, much like the many members of the church make up the one colorful unity that is the parish. The windows were produced by the glass artists of Conrad Schmitt Studios, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in collaboration with Sister Mary Peter.
“and I— once I am lifted up—will draw all to me.” Jn 13:32
The life-size image of Christ Crucified that hangs in the sanctuary is an original design in bronze, characterized by the stylized corpus and the cap of thorns. “It is right that we remember the high price of our redemption when we contemplate Jesus on the cross,” said sculptor Mary Peter. “We can boast of nothing but the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ…” Gal. 6:14
THE DAILY MASS CHAPEL
An Intimate Worship Place
The Daily Mass Chapel has been set aside for the weekday Eucharist. The concept is to have a small, intimate area for such worship. The chapel features the tabernacle and a “Christ the King” crucifix. Very often, our Lord is featured as the Suffering Savior. However, following a Byzantine tradition, the Lord is sometimes portrayed as a triumphant figure — our King. The figure and the cross on which it is mounted was made in Italy of linden wood.
The chapel also features small “Stations of the Cross”.. These fourteen small panels, made by the Slabbinck Studios in Belgium, focus on the journey of Christ from His condemnation by Pontius Pilate through the crucifixion to His burial. The devotion of the Stations of the Cross goes back to the early Middle Ages.
The Promise of God’s Presence
The celebration of the Eucharist is the central act of Catholic worship. A portion of the unleavened bread consecrated during the Eucharist is traditionally reserved in a special area of the church. In Holy Family Church, the tabernacle is found in the Daily Mass Chapel. In full view from the nave of the church, the tabernacle is placed on top of a type of throne as one unified work of art. The first of its kind from the imagination of the sculptor, the bronze tower contains the vault for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in the top section. On the four other sides of the throne, Sister Mary Peter has developed narrative scenes from scripture expressing Eucharistic themes of miraculous food and sacrifice.
On the front panel is a scene of Jesus with two disciples on the way to Emmaus after the resurrection. “They knew Him in the breaking of the bread,” Lk. 24:35
On the side is a scene from Genesis 22 of Abraham about to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, when a messenger from God stops him. Because of Abraham’s obedience, God blesses him with “descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sand of the seashore.” Gn.22:17. Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac is, of course, the prototype of God’s own sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus, for the sake of us, His descendants.
On the other side is a panel with two stories involving women: one, Mary at the wedding at Cana, and the other, from the Old Testament (1Kg. 17), the widow who uses the last little bit of wheat and oil to make bread for Elijah.
On the backside of the tower is a scene of Moses striking the rock and water flowing out for the children of Israel in the desert. The 17th chapter of Exodus follows immediately after the giving of manna in the desert; the people once fed are now thirsty and God provides the water from a rock. As Moses gives life to the people in the water, we, too, are fed in the manna of the Eucharist. Water, wine, bread, sacrifice…these themes point again and again to God’s presence with His people.
The tabernacle is one of the four focal points in any church, the others being in the baptistery, the altar and the ambo. Giving the tabernacle this kind of artistic treatment serves to enhance the focus of attention on the tabernacle. The lighted lamp over the tower is another sign of the true presence of the Lord in the Eucharist.
SHRINE OF OUR LADY
The Pieta in the shrine is an original design, carved of white Italian Carrara marble. In this classical image of Mary embracing the lifeless body of her son, sculptor Sister Mary Peter focuses on the role of Mary as partner with Jesus in the act of Redemption. This Mary, the Sorrowful Mother, is the counterpart of the beautiful Mother-with-Child seen at the entrance of the church. This is the mother who knows the pain of the death of a child, and she is ready to help her other children when they come to her in distress.