by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – There is a thrilling scene in the book of Revelation where Saint John recounts a marvelous sight of the saints in heaven:
“After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could number, from every nation, race, people and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands” (7:9).
Parishioners of All Saints Church in Kansas City, Kansas will see their own version of St. John’s vision around July 10 when the scaffolding comes down and the results of their project to paint the interior of the church are revealed. in all its glory. Construction started on April 1.
Before, the walls and ceiling were pure, bare white. Today parts of the church have been brightened up with rich hues including metallic gold, burgundy and blue.
The square spaces of the ceiling of the nave, from the chancel to the apse, have been filled with large stylized dogwood blossoms. The ceiling of the apse depicts, against a blue background, a multitude of saints in heaven with 12 saints standing out widely in front of the multitude. Above them all hovers the Holy Spirit.
Twelve saints were chosen for special treatment because they are the saints for whom the local community has a special devotion, said the pastor of Toussaint and Sainte-Marie-St. Parishes Anthony Father Peter Jaramillo, SSA. They reflect the rich history and present-day ethnic diversity of what was known as the “Polish Hill” for much of the 20th century.
Originally it was St. Joseph’s Church, built by Polish immigrants. The new name was born after a series of parish consolidations.
The saints who dominate the ceiling of the apse are Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Saint John Paul II, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Saint Benedict, Saint Faustina Kowalska, Saint Juan Diego, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Saint Oscar Romero, Saint Josephine Bakhita and Saint José Luis Sanchez del Rio.
The century-old church needed cleaning and renovation, but that was not the only reason for the project, Fr Peter said.
“It was born out of a desire to cleanse and renew our church after the pandemic, an opportunity to reintegrate people into the community after all the struggles and depression of the pandemic,” he said. “There were also spiritual concerns and people leaving and not coming back.
“So we came up with a plan to renew the spirit, and part of the renewal of the spirit was to bring back a welcoming community by cleaning up the church. It is a beautiful church and always has been. some attention.
Fortunately, the parish had unused beautification funds. These and other funds raised by parishioners “purchasing” a dogwood blossom or saint paid for the cost of approximately $190,000.
For the project, Father Peter turned to two men who had previously worked at St. Mary-St. parish of Anthony. They are Paul Helmer, architect and color consultant at Touch of Distinction Color and Design of Kansas City, Missouri, and Phelipe Linstrom of Linstrom Pro Painters of Sugar Creek, Missouri. The other members of the team are Peyton Alexander and Danny Bardwell.
This would be the third project Helmer and Linstrom have done together.
“The church is uniquely beautiful with all this great architecture,” said Helmer, a Guardian Angels parish member in Kansas City, Missouri. “The interior is quite spectacular. “We decided that, to do the ceiling, we chose colors that were already on the side walls. Blue is a predominant color. Burgundy, and all the colors we used , are liturgical colors.
The dogwood flower on the nave ceiling was chosen for its spiritual significance. There is a legend that dogwood was used for the cross of Christ. Jesus, sensing the tree’s distress, transformed the dogwood species so that it would never again be used for crucifixion.
In addition to the saints in the apse and the nave ceiling, Helmer and Linstrom painted the walls behind the side altars and the (rear) altarpiece of the pre-Vatican II high altar, for added contrast and beauty. The tarnished filigrees of the high altar and reredos have been re-gilded to give them a warm, golden hue as when new.
“Father Peter was the leader of this project,” said Linstrom, who is a Lutheran.
“When you do something like that, there are a lot of emotions involved,” Linstrom said. “There are a lot of people who have opinions about what needs to happen, and it’s hard to make those compromises, so it will work for everyone.
“God bless Father Peter and his leaders. He visits us daily and he always blesses us and prays for our ability to do God’s work here. Without his support, this could not have happened. He was at the origin of our spiritual journey to make this project a reality.
This part is the first phase, said Father Peter. The parish will carry out phase two – painting the rest of the church – when sufficient funds have been raised.
“The joy of that for a pastor is creating something beautiful,” he continued. “So many times we have to invest parishioners’ money in things like retaining walls, sewer lines, furnaces and boilers. You rarely have the opportunity to do something like this.
“My hope is that by beautifying All Saints Church, it will bring about a renewal of people willing to support our parish.”
“We live in a generally poorer community,” added Father Peter, “but we can have beauty. We can enjoy the splendor of these old churches which express so much beauty and love for the tradition of the faith. These local immigrant churches contain so much history and splendor of art that speaks to the soul.