2013-12-04 / Front Page

Archbishop dedicates new altar at Immaculate Conception Church

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron (right) exchanges greetings with Dr. Karl Gubert, a deacon in training, following ceremonies dedicating the new altar at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Lapeer Sunday morning. 
Photo by Phil Foley Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron (right) exchanges greetings with Dr. Karl Gubert, a deacon in training, following ceremonies dedicating the new altar at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Lapeer Sunday morning. Photo by Phil Foley LAPEER — About the time the Catholic community of Lapeer was building its Romanesque church on West Nepessing Street, Irish Catholics in Jersey City, N.J., were building St. Lucy’s. Now, 27 years after St. Lucy closed its doors for the final time, the altar that served New Jersey Catholics for nearly a century has found new life in Lapeer.

Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron came to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church Sunday, for the second time since being named head of southeast Michigan’s 1.3 million Catholics in 2009, to dedicate Immaculate Conception’s new altar.

Joe Kohn, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said an altar dedication ceremony is a fairly rare event, “usually only when a new church building is constructed.” He said the only other altar dedication ceremony in recent years was conducted last year in Eastpointe for the opening of St. Veronica Church.


Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron (left) speaks to the parishioners of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Lapeer Sunday morning during ceremonies dedicating the church's new altar. 
Photo by Phil Foley Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron (left) speaks to the parishioners of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Lapeer Sunday morning during ceremonies dedicating the church's new altar. Photo by Phil Foley The last time an altar dedication was performed at Immaculate Conception was nearly 20 years ago. Fr. Douglas J. Terrien said when he became Immaculate Conception’s parish priest, he found that while the church had an altar of sacrifice, its main altar had been removed in the mid-1960s following Vatican II.

Terrien said members of the parish built a new altar, adding that that altar was moved to St. Louise Chapel in Metamora Township.

The new altar, Terrien said, was purchased for $60,000 from the Archdiocese of New Jersey in 2007 and has been in storage at St. Louise ever since. The altar was purchased for a new church planned for a 20- acre site on Clark Road. Those plans, Terrien said, evaporated when the economy took a nose dive.

If the new altar seems vaguely familiar, that’s because it served as a backdrop in a scene from Brian De Palma’s black comedy “Wise Guys.” In the three-minute scene, Marco (Ray Sharkey) informs Harry Valentini (Danny DeVito) and Moe Dickstein (Joe Piscopo) that they’ve been marked for death, just before he’s taken out by Mafia hitmen hiding in the choir loft. The scene can be viewed by searching for “Wise Guys church scene” on You Tube.

Terrien said church officials in New Jersey were “very careful” about selling their altar to Immaculate Conception, noting they’d been burned once before when they sold a church building that was later converted into a nightspot and its altar used for a bar.

He said the altar was located for Immaculate Conception by Sacred Spaces, a Washington, D.C. area interior decorator specializing in church designs.

Along with St. Lucy’s main altar, Immaculate Conception purchased the church’s two side altars as well. However, those remain in storage at St. Louise until Immaculate Conception’s parishioners decide to have them installed, Terrien said.

Terrien said stone masons from Warren’s Wolverine Stone Company spent the past six weeks building a cinder block base and reassembling the 118-year-old, 7,000 pound altar. To support its weight, masons had to install steel beams in the church’s basement.

Terrien said there were some nerve wracking moments. Among them when the mensa, a 700-pound slab of Carrara marble, was put in place. Terrien said the marble came from the same quarry that Michelangelo cut the stone used to carve “David” and other statues.

The altar, he said, is trim in green Onyx from “either Algeria or Tunisia,” and it’s topped by two angel statues from the former Martyrs of Uganda Catholic Church on Detroit’s west side.

Terrien said “it was a thrill” to have the archbishop come to Lapeer to dedicate the new altar.

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was Lapeer’s fourth church, dedicated in 1866 with 40 families. The current church, Terrien said, was built between 1895 and 1905.

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