Special Windows Illuminate Mausoleum
In addition to creating a visually stunning sacred space for families to remember their loved ones, the chapel mausoleum now serves as the permanent archive and exhibition site for three vintage stained-glass windows that previously were part of the now-closed Saint Brigid Parish, North Bergen. A fourth window installed at the chapel-the Nativity scene- offers an interesting sidebar of "rediscovered" liturgical art history.
Father Manuel D. Rios, who previously served at Saint Brigid and now is the pastor of the merged Saint Rocco/Saint Brigid Parish in Union City, worked with the archdiocesan Patrimony Committee to have the windows relocated to the mausoleum. Gilbert D'all Ava, a renowned stained-glass artist and resident of Clifton who died three decades ago, produced the three Saint Brigid windows (The Resurrection, The Last Supper and the Holy Family).
However, because of the chapel mausoleum's architectural design, a fourth window was required. Working with representatives of the archdiocesan Catholic Cemeteries group, Judy Van Wie, the president of Hiemer and Co., a stained-glass studio in Clifton, provided research on D'all Ava and was able to locate a never-executed window design (the Nativity scene), which was in a style and time frame similar to the three Saint Brigid windows.
Van Wie, who knew D'all Ava, described him as a devout Catholic, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Clifton, and a noteworthy liturgical artist of his era who died in his late 40s at the height of his creative powers. She said while the visual sweep of his lines echoed a Byzantine style, D'all Ava depicted traditional religious subjects in a contemporary style. He also demonstrated artistic innovation through his techniques of shading and shadows of stained-glass images.
Andrew P. Schafer, executive director of Catholic Cemeteries, said the chapel mausoleum serves as a sacred place to both console and inspire families. "Our cemeteries are fields of hope," Schafer declared. "The new mausoleum at Saint Gertrude is an extension of that hope. When people visit the mausoleum, they will see the life of the risen Christ in the stained-glass windows. Families that choose a Catholic cemetery are making a statement of faith to the generations to come."
"As Catholics, we believe that those who have died remain part of the community, part of the body of Christ," Archbishop John J. Myers wrote last year in a column for The Catholic Advocate. "Our liturgy, our funeral practices, and our commitment as Church to maintaining places of final rest for all who have died in Christ are a sincere and solid expression of the respect and reverence. We hope that all of our family members who have gone before us are, indeed, now part of the Communion of Saints, and that we too will one day join them."
Planning and development for the multi-million dollar, 50,000-square-foot mausoleum was launched four years ago. Construction began in April 2006 and was completed last July. In addition to Hiemer and Co., key contractors for the building project included Mid-Atlantic Contractors Inc., New Gretna; C.H. Schwartner & Son, Bala Cynwyd, PA; Rissi Associates Architects, Wynote, PA; J.W.T. Excavating Contractors, Holmdel; Edward T. Czuba (architect and planning), South Orange; The Gil Studios Inc., Brooklyn, NY; and Inspired Artisans, Milwaukee.
The chapel mausoleum is part of a major capital investment program at several northern New Jersey sites being managed by Catholic Cemeteries. Schafer said the group recently began construction on a two-story chapel mausoleum at Holy Name Cemetery and Mausoleum in Jersey City, which eventually will host monthly masses. A new chapel and garden mausoleum is being built at Maryrest Cemetery in Mahwah, while construction is more than 70 percent complete at an expansion of mausoleum space in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, East Hanover.
Catholic Cemeteries maintains 10 cemeteries and four mausoleums throughout northern New Jersey. Catholic Cemeteries is a long-standing ministry of the Church, which is demonstrated in the ritual of the Order of Christian Funerals. Associates of the archdiocesan group recognize the deep religious significance of their corporal work of mercy, dedicated to the respectful care of the deceased and the support of families.