Construction Progress Videos
Click the thumbnails to view a larger version:
Floor Plans & Project Documents
April 15 – Audio Recording of the 3rd/Final congregation meeting:
November 15 – Audio Recording of the 2nd congregation meeting:
October 29 – Audio Recording of the initial unveiling:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Bishop Robert Morlino has requested that all churches in the Madison Diocese place the
tabernacle in the center of the church’s sanctuary by October 2018. The Tabernacle –
the dwelling place of the Lord – has been housed in Blessed Sacrament Chapel ever since the
church was built in 1983.
At that time, a movement among Catholic churches focused on the congregational
assembly with the hope that a side chapel would promote a visit to the Blessed Sacrament
upon coming to Mass (like a mini-pilgrimage). Our new design will direct our worship towards
keeping Centered on Christ.
The design represents a thoughtful and liturgically-correct connection between the history of
the Catholic Church, the history of Saint Dennis Church and the future of our parish.
First and foremost, the design reflects the path from baptism to the cross, with the
elements of the baptismal font, altar, tabernacle and crucifix all in alignment, like a guide for
our journey as believers.
Visually, the space features sweeping curves that are modern but that have deep
connections to the longer history of church design. They also link well with our 35-year-old
Saint Dennis facility. Take a look at the stained glass windows that surround the worship space:
you’ll notice the upward design that’s reminiscent of Gothic arches from early Christian
structures. This historical design is more deeply appreciated when it’s recognized for its roots
and permanence throughout church history.
In addition to suggesting a heavenly direction, the same upward-pointing almond shape has
been used for centuries to fashion the vesica Pisces (Christian symbol of the fish) – a technique
also used in our Centered on Christ campaign logo.
This design is featured prominently in the proposed liturgical furnishings, most notably the
altar, the ambo (where readings are delivered) and the tabernacle. Because Church documents
call for the sacrificial altar to be one of permanence and prominence, we propose it have a base
of stone; the other pieces will follow suit. Wood at the top of each piece suggests the life of the
church that grows out of that permanence. The detailing within the wood of the altar and on
the metal accents of other furnishings repeats the curves and historic symbolism of our current
stained glass windows.
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document “Built of Living Stones” speaks of the
altar and furnishing designs as reflecting the “nobility, beauty, strength and simplicity” of Christ.
The use of stone suggests the strength and permanence of Christ. The wood conveys an elegant
simplicity of a “living” material. The design has some balance between the simplicity of form
and the complexity of the use of different materials. In a space that is not heavily ornamented,
the balance between simplicity and elegance is a challenge. But by adding to the complexity of
the furnishings, they will command more presence. (This is also the case in the design of the
sanctuary platform and backdrop.)
The inclusion of the vesica Pisces (traditional fish-shaped symbol) in the furnishings is to
reinforce the Gothic curves in the space already present in the windows lining the sides of the
church. That design element is a way to incorporate more traditional church language and
symbolism without it feeling out of place in a rather contemporary building.
Additionally, the curving lines of the vesica Pisces symbol soften the existing architecture,
which has rigid lines. It also allows the curving of the platforms flanking the sanctuary to be
asymmetric (and thus functional) without feeling foreign to the space.
First, the current church altar, ambo, presider chair, and other furnishings will be moved to the
school gymnasium, where Masses will be held during the remodeling of the sanctuary. After
construction, a number of scenarios are possible. We are considering ways to reuse the
furnishings in other areas of the church, and it’s possible that the furnishings could find a new
home in other churches in the Diocese or elsewhere. The steering committee is giving
thoughtful consideration to all ideas before deciding where to place the furnishings that
represent earlier generations and the history of our church.
making changes throughout the campus?
In order for the altar to be centered at Saint Dennis, the front platform area of the church (the
sanctuary) must be redesigned. The other major portions of the project such as redesigning
restrooms and doorways to comply with today’s handicap access codes, new lighting, and
parking lot improvements have been on the Saint Dennis needs list for quite some time. The
Diocese encourages parishes to “think big” when undertaking fundraising campaigns because
there are efficiencies involved in doing all of the improvements at one time. It is more efficient
and effective to have one large fundraising program than to raise funds to remodel the
sanctuary and then later “go back to the well” and request funding for individual projects.
The organ’s future is both an economic and usage issue. Fabry Inc., the company that has done
maintenance work on our pipe organ, provided a quote of $97,000 to upgrade the organ to
proper working condition. In trying to save parish operations dollars, no preventive
maintenance has been performed for over 10 years. If the organ were to be repaired and
upgraded, there would still be a responsibility to schedule preventive maintenance, resulting in
As choir director Ruth Benesh said at the first town hall meeting about the sanctuary
redesign: “I grew up in the choir loft with the church and the pipe organ. And you know, in my
heart, losing this is hard; however, I also know the problems that we have with repairing it and
keeping it maintained.”
Ruth explained that our musicians are still able to make the organ sound good by playing
very specific pieces that avoid the broken elements of the organ. In addition, few people today
have the skill and knowledge to play the organ’s pedalboard to its full potential. Instead, Saint
Dennis will likely purchase a digital keyboard for a fraction of the repair cost. Ruth said, “I
played around with it, and that puppy could’ve fooled any of you about whether there was a
pipe organ here or not.” (FYI: The baby grand piano will remain as part of our music ministry.)
So, even though the organ will be dismantled carefully, Saint Dennis will not eliminate the
organ sound. With the digital keyboard, we’ll be able to have a really good organ sound – one
that many more musicians will be able to play – while avoiding the high cost of maintenance.
The plan is to remodel the church during the summer of 2018. Some of the work will occur prior
to that in order to be ready to hold Mass in the school gymnasium. The target date for
dedicating the redesigned sanctuary is the Feast Day of Saint Dennis, October 9, 2018.
Mass will be held in the school gymnasium while the work is being done in the church. Some of
the improvements to that part of the campus (including a small, new visitor parking area west
of the school, a new power-assist door into the cafeteria and new gymnasium air-conditioning)
are being done early in the timeline to accommodate increased use of the areas surrounding
the gymnasium during construction of the sanctuary.
The stained glass art behind the crucifix will be part of the wall design and not a true window
to the outside. The glass will be backlit with LED lighting to make it appear to be a window. As a
design element, it brings additional focus to the center of the sanctuary and echoes the pattern
of the two tall art glass windows on both sides of the sanctuary. The addition helps bring unity
to the design of the entire worship space.
The sanctuary wall with the art glass covers the existing backdraft vent, but provisions are
being made so that the vent will still be functional.
Patrick Gorman, Diocesan Director of Worship, provided the following guidelines regarding
the crucifix in a Madison Diocese Catholic church: There must be a corpus. The body must be
crucified. It needs to be placed in the sanctuary such that it relates to the altar. The
crucifix cannot have a risen Christ. As to artistic style, there are no guidelines. The Bishop
prefers the more traditional, realistic corpus, but it is not required. The Liturgical Art group will
be in charge of researching options and making a recommendation.
The answer is an exciting ‘Yes’! We have planned for wheelchair ramps to the choir area and
the sanctuary platform, eliminating the roadblock of steps. The ambo, where readings are
delivered, will feature a slide-out surface to better accommodate the height of a lector seated
in a wheelchair. This feature can also benefit shorter lectors and other readers, such as
children. A retractable footstep may also be added to the back side of the ambo.
To better accommodate wheelchairs among the pews, two areas have been designated at
the back of church, along with companion chairs.
Above all, the location reflects our concern for people in wheelchairs having to navigate the
steep slope of the floor that leads further into the church. In addition, the location provides
easy entrance and exit for those with mobility challenges. The proximity to exits and restrooms
takes into account the extra effort required by someone in a wheelchair. During Mass, a priest
will bring Communion to the people in the handicap seating areas.
New flooring is planned for the sanctuary platform, choir area, church aisles, and under the
pews. Carpet in the aisles will provide secure footing on the slope of the nave while also muting
the sound of footsteps. Vinyl under the pews will help amplify the sound of the congregation’s
participation in song and prayer.
Other areas getting new flooring include the gathering space, Fellowship Hall, sacristy and
Though 35 years may not seem old in the life of a building, a lot has changed since our current
church doors opened. We can now take advantage of state-of-the-art technology to improve
the worship experience for all. Some highlights:
• brighter lighting, using energy-efficient LED fixtures
• preset controls for light settings to meet different needs
• digital hymn board display
• video projection to share song lyrics and videos
• opportunity to mix sound levels for Masses and special events
• augmented assisted-hearing devices using Wi-Fi and a smartphone app
• reliable controller to sound the carillon bells
The idea of a family restroom came up as we addressed the need for handicap accessibility in
the existing restrooms. For the men’s and women’s rooms to comply with the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), the widening of one stall for handicap access would force the loss of one
stall in each room. In addition to providing a fully accessible restroom, the family restroom
solution provides convenience and privacy for the elderly or disabled who might require the
help of a caregiver and for parents with children of the opposite gender. A family restroom
allows us to be as hospitable as possible.
The west cry room (or “parenting room,” as some prefer to call it) will remain as is, keeping its
current configuration and door location. The glass panels will remain, and new LED lighting
fixtures will be added to improve the environment. The east cry room will be transformed into
a control room that houses all the equipment for operating the lighting, video and sound in one
Currently, equipment is pulled out daily and weekly as needed, and many hours are spent
running cables over the floors and setting up a projection screen, for example. The operation of
this equipment becomes safer, more efficient and secure if there is a permanent, lockable
Once the chapel no longer houses the tabernacle, the Reconciliation room would seem distant
– almost hidden – from the act of worship. A new location and united design that is adjacent to
the worship space will carry greater sacramental identity and recognition of its importance to
the practice of our faith.
The chapel will continue to be used for smaller-sized funerals and weddings. The pews will be
replaced with padded chairs that have kneelers, adding a new dimension to worship in the
chapel. The absence of the tabernacle from the chapel space will allow for choir practice on
Sunday mornings and for meeting other types of parish needs.
In all likelihood, the daily morning Mass will be held in the church proper, especially during the
liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and the Easter season.
groups be able to be held in the church?
Yes, we will continue to have certain events in the church. On occasion, it is permissible for the
Blessed Sacrament to be placed in a sacred place outside of the church proper so that other
types of appropriate events may take place in the church.
We are encouraging couples to plan around the construction. For funerals that are too large for
the chapel, solutions may involve a neighboring parish as a host site, or celebrating in the
As a church, we seek to be as welcoming as possible to parishioners and visitors. That includes
the removal of barriers to participation, such as providing nearby parking for those with
mobility challenges. Over the years, we’ve received many requests from parishioners about
designating more handicap parking. Adding handicap parking stalls on the west side of the
church allows for a shorter walk and leads to the entrance where there is less of a slope for
them to navigate.
In addition, the school currently offers no visitor parking. Designating stalls for visitors will
signal welcome to them and keep cars from blocking the service driveway in front of the school.
Can I delay payments on a pledge to the Centered on Christ campaign?
We must be clear that we encourage and expect pledges to be honored to support the Priests
For Our Future campaign, which, for Saint Dennis, culminates in summer 2019. But even if you
have remaining payments to make toward that Diocesan initiative, you may establish a new
five-year pledge to the Centered on Christ campaign that would begin after you have
completed your PFOF gift.
Every gift of every size is so important and deeply appreciated! It’s useful to be aware of the
ability of a financial gift to advance the campaign closer to the goal, but what’s most important
in our Centered on Christ campaign is serving the Lord. With that, naming opportunities are not
part of this campaign. We all have an equally important opportunity to make our best gift to
modernize and beautify the church and fortify our faith community.