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Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Dickinson receives new altar

A look at the new altar at one of Dickinson's churches.

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Monsignor Tom Richter explain how the new altar was designed. (Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press)
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Bishop David Kagan dedicated and consecrated the new altar at Queen of Peace Catholic Church during Mass on Saturday, Nov. 6.

Embodying the parish name, Richter said he chose blue stones with gold leaf outlines because those are the colors of the Virgin Mary.

Like most Catholic altars, this one has a relic. It’s a lock of hair belonging to St. Gianna Beretta Mola of Italy, who died at the age of 39. The relic represents self-giving love, Richter said.

“She was a physician, wife and mother. When she became pregnant with her fourth child, she was found to have uterine cancer. Rather than treating the cancer, which would harm the child, she let the pregnancy come as long as it could to viability. Then they took her little daughter, and she passed away one week later on April 28, 1962,” Richter said. “What’s really beautiful is this baby she gave her life for, Gianna Emanuela, is also a doctor in Italy. She’s still alive, and she was the one who personally gave us her mother’s hair.”

The tabernacle stand reads “JHS,” the three capitalized Greek letters of Jesus’ name. Above that reads “HIC DEUS EST. ADORA." Richter said it's uncommon to see the periods used, but he felt it was imperative because it is actually two sentences.

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"I thought what the heck, it'll be a little different," he said. "My priest buddies will have something to make fun of."

Richter was inspired to use this phrase on the tabernacle stand during a trip to Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem) in Rome.

“That’s Latin for ‘Here is God. Adore,’” Richter said. “I studied in Rome for four years and was back visiting on a pilgrimage. The tabernacle stand in that church was on a pillar, a marble pillar and they had these words in it. And I said to myself, at some point I want to put that on a tabernacle stand back in the Diocese of Bismarck. So we did that here.”

The new stone baptismal font was also built in the back near the entrance, which is symbolic of entering the church through the Sacrament of Baptism. The font is an octagon that depicts a circle of three fish, which is an ancient symbol of the Holy Trinity. The eight sides have multiple meanings.

“In Genesis, God created (the Earth) in six days and rested on the seventh. Humanity came along, we mess things up,” Richter said, noting that the Gospel of St. John in the New Testament starts in a similar fashion. “John says, ‘In the beginning was the word, word, the word was with God, the word was God and the word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ So the Christian imagination has always held that there were seven days, nothing changed. And then the resurrection came along. And the new life, the new creation and thus, the eighth day. We enter into the eighth day, the new creation through baptism.”

Richter said the funding was provided by a group of about a dozen donors.

“The project happened basically by me sharing ideas and thoughts with certain parishioners. Without asking for anything, two parishioners came up with lead gifts that covered half the project. And so I said ‘Okay, yeah they want this,’” Richter said.

He worked with designer Allen Warmka, who is based out of the Minneapolis area. Minot Sash & Door Inc. was the contractor for the project that put their vision into action. The Sacred Heart symbol was hand-carved. The entire design of all the renovations is based on a concept Richter said is emphasized in many of the Vatican’s liturgical documents.

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“The art, architecture and furnishings should have a noble simplicity. I think these capture that. They’re noble, they’re dignified. But there’s a simplicity. They’re not gaudy. They’re not too much. They’re focused, just as the Sacred Heart symbol is there,” Richter said.

Queen of Peace is still trying to find a new parish for the old altar. If they don’t find a new parish for it then it must be buried because it’s a sacred appointment, he said.

“We’ve always had the custom and practice in the Catholic Church to bury what is holy; very similar to the human body, which is sacred,” Richter said.

Related Topics: DICKINSONFAITH
Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in rural southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge.
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