May 27, 2014

South Lyon Parish restores ‘basic respect’ for Christ in church sanctuary

St. Joseph South Lyon interior

To make Jesus more central in the worship lives of parishioners, redesigning the sanctuary to centralize the tabernacle on the altar was the first priority of St. Joseph Church. Photo: St. Joseph Parish

When Rev. Stan Tokarski and his leadership team at St. Joseph Parish in South Lyon considered priorities in advance of their Changing Lives Together campaign two years ago, they decided improving the worship environment would have the greatest importance.

Work was recently completed on the first phase of efforts to elevate the reverence and uniquely Catholic features of the altar and sanctuary. “We brought the tabernacle back to a central place on the altar, we returned our statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph to front of the church, we elevated and retiled the altar, and installed new lighting to properly illuminate everything,” said Father Tokarski, pastor of the southwest Oakland county parish for four years. “Our entire focus in this first round of improvements was on the sanctuary and to prompt a greater awareness of God’s presence in this holy place.”

St. Joseph South Lyon CLT Leadership team

Father Tokarski, pastor of St. Joseph in South Lyon, with the parish Changing Lives Together leadership team. Phil Weipert (seated at left), Doug Osborn (seated at right), Frank Fogarty (standing at left), and Mark Hiller (standing at right). Photo: St. Joseph Parish

Nearly 500 parishioner pledges to Changing Lives Together also funded the construction of a grotto adjacent to the worship space. “Many parishioners have told me how much they appreciate the prayerful atmosphere of the grotto, especially the traditional presence of candles they can light for loved ones.”

Father Tokarski says the changes have produced the desired results. “The previous location of the chapel and the sanctuary environment was distracting and just not respectful to the Eucharist,” he recalled. “From the moment I arrived at St. Joseph, I wanted to bring back a basic respect for the true presence of Christ and Changing Lives Together gave us the opportunity to make it happen.”

Pastors often hear more complaints than compliments about parish projects, but the reverse has happened at St. Joseph. “I’ve received hundreds of comments and emails that our faithful feel a greater sense of the presence of God from the moment they enter the church. I haven’t heard a single complaint, and people are absolutely elated with end result of the changes. We have a much more prayerful worship space, and after Masses, many gather for photos near the altar, which is beautiful.”

The next phase of campaign-funded church improvements will include an entrance to improve access for the handicapped faithful.

Published May 2014

 Changing Lives Together at
St. Joseph Parish, South Lyon

Pastor: Rev. Stan Tokarski
Parish founded: 1965
Registered households: 2,892
Pledges: 497
Campaign launch: October 2012
Parish Goal: $972,000
Pledged: $496,499
Parish debt: None

Parish priorities:

  • Redesign sanctuary, centralize tabernacle
  • Create handicap entrance
  • Expand driveway
  • Update outdoor lighting
  • Painting, flooring repairs
  • Cement repair
  • Fix bell tower
  • Thermostat updates

April 4, 2014

Fr. Stan,

I felt honored to be worshipping with the workmen this morning.

When I heard the sounds of a saw or observed them kneeling and laying the tiles on the altar steps, I was reminded that Jesus was a carpenter.

When I glanced up and saw who I assumed was the supervisor watching them carefully, I thought of Joseph and how he must have watched Jesus as he learned the trades his foster father knew so well.

When you had to pause in the middle of saying Mass because the pounding was so loud, it moved me to tears to imagine it was like the sound of the nails being pounded into Christ’s hands and feet and to know he did it for me.

This whole experience is such a blessing to us!

Parishioner email to Father Tokarski following a Friday morning Mass at St. Joseph while renovations to the church sanctuary were being completed.