MORGAN PARK — The backdrop for countless weddings, baptisms and funerals at St. Cajetan Parish stepped out of the 1970s on Tuesday.
A $150,000 sanctuary renovation at 2445 W. 112th St. in Morgan Park is underway, replacing large, mauve panels that surround the altar, dated light wood furniture and worn blue carpeting.
"For about 10 years, we've talked about the mauve backdrop," said Rev. Frank Kurucz, who's served as pastor at St. Cajetan since 2005.
The sanctuary was last updated in 1977. The new look takes a more timeless approach, playing off the powerful stained wood features already prominent within the Catholic church.
New carpet will be among the first improvements, followed by the addition of a new altar, ambo (or pulpit) and chairs for both the presider and deacon. The existing tabernacle will be refurbished to match the new items designed with traditionally stained wood.
The majority of these projects should be completed by Jan. 23, Kurucz said.
The final piece of the renovation will be the installation of a new crucifix. The handmade cross and figure of Jesus is being made in Spain. It's significantly larger than the current cross and will be mounted to the refurbished backdrop. The current crucifix is suspended over the altar by chains.
"I really looked for a human Jesus, as opposed to this emaciated figure," Kurucz said while combing through renderings of the improved worship space.
St. Cajetan Church was dedicated in 1964. Many parishioners liken the interior design to that of the overturned hull of Noah's ark. The A-frame building offers heavy wooden accents throughout. A renovation in 2005 replaced the floor and church pews - everything but the sanctuary.
"I decided that now it was time to complete the renovation," Kurucz said.
Churchgoers have been steadily raising money for the renovation since 2007 through the parish's major improvement fund. Along the way, this fund has also helped pay for needed repairs to the heating and air conditioning system, the parking lot and sidewalks.
Daily and weekend masses will continue at St. Cajetan throughout the construction period. The altar will temporarily move into the first row of the pews. The crucifix that's hung in the Southwest Side church for nearly four decades will be moved to the adjacent grade school.
Kurucz expects either of the officials to be impressed with the improvements as well as the parish's ability to independently fund the renovations. Meanwhile, Kurucz said he isn't sad to the old elements of the sanctuary replaced.
"The color scheme is dated. It was a popular color in the seventies, and now it looks faded," Kurucz said.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: