For the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I wanted to post some pictures of inside the Holy Redeemer school building, which features the mural above hidden away in a little basement corridor… and many other wonderful secrets. But first a picture of the explosion of florae that were presented to Our Lady at last night’s Spanish language vigil Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Holy Redeemer Church, with Bishop Morlino present. The 16th century vision of Mary to Juan Diego, an Aztec peasant, had a massive impact, with over 8 million baptisms in Mexico in the following decade; devotion to her remains a massive phenomenon. In my photo, if you look carefully over to the right, you can see that her divine Son is exposed in a monstrance on the altar for adoration.
Holy Redeemer school was built in 1892 and is the oldest extant school building in Madison. You can read much more about it on this historical landmark form. Holy Redeemer School may be on the verge of a big change. There are plans on the table, which can now be viewed on the Cathedral Parish website, to completely re-do the interior of the school into apartments for Catholic UW Madison students associated with St Paul’s. The city refused to approve a new St Paul’s building tall enough to include Catholic student housing, so this is a not-illogical alternative.
Most people have never seen the inside of the building, particularly not the auditorium on the top level, which was locked up for many years and is still usually locked up.
Holy Redeemer School has been housing Pregnancy Helpline‘s Sharing Center, which according to a recent phone inquiry by a friend of mine, already has plans for a new location. There were twice-weekly meals for the homeless served by a Catholic lay group called Pro Labore Dei, these were asked to be moved elsewhere a few months ago to make room for one of the main recent uses: the Cathedral Parish’s religious education program. That’s now about to move to St Patrick’s convent which until recently was a Catholic Charities office. But the other biggest users of Holy Redeemer School are the Hispanic community, and the building shows many touches of their love. Besides Our Lady of Guadalupe, the basement has a quetzal:
Although the structure is sound, the state of the interior of the building is not great. In the interim years between the closing of Holy Redeemer School in the mid 60s, it housed diocesan religious education offices, and the interior was modified to serve their needs. The updates were utilitarian. The second floor hallway:
There are one or two pretty much intact classrooms, but numerous rooms were in use by some of the Hispanic parishioners so I didn’t try to photograph them. Mostly the rooms have been carved up into uninspiring smaller office spaces, such as this one, where earlier in the day last Sunday I substitute-taught the 1st grade catechism class. We learned about Christmas and colored a paper nativity set:
After years of neglect, there is a lot of the interior of Holy Redeemer School that looks like this stairwell:
I kept exploring, I’d never been up to the top floor:
I’d heard there was a beautiful auditorium up there, and that even while the school was still in operation, it was locked up and disused in the 1950s after a Chicago school fire killed 92 children trapped on the upper floors. For some years it was rented to the UW Gymnastics Club. Today again it is normally locked. But on the day I decided to go exploring, I found it was not. Wow:
Backstage, ancient student desks have a wistful view of Holy Redeemer Church:
There are all kinds of dangerous looking electrical things, the more modern ones not as attractive as this. Actually I kept my hands off it and kept it closed, so I do not know what it is:
The biggest physical problem with Holy Redeemer School is that the roof was neglected for years and years till now it has gaping holes in it and Monsignor Holmes says the estimate to repair it was $150,000. In recent weeks Ganser Roofing put plastic tarps over most of the roof as a band-aid. You can see on both sides of the auditorium where water has leaked in:
There is a balcony.
It is simply lovely, with graceful curving seats:
This is the view out the front (Johnson Street side) of the building, through a little window at the back of the projector room, I see the Overture Center over there:
It’s beautiful. I love it!! The plans have not been finalized, and in the Oct 28th bulletin Monsignor Holmes said, “The hope is that we would not need the third floor space [ie, this space, the auditorium] for rental income”, but the architect’s proposal is to turn this space into 2-level apartments:
The parish is inviting comments to be submitted through the Cathedral Parish website. Personally I’m at peace with whatever is decided, and I really do have a lot of confidence in the prudence of Monsignor Holmes and Bishop Morlino. Apartments for Catholic students seem a truly good cause, and part of the idea is that they’d pay for the needed renovations. But I am also in solidarity with the Hispanic community for whom it’s a sacrifice, and I could not help being sad at the loss of the beautiful but very seldom-seen auditorium.
[I had another thought. I’ve been lobbying Fr Eric Nielsen for a space to be built that would be suitable for St Paul’s large-group undergraduate program Alpha-Omega. Currently the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the St Paul’s chapel to the sacristy to make room for rock music and assorted silliness (along with a good Catholic speaker), and I feel strongly that the chapel should be sacred for the Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Mass. I was told that the budget for the new building did not allow for building an auditorium as part of St Paul’s. This would be perfect, and it already exists. A facebook friend commented this would be great for putting on Catholic plays like St Therese of Lisieux’s Joan of Arc. Yeah!]