New dome celebrates the ‘richness of our faith’

Bishop Joe Vásquez blessed the recently completed dome at St. John Neumann Parish in Austin. The mosaic includes more than 10 million glass pieces. (Photo courtesy Rohn and Associates)

By Kanobia Blackmon
Correspondent

Beautiful, breathtaking, inspiring –– these three words describe the new mosaic inside the Dome at St. John Neumann Parish in Austin. After about 10 years of research, trips to Italy and countless hours of fine-tuning drawings and finalizing colors, the mosaic is complete. A dedicated group of visionaries, parishioners, priests, bishops and designers, created the 72-foot round mosaic dome comprised of more than 10 million glass pieces and more than 1,300 colors. The dome complements the sanctuary themed “Trinity through the Cross.” 
Bishop Joe Vásquez, joined by Fathers Bud Roland, pastor, and Kurtis Wiedenfeld, associate pastor, dedicated the dome at Mass on Sept. 11. The church was filled to capacity with onlookers who were visibly amazed at the magnificence of the theological expression of faith. 
Bishop Vásquez commended Father Roland and those who were involved in the project. Father Roland expressed joy for St. John Neumann Parish and thanked the staff and the committee who worked to bring the dome to fruition. 
“As we look upon it, may (the dome) inspire us. May we use it to teach our children to invite others into our faith,” he said.
Bishop Vásquez quipped that while he was unable to attend the dedication of the church due to his 2012 ad limina visit to the Vatican, he was glad to be present for the dedication of the dome. Reflecting on the mosaic as a visible sign of faith, the bishop said, “I think for me it’s a great sign of just being in the house of God. So anything that can inspire us to be closer to the mystery of God is worthy of his house. This dome is beautiful.”
The Dome
The concept of the dome began in 2006. The design was created by Rohn and Associates under the direction of the St. John Neumann Art and Environment committee. The late Romano Cosci, an internationally renowned religious artist from Italy developed the early drawings. The mosaic was fabricated and installed by Mellini Art Glass and Mosaics, which is based in Florence, Italy. 
The purpose of the dome is to tell a story. The Lamb of God, as taken from the Book of Revelation, is at the center. The lamb is standing on the scroll and the seven seals and is surrounded by four seraphim with the faces of a man, an ox, a lion and an eagle, which represent the four Gospels. 
The lamb is also surrounded by Eucharistic scenes: the sacrifices of Abraham and Melchizedek from the Old Testament, the wedding at Cana and the multiplication of the loaves and fish from the New Testament. The dome also displays the 12 apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel along with the river of living water and the tree of life. The Lord’s Prayer follows on the ring below. The prayer is completed at the tabernacle and the confessionals. The dome is outlined with four powerful archangels each holding a scroll which names the church as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. 
Lucille Lamy, the chairperson of the parish’s Arts and Environment Committee, said the mission of the project was to give glory to God.
“We also wanted the art to teach the richness of our faith and to inspire those who look upon it so that they will delve more deeply into the mysteries of their faith,” Lamy said. “We want it to bring us together in community.”
Kathleen Maglicco, the liturgical interior designer with Rohn and Associates, said a lot of research went into the details.
“We did so much research at the beginning to try to come up with the shields and the tribes and all of the colors. Everything is significant to the design,” she said.
The dome is unique because there is so much figurative work in it, she said. 
“I think it’s so overwhelming because you have to take a step back and it’s going to touch the future of the church and I think teach the children a lot about the faith, “ Maglicco said. “Hopefully draw them closer to the church.”
Renate Rohn, of Rohn and Associates, is the artist who created the original designs for the dome. She said the work was very labor intensive and detailed. 
“Even the shoes of the 12, the leaders of the 12 tribes and the apostles. We spent days designing different sandals everyone was wearing, different shoes,” she said. 
The end result is a beautiful mosaic, which the team gazed at with awe as they looked at the finished product that took years to complete. Parishioners, too, were impressed.
“It kind of takes your breath away the first time you see it,” said Raye Cekuta, a parishioner at St. John Neumann. “I would describe it as being not only exceptionally beautiful art that we trust is pleasing to God, but it’s going to be used as a tool. It will assist us as we meditate, pray and praise him.”
Parishioner Tim Von Dohlen said the dome was beautifully done. 
“It is such an incredible demonstration of our beliefs as Catholics through the wonderful inclusion of so many important facts of our faith in the dome,” he said. 
St. John Neumann Parish has more than 3,000 families and is located in the heart of west Austin, at 5455 Bee Cave Road. In a letter to the parish, Father Roland wrote, “We ask that our mosaic dome will inspire our community and many who will see and experience the images. We pray that the dome will serve to form and instruct our children, those new to the faith and everyone regardless of their journey.”
For more information about the dome, visit www.sjnaustin.org or facebook.com/sjnaustin.