On December 11, 2019 tragedy struck Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, when the structure was set ablaze, leaving the beloved building in ruins.
The heartbreaking event prompted an outpouring of local support and a collaborative vow from the community to ensure parish life continues for the local congregation.
The nearly 60-year-old parish was commonly referenced by its prominent location near the Franklin Lakes round-about. It was a local institution, and the community reacted in the church’s time of need with a series of fundraising initiatives. Businesses and townspeople alike offered donations to aid in the rebuilding of this iconic structure.
“The loss of Most Blessed Sacrament Church was a shock to the community, but the outpouring of local support was heartening,” said Frank Bivona who is the head of the Church Building Committee as well as the Mayor of Franklin Lakes. “Rebuilding would not only require artistic vision from the architect, but a dedication to logistical coordination and due diligence. Working with the Church Building Committee, Foresight and LAN Associates have come through on all fronts. We are excited for the day parishioners can attend services in the new building.”
By early January 2020, a plan had formed to start the process of rebuilding. Church leaders hired Foresight Architects to work in partnership with full-service architecture and engineering firm LAN Associates, who together are designing and overseeing the rebuild. LAN is a local firm with strong connections to the Franklin Lakes and Most Blessed Sacrament Church community, with an office only a few miles from the project site. The LAN design team alongside Foresight Architects brings extensive experience in ecclesiastical architecture.
“Most Blessed Sacrament Church was, and will once again be, an iconic structure. The project is unique for northern New Jersey, offering a large, flat, and open piece of land in the heart of the community,” said LAN President and Project Executive Kenneth Karle when asked about the project. “We set out to do justice to the history of Most Blessed Sacrament Church by providing an updated yet traditional facility at a landmark location. After sharing the design concepts with the parish community, the positive reaction confirmed that we hit that mark.”
By March 23, 2020, cleanup had begun at the church site. Crew members worked carefully while clearing the debris to ensure retrieval of any intact sacred and liturgical items. Since May of 2020, LAN and Foresight have been in full swing with the schematic design phase. Discussions about the final design are still underway, but some major determinations have already been made.
- The new church will be built to accommodate a main worship space with increased seating, which will match the original church layout and include a patterned circular design.
- The layout accounts for overflow capacity to accommodate holy days when heightened attendance is common.
- The rebuild will also include a daily chapel that can seat 80-100 people and a community gathering space.
- The church’s connection to the community and visual presence will be increased, not only by the structure’s welcoming design but also its placement, which will be closer to the nearby traffic circle.
- The style of the church will have a more traditional design in lieu of a modern aesthetic.
- A variety of building materials, like stone, slate, wood, and glass will be used to achieve a warm and inviting atmosphere.
- The historic bells from the surviving bell tower will be integrated into the design of the new building.
- The baptismal font will be in the front near the entrance with a direct line to the altar symbolizing the path to life.
- The Marist Brothers of the United States Province generously donated a statue of the Blessed Mother which used to be a centerpiece at Marist High School in Bayonne, New Jersey. This piece will be integrated into the new building.
The project team will continue to work on the design and documentation throughout the coming months. Church leadership, LAN Associates, Foresight Architects, and everyone involved in the project is determined to rebuild the house of worship in a timely and respectful manner. The project is in beginning stages for construction document planning, with hopes to begin construction within a year.