Immediately after the Young Adult Liturgy Conference, I headed down to Miami for the Conference for Catholic Facility Management, or CCFM. The highlight of the trip was consuming monstrous amounts of Cuban food, my very favorite.
Part of the conference program was a guided tour of a brand-new parish called Our Lady of Guadalupe. The tour centered mainly around green building initiatives and energy efficiency (the place is very efficient, in case you’re interested in that), but I thought the church was artistically interesting and took some photos to share with you.
OLG is located in Doral, a suburb of Miami. We were told that Doral is an industrial suburb, so many of the buildings are boxy warehouses or strip malls. (Fun fact! Shaq is a reserve police officer for the City of Doral.) The architects kept this “local context” in mind when designing the church.
Extending out into the parking lot, in a direct line from the altar, is a Via Dolorosa with Stations of the Cross and images of Mary. At the end of this walkway is a white Carrara marble statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe by the artist Nilda Comas. The intent was not only to create a private devotional space, but to create a space that focuses the community’s attention on the way into Mass.
Above the entry doors is a phrase spoken by Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego: No estoy yo aqui que soy tu Madre? Am I not here, who am your mother?
I didn’t get a chance to ask about the geometric motif, seen here and in various places on the inside. I believe it comes from the Basilica in Mexico City, but I’m not sure.
The interior is an airy, elegant space, cool and refreshing in the oppressive Florida heat. The walls are white and largely unadorned (though we found out that the large wall surfaces flanking the sanctuary are used for projector images, which stinks.) The design is cruciform, incorporating elements of the basilican plan and other traditional architectural vocabulary.
It’s worth mentioning that the light was perfect for the photo above, but none of the lights in the church were on. It’s very efficient and breezy — something that certainly feels heavenly in South Florida.
The sanctuary and reredos design is borrowed directly from the actual Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
The stained glass windows around the sides illustrate the story of St. Juan Diego and the apparitions of Our Lady. Florida weather events don’t allow for huge amounts of glass in construction, but these provide a pleasant burst of color amid the stark white walls.
The rear wall features a massive stained-glass image of the Ascension. My photo doesn’t do it justice, but notice the recessed cove lighting on either side of the wall. This small detail really makes the wall seem to “float” — a cool effect.
The exterior walls are detailed with patterns from the mantle of Our Lady.
The church is positioned right next to a busy highway, so there is a colossal mosaic of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe facing traffic, for all to see.
The parish also has a daily Mass chapel and a perpetual adoration chapel, which are located adjacent to the main church. Each room makes up half of a circle, the round, small spaces designed by the architect to represent Mary’s womb where we intimately encounter Jesus Christ. I didn’t take any photos, but this one comes from the architect’s website:
The four-petaled jasmine plays an important role in the symbolism of the image of the Virgin. To the indigenous, pagan people of Guadalupe, the flower was a symbol of the sun and their highest god. On the tilma, the jasper appears over Mary’s womb, signifying the resting place of the Light of the World and the One True God. In the church, a jasmine pattern is used in the light fixtures…
and on the altar in the adoration chapel. (There are few photos of this, which is a very good thing, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.)
My single reservation — it’s easy to be a critic — centers around the question of whether our churches should resemble warehouses. Even in this case, where the “local context” is elevated, I wonder if sacred architecture shouldn’t surpass it to be something totally other. Nevertheless, I found the church beautiful, reverent, and conducive to prayer.