FROM THE outside, it had always been hard to pick out St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church as a church.
The building at the corner of Church and Prudence streets looked more like a school. In fact, when built it was supposed to be a school.
Looks, however, can be deceiving.
Under the direction of the church's pastor, the Rev. Rob DiMattei, the building is being transformed. The interior is being redesigned and, with the installation of new windows, the building can't be mistaken for a school any longer.
The new windows are noteworthy in that they aren't made of stained glass. Instead each window was painted by hand and then fired in a kiln.
"What you see is art," DiMattei said. "This is art brought from paper onto a large scale. It's never been done before. They were made by Artisan Glass Works in Baltimore and even they didn't know how it was going to turn out. It was the first time they tried to make them."
The designs were created by the Rev. Timothy Klunk, the church's former pastor.
"Father Tim is an artist," DeMattei said. "It was his vision. His gift to the community is his art. Michael Gerberding, a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art, took Father Tim's drawings and rendered them on a large scale. These windows are very unique."
The installation of the windows completes the second phase of the church's interior redesign. The first phase entailed having the walls and existing window openings made ready for the painted windows.
"There was a great need to improve the building," DiMattei said. "The building has been let go because the finances just weren't available. The plans had been in the works for some time so we just said, 'Let's do it. Let's get it done.' We thought that we would have to sell some land, but we were able to raise the funds and save the land."
DeMattei said that the changes that are being made to the church are merely a reflection of what is happening in the community.
"This church has come to life a little more in the past few years, and I can't take credit for that," he said. "It's a building block that every priest that has been assigned here has contributed to," he said.
"There are so many new developments," he added. "The people are taking their faith outside of the doors of the church and into the community. The message is that all are welcome in this place."
DeMattei ticked off accomplishments of the past two years.
"We've saved our land, have a new parking lot, a new stairway, new boiler - all major expenses - and the people have come through," he said. "I can't explain the draw here. It's not just my love for the place but the people's. They have such a great love for the church. The history, the faith in the church at large. It's a faith that goes much deeper. Maybe it's because it reminds me of the parish that I grew up in, in Middle River. People are so gracious and willing to help."
Bishop Gordon Bennett, urban vicar of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, will lead the blessing of the new church windows during a prayer service at 2 p.m. today. All are welcome. Information: 410-355-5740.
The Women's Progressive League of Patapsco Park will celebrate its 72nd anniversary at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Lloyd Keaser Center, 5757 Belle Grove Road.
Over the years, members of the Women's Progressive League have worked to improve the quality of life for residents of the Pumphrey community. The league was instrumental in bringing running water, street lighting and sidewalks to the community. Its most recent work was the placement of a "Welcome to Pumphrey" sign on Belle Grove Road.