New pews installed in the Church of the Incarnation

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During the week of Oct. 9, new pews, handmade specially for the University of Dallas, were installed in the Church of the Incarnation after months of waiting. The new pews not only allow more Mass-goers to attend Sunday Masses, but are also easier to maintain than the old upholstered chairs. 

“The order was placed in December of 2021, and per the contract, the pews were expected to be delivered in 150-180 days. However, due to a number of factors, including supply chain issues and a shortage of workers on the company’s end, they did not arrive in June 2022 as expected. While we had then hoped to have this project completed before the return of students to campus in mid-August, this too did not become a reality,” explained Karen Bless, assistant to the chaplain and rector. 

The decision to replace the chairs was not spontaneous. Besides the fact that they were already pretty old, it was also not easy to maintain and sanitize them during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was one of the starting points of the discussion on whether something new should be purchased to replace the old chairs.

“We originally looked at some estimates to get them all reupholstered. But that was very expensive. And with pews, we could add more seating. And that also addresses another problem that often on the Sunday Mass it’s standing room only. And so if we could add more chairs, more people could sit during the sacraments, which I think is a good thing,” said Father Joseph Paul Albin, O.P., chaplain and rector.

The pews were handmade by Ratigan-Schottler, a family owned company based in Beatrice, Nebraska. Their representative visited UD on multiple occasions to assess the situation and see what could be done. After deciding on style, color and other parameters, the purchase was made. 

“We were lucky and blessed that we had a trust dedicated to maintenance and structural change in the Church. And so we’re able to withdraw from the trust to pay for the new pews,” said Fr. Albin.

Due to the unique shape of the Church of the Incarnation, specifically the curve of the back wall,  the manufacture of the pews required special attention to their forms, so that they would be placed in the right way. 

“You’ve got a curved shape that you need, and the pews will make it possible to not have to only enter on the sides, but there will be some cut-ins and I think those are a little complex. And we’re also, so everything matches, having the choir area updated,” noted Dr. Jonathan Sanford, president of UD. 

Ratigan-Schottler promised to send a double sized crew, so they can shorten the time it takes to install the pews, as Mass can not take place in the Church for the days in which they’re being installed. For the week of Oct. 9, daily Mass was relocated to Anselm 230 so that students could still attend. 

“While it was certainly stressful and a test of patience, I think everyone can enjoy this beautiful new addition to the Church of the Incarnation. And I do hope it provides a more prayerful atmosphere for all who come to worship here,” Bless said.

The old chairs were given to The Highlands School, which is the Catholic preparatory school next door to UD. Even though the pews are still in the process of being installed, the Church reopened for Mass on Saturday, Oct. 15.

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