The Jesuits’ Gesu Church in downtown Miami, the city’s oldest Catholic church, was recently renovated, and the pastor says the aesthetic improvement is only half the story. “We have always wanted to revive our presence in the heart of downtown because the area itself has been developed and the Catholic Church was not going to fall behind,” says Jesuit Father Eddy Alvarez, Gesu’s pastor.
The iconic downtown church dates to 1922, and in the last few months the building has gone through a transformation that’s included restoring the bell tower, painting the facade with new colors, revitalizing the interior and adding the emblem of the Society of Jesus. “We needed to modernize and attract new Catholics who have moved to the area,” says Fr. Alvarez.
Because the church is so close to the ocean, the salt residue and humidity had taken a toll on the building’s frame with cracks and other forms of dangerous deterioration, according to Jesuit Father Eduardo Barrios.
Today, there are three Jesuit priests working at the parish, which has seen growth and diversification of its parishioners, particularly following an influx of young professionals to the area.
“It now has a fresher look while maintaining its original beauty,” says parishioner Alberto Carrillo of the renovated church. “It’s very inviting if you are Catholic.”
To reaffirm the Gesu’s Jesuit identity, the IHS emblem — derived from the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus and featured in the Society’s crest — has been emphasized throughout the church. IHS is welded to the bars on doors and windows and is also painted on the panels containing the Creed along the Stations of the Cross.
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