New font reflects sacrament’s dignity

Permanent baptismal font completes interior renovations at St. Thomas Aquinas

By Janet Cleaveland

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On a fine mid-January day, little Aidan Anderson was the first one baptized at the newly blessed font that St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Camas worked for years to complete.

Since the church’s dedication in 1949, parishioners had made do with temporary baptismal fonts —various pottery bowls and, until now, a metal bowl sitting atop a wooden cabinet that could be wheeled around as needed.

Erecting a baptismal font that would reflect the “great dignity” of the sacrament quickly became a priority for Father Matthew Oakland, who arrived as priest administrator in 2011. “Baptism is that entry into the life of Christ and his church, and a baptismal font is an important reminder of that for those who come each week,” he wrote in an email.

A permanent baptismal font was the last of the interior renovations that Father Derek Lappe had commissioned as pastor before being transferred in 2008 to Our Lady Star of the Sea in Bremerton. The new altar, ambo, tabernacle stand, crucifix, paint and tapestries were in place. But the font was sidelined as archdiocesan officials looked at expanding or moving St. Thomas to a new location because of growth, Father Oakland said.

Then Holy Redeemer in east Vancouver opened in 2008, and St. Thomas was staying put.

Although the parish had safely stowed materials for the font at the parishioner-owned business that crafted the marble altar and ambo, getting the font fabricated and installed would not be easy.

Before work could begin, the archdiocese’s Liturgy Office needed to determine whether the font could have immersion capabilities, Father Oakland said. In the end, St. Thomas didn’t have the space to expand the font for immersion, or to add the plumbing that also would affect systems downstairs, where the parish has meeting spaces and a kitchen.

As the project moved forward, parishioners became “incredibly excited about the font,” Father Oakland said, and generous, too. He had designated the rebate from the 2012 Annual Catholic Appeal to pay for fabrication and installation, which included cutting out pews and adding a drainage system. The rebate nearly covered costs, but several generous parishioners stepped in to get the project over the top, he said.

By Jan. 12, 2014, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, St. Thomas had its font — so crucial to a life of faith — that complements the altar and ambo in style and substance.

Just six days later, the font was inaugurated with the baptism of Aidan, infant daughter of Ryan and Lindsey Anderson of Vancouver. Unlike when their other daughters were baptized, Aidan was the only child baptized that day, which added to the special feeling. “That made for a nice day,” her mother said, “a very intimate family occasion.”

February 13, 2014