Windows for Mother Cabrini

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Catholic Church
El Paso, Texas

Architect: Dennis Hyndman, AIA: Hyndman & Hyndman Architecture, Encinitas, CA

Altar: Creation and Resurrection
23.0' w by 16.5' h

Blessed Sacrament Chapel
2 @ 12.5' w by 14.2' h flanked by 2 @ 8.0' w by 12.5' h

Shrine of the Sacred Heart
8.0' w by 9.2' h flanked by 2 @ 4.7' w by 9.2' h

Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine
8.0' w by 9.2' h flanked by 2 @ 4.7' w by 9.2' h

Cupola: Crown of Light
24 @ 3.0' w by 2.8' h

Entrance Rose: Nativity Star & Cross Rose
5.0' diameter

Narthex to Nave Doors & Descending Dove Rose
23.0' w by 9.5' h; Dove: 5.0' diameter

Reconciliation Chapels
Interior: 2 @ 6.8' w by 8.6' h; Exterior: 2 @ 4.3' w by by 9.2' h

Choir Window
37.3' w by 8.4' h

ASG first heard about plans for a new place of worship for St. Frances X. Cabrini at a liturgical conference in California where Jeff met Fr. Frank and parishioners. After over twelve years of prayer, patience, giving and hard work by the entire parish, their sparkling new worship space was finally dedicated during a glorious desert sunset!

Jeff also met Dennis Hyndman, AIA, of Hyndman & Hyndman Architecture (Encinitas, CA) at that same conference. He never imagined that years later Mother Cabrini would give him a chance to work with Hyndman & Hyndman here in Texas. A “Master Plan” approach to the design of the stained glass allowed the Windows for Mother Cabrini to be created as a symphonic whole that is an integral part of the liturgy and architecture. To date over 60% of the Master Plan’s stained glass has been completed and installed.

DESCENDING DOVE & NARTHEX-TO-NAVE DOORS & WINDOWS: These interior windows welcome worshippers into the Narthex and guide them into the Nave. With the Baptismal Pool immediately beyond, the stained glass doors acknowledge the Holy Spirit flowing down from above. Reflective white opal glass animates the stained glass in subdued, indirect light. The emphasis here is on views along the building’s main axis from the Narthex and Baptismal Pool across the Nave to the Altar. Taken together, the Nativity Star/Cross Window, D0ve Window, Narthex Doors and Altar stained glass trace Christ’s life on Earth from Birth to Baptism to Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Abstracted wings or feathers extend across the doors and sidelights. Because the Narthex also serves as Cry Room, the white opal “wings” in the window’s upper reaches become clear, colorless glasses at eye-level. The “water” theme that connects and unifies all floor-level stained glass begins here near the Baptismal pool. In arid west Texas water is of heightened importance and a symbol of corporal and spiritual life. As the “water” continues to flow from window to window around the Nave, it recalls the Rio Grande/Río Bravo del Norte and this parish’s commitment and outreach to her neighbors on both sides of the river.

CREATION & RESURRECTION (Altar Window): The Northwest-facing Altar Window is the backdrop to the Mass, Altar and Crucifix (sculpted by John Collier, Dallas, TX). The shapes it contains stream out into the adjacent Blessed Sacrament Chapel and Choir Windows. Much as the “waters” of the Holy Spirit and “oceans” traversed by Mother Cabrini that flow from the Baptismal Pool, Narthex Windows and through the lower windows of the Nave, the “light” of God and His Creation streaks outward from this larger-than-life Crucifix and into the upper Choir and clerestory windows. Not only is the Altar Window a dramatic setting for the Crucifix, but it also provides a dramatic reminder of the glory God’s Creation.

THE BLESSED SACRAMENT CHAPEL’s stained glass enframes the Tabernacle like outstretched hands. While the opal glass echoes the “dove” and “angel wings” found elsewhere, there is also a profound sense of the miracle of the Eucharist. The white glass can be seen as the manna God provided during the wandering of the Israelites in the desert symbolizing God’s unexpected, undeserved gifts. The victory of light over darkness is underscored by the contrast between the bright central area of the window and darker color along its edges and in the adjacent side windows. The red glass is visible from the Nave and calls attention to the Sanctuary Lamp. From these starting points, worshipers can discover their own personal meaning in the stained glass. (The chapel’s Gates and Sanctuary Lamp were created by Rick Findora, Lodi, Wisconsin.)

The design for the SHRINE OF THE SACRED HEART’s stained glass was originally intended simply as one of the four “gem-like” Shrines and Chapels that surround the Nave. Conceptually, the stained glass for all four Chapels/Shrines can be thought of as the blossoming of the “seeds” anticipated in the Narthex Clerestories (future phase). The rich red glass at the focal points of these chapels are bright  “flowers”. Before anyone at Mother Cabrini had seen the preliminary stained glass design for this shrine, it was decided that this shrine would be known as “Shrine of the Sacred Heart”. Surprisingly there already was a Sacred Heart in the design! About all that needed to be added was emphasis on the “rose” and the drop of blood symbolizing Mary’s quiet suffering.

The stained glass in OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE SHRINE serves as the backdrop for traditional statues of Our Lady and San Juan Diego. The stained glass also provides a sense of separation and privacy within the shrine while blocking much of the harsh Chihuahuan Desert sun. These windows include symbols of the rich story of San Juan Diego and the Holy Mother’s appearances to him at the Hill of Tepeyac. A large central rose and smaller roses in the two side windows recall the miraculous winter roses that imprinted Juan Diego’s tilma with Our Lady’s holy image. Twelve Austrian lead-crystal prisms form a halo arching across the top of the window, above the sculpture. Amber tongues of flame complete the aura. The base of the sculpture is “cradled” above the familiar crescent moon of opal glass. A severed, black serpent (Satan) can be seen writhing along the bottom of all three windows as a reminder of the triumph of the grace of God and Mary over Evil.

Both RECONCILIATION CHAPELS include both interior and exterior wondows. The interior stained glass depicts the Keys to the Kingdom. Christ said “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19), by which He established the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance thereby giving the Church and her priests the authority to forgive sins. The Chapels’ exterior stained glass acknowledge their cruciform mullions. Opal and Opak German mouthblown glass emphasize the “Cross” and are visible from inside and out, day and night. The spiraling shape behind the Cross represents a Shepherd’s Crook or Crozier.

The CUPOLA WINDOWS float high above the Altar. These windows are as much about light as they are about imagery. Their amber glow softly brightens the Cupola. Opal white, amber and yellow glasses transform this ring of windows into a Crown Of Light for the Prince of Peace. This circle of windows can also be seen to represent the first rays of a new dawn. Regardless of the meaning found within, the Cupola Windows, like most of the Windows for Mother cabrini, underscore the victory of light over darkness.

CHOIR WINDOW: LIFT UP YOUR EYES: This window is the largest at Mother Cabrini. It invites us to “lift up our eyes” to God’s creation seen in the Franklin Mountains and beautiful West Texas skies. To preserve this unique view, only the lower 40% contains stained glass. The stained glass design streams up and outward from the Altar Window as it arches up into the four Clerestory Windows that encircle the Nave. Besides reinforcing the flow of stained glass between all windows in the Nave, the Choir Window’s design also subtly redirects wandering eyes back to the Altar.

The NATIVITY STAR & CROSS window is located in the Narthex above the Main Entry Doors. It embraces departing worshipers in benediction with the two most important symbols of Christ’s life on earth: the Star that announced his birth and the Cross representing his return to his Holy Father. (Installation photos coming)


Materials: Mouthblown European glass, Austrian lead-crystal prisms, lead, solder.