Click on the photos to enlarge. See if you can find the angel in the 1992 photo.
Sacred Heart Church, built at Broadway and Ferry in 1886, had plain off-white interior walls for twenty-two years. In 1908 the pastor, Fr. Maurice Bric, commissioned Ferdinand Baraldi of Philadelphia to paint the church and place on the ceilings and walls seventeen large canvas paintings. Fourteen of the paintings measure more than 60 square feet.
The contract was signed on April 22, 1908, by Fr. Bric and Ferdinand Baraldi to have the whole job completed by September 16, 1908, at the cost of $2,900. For every day the job remained unfinished after September 16, a penalty of $10 would be deducted from the fee.
In 1925 during the pastorate of Fr. John McCloskey the area around the altar was painted. Marbleized plaster was installed there and marbleized material was placed on the wainscoting around the church.
In 1938 during the pastorate of Fr. Tom Hannon, the whole church was painted and decorated, though the canvas paintings were not touched. New terrazzo floors, new lighting fixtures, etc., were installed.
At some period, an attempt was made to clean the paintings, but the cleaning agent was too strong, and some of the colors were bleached.
In 1992, fifty-four years later, the church, drastically deteriorated from water damage, deep cracks, and peeling paint, was in need of extensive repair. So the present renovation of the church interior was started in the pastorate of Fr. Michael Doyle. Over the past five years Othmar Carli, an Austrian-born artist and restorer of paintings, has directed the restoration of Sacred Heart. He taught Don Harle, a local house painter, a number of important skills, and the work has proceeded. Othmar has at the moment restored seventeen large canvas paintings and Don Harle, working alone, has cleaned the walls and ceilings, fixed the cracks, and repainted almost all the surfaces of the body of the church: the walls, the window frames, and much of the ceiling. He has painted and grained the massive supporting beams as well as the wainscoting, adding a stenciled border at the top. Del Lenhart did extensive wood work in the church over the past five years. (The altar area awaits restoration.)
It is our hope that great restoration and beautification will extend into the Sacred Heart neighborhood, so that the people, the churches, the government, and the business community will together restore the City of Camden.
Othmar Carli and Don Harle
On Friday evening, October 2002, at Auletto’s in Almonesson, we thanked God for the restoration of our Church at Broadway and Ferry in Camden, New Jersey. We celebrated our Creator as the Supreme Artist and we celebrated Othmar Carli and Don Harle, the two artists God created to restore our church. In Othmar’s art, cups are often inserted “to hold the blessings”, he says. At his direction, Don painted twelve cups on the walls of Sacred Heart. They hold many blessings. None better than Othmar Carli and Don Harle. Our cup runneth over.
When we consider the restoration of Sacred Heart, which is still in process, we should put the names together of the two artists who have achieved the miracle of its present beauty, Othmar Carli and Don Harle. Only God could have brought these two men together…an artistic team of unmatchable worth to Sacred Heart. In 1991, Michael Doyle asked John Doyle of Haddonfield for a restoration artist. The person he recommended said: “The man you need is Othmar Carli.” He came in December 1991, sat alone in the church for two hours and took Sacred Heart into his own. Then he spent the week studying the condition of the church. It was love at first sight, when Don Harle visited Sacred Heart in 1980. “I loved the oldness of this place with a past,” he said, “parishioners long dead are still near.”
In February 1990, Sacred Heart had many paint jobs and Don’s mother, Rosemarie McBride, working at the parish office, suggested that he, a house painter, would do “a good job”. He came and never left. Little did he know that he was destined for extraordinary work in Sacred Heart Church.
Othmar, originally from Austria, an internationally respected artist and restorer of special buildings, would soon take Don’s untested talent and expand it beyond his wildest dreams. Othmar the master, ever ready to share his skills; Don, the highly gifted student, open as a sponge to receive. Their talents fused into a team which has reverently and magnificently restored Sacred Heart Church. Work began in March 1992. Then Othmar’s own heart needed restoration with a triple bypass. On June 14th, two canvas paintings were taken down, one an angel, the other Mary Magdalene washing the feet of Jesus. One by one, Othmar restored 17 huge paintings at his studio in York, PA. Each one took countless hours and 14 painstaking steps. All the while Don was cleaning surfaces with chemicals on a small pad. It was like cleaning a big house with a toothbrush. He also knitted back the massive cracks. On October 30th, 1992 Don Harle’s brush of paint hit the first square inch of Sacred Heart and when the job is completely finished, his brushes will have touched every square inch of Sacred Heart’s walls and ceilings. “I swept the floor too”, he says. Othmar also restored the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 14 Stations of the Cross, and continues to guide the great transformation of our church. The sanctuary still awaits its turn. But Othmar also has created a giant painting called “The Peacemakers” for the wall over the baptismal font. Over the years as Othmar and Don took Sacred Heart’s old building into their hearts and transformed it, the people of Sacred Heart took them into their hearts with admiration and gratitude.
And so, in gratitude, Sacred Heart presented Othmar and Don with beautiful, inscribed cups filled with God’s blessings on their hearts and hands!