During the pontificate of Benedict XVI you have probably seen several examples of Catholic parishes that have restored or improved the interior of their churches, especially the sanctuaries. The New Liturgical Movement blog has featured several before-and-after photos, such as here and here.
Now there is an example of a parish that has greatly improved the exterior of its church. In a front-page article in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia's Arlington Catholic Herald, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary in Colonial Beach, Virginia, is profiled after investing five months and $325,000 to transform an early-1960s church into one more fitting for a rural Catholic parish.
For those who know the Diocese of Arlington, it is home to perhaps the ugliest collection of churches from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and even beyond. Experimentation, including just prior to the Second Vatican Council, led to churches in the round and semi-circle buildings that showcased the choir at ground level and minimized the distinction between sanctuaries and naves.
In recent years, pastors (often with the great assistance of more conservative assistant pastors) in the Diocese of Arlington have overseen the construction of new churches in the diocese that are cruciform in design. Others have hired traditional-leaning firms to redesign sanctuaries that were gutted or were never traditional to begin with. In addition to the costs involved with tradification, some of the priests have had to deal with the bishop there, who (as owner of all properties) has vetoed several proposals over the years for being too traditional (including a ban on new altar rails). N.B.: The same bishop prohibited the traditional Latin Mass until 2006. Today, nearly one out of every five parishes in the diocese has a traditional Latin Mass somewhere in the schedule as a result of priests taking their cues from the pope, and not just their local ordinary. Father Vincent Bork, the parochial vicar at Saint Elizabeth's pictured above, offers the traditional Latin Mass on Sundays and Thursdays at the mission church for the parish, Saint Anthony of Padua in King George, Virginia.
In this season of Advent, there is indeed great hope.