Two Catholic University graduate students won a competition to design the alter and chair for Pope Benedict XVI's papal mass in Washington (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post January 29, 2008):
Twenty-one teams of students entered the university's competition to design the altar, pulpit, lectern and chair to be used in the Mass. Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the service.
The design, by John-Paul Mikolajczyk, 23, of Staten Island, N.Y., and Ryan Mullen, 24, of Manchester, N.H., uses a pattern of overlapping arches that is repeated on all the pieces, including the altar's base. The students, master's degree candidates at Catholic University's School of Architecture and Planning, said they were inspired by time they spent at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is adjacent to the campus, according to the university's public affairs office.
The chair has a very tall back with the papal coat of arms. The front of the pulpit, from where the pope will read, features images from the Bible.
Photo credit: Tony Fiorini, CUA - "Ryan Mullen and John-Paul Mikolajczjk and their winning papal design."
SILive.com has a profile of Mikolajczyk:
"It's pretty big," Mikolajczyk said earlier today. "It hasn't really sunk in yet, and I kind of like that it hasn't because that lets me stay focused on the work."
The next step is "design development," as he and his partner, working with architecture faculty and representatives of the Archdiocese of Washington, take a critical look at comments from the contest jury before beginning the actual construction. [...]
Back home on Staten Island, his parents, Zdzislaw (Jim) and Loretta Mikolajczyk, didn't even know about the contest until their son called Monday night with news that he'd won.
"This is such an honor for him," Mrs. Mikolajczyk said. "This was his own accomplishment."
The graduate of St. Rita's School in Meiers Corners and a 2002 alumnus of Monsignor Farrell High School did his undergraduate work in philosophy at Catholic University. His mother said his decision to apply for the school's graduate program in architecture was a bit of a surprise but not that much of a stretch.
"He was always constructing things," she said. "He never spoke about it, it was just innate."
Mikolajczyk, a parishioner of St. Adalbert's R.C. Church in Elm Park, doesn't think his winning design will guarantee him an audience with the pope.
"It's not like we spearheaded the ecumenical movement," he said. "But it should be some help in getting tickets to the mass."
If he does meet Pope Benedict, he'll help solidify a family tradition: His mother met a Polish cardinal visiting her Brooklyn parish in the 1970s. That cardinal went on to become Pope John Paul II, in whose honor her son was named.