Monday, November 18, 2013

A New Church - and Some Old Ones

Yesterday, I attended the Dedication of the new Divine Mercy Church for Knoxville's Vietnamese Catholic community. For many years, that community had found a home at Knoxville's downtown "Mother Church" of the Immaculate Conception. When I arrived as pastor at Immaculate Conception in 2010, a Vietnamese priest would regularly travel from Kentucky once each month to celebrate Mass here in Vietnamese. As the community continued to grow, so did the need for a more permanent arrangement. In June 2012, the Bishop established the Divine Mercy Catholic Mission, with its own resident Vietnamese priest, in order to meet more fully the expanding needs of the Vietnamese Catholic community.  Inevitably these needs include finding a permanent church, which happened this year when the diocese acquired a former Protestant Church building. The Divine Mercy members started doing renovations at night and on weekends in order to transform it into a Catholic church. The result is an attractive modern church, which was solemnly dedicated yesterday, its altar and walls consecrated by anointing with sacred chrism (photo). The beautiful ceremony was a fitting celebration of how much the Vietnamese Catholic community in Knoxville has accomplished since its modest beginnings at Immaculate Conception parish, which today joins the Vietnamese Catholic community in joy and gratitude to God on this happy occasion and important milestone in the life of this growing Diocese.

Participating in the elaborate ceremony of the Dedication of a Church reminded me of the last such event I attended - the rededication of the renovated Saint Malachy's church ("the Actors' Chapel") on 49th Street and Broadway in New York City in November 1994. I was then there part-time as deacon and was actively involved in helping the pastor plan the ceremony and served as deacon at the dedication liturgy. One year later, I celebrated one of my First Masses there, the Mass of the Anniversary of the Dedication.

Given that churches are such special places, so central to who we are and how we live as Catholic Christians, it is no surprise that the Church has continued the Old Testament custom of keeping the anniversary of Dedication as a festival in its own right. And given the importance of the apostolic foundation of the Church, it is likewise fitting that today the Church commemorates the dedications of the Roman Papal Basilicas of Saint Peter in the Vatican and St. Paul Outside the walls, built to honor the sites of the respective burials of St. Peter, whose special relationship with Jesus is highlighted in today's Gospel [Matthew 14:22-33] and Saint Paul, whose arrival in Rome we just heard recounted in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles [Acts 28:11-16, 28-31]. Today's date recalls the dedication of the new Saint Peter's Basilica by Pope Urban VIII in 1626, but the originals of both basilicas date back to the 4th century and have been continuous sites of pilgrimage. Those two ancient churches, so intimately connected to the memory of the two great apostles and associated with the ministry of the successor of Saint Peter, the Pope, obviously occupy a special place in the Church's life. But every church, however small like St, Malachy's, or new like the Divine Mercy Vietnamese Mission, is a vital center where the Risen Christ's continued presence is daily experienced among and by his consecrated and dedicated people.

Homily for the Dedication of the the Basilicas of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Immaculate Conception Church, Knoxville, TN, November 18, 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment