bishop braxton dedicates St. Mary Church in Mt. Vernon
Story and photos by LIZ QUIRIN
Bishop Edward K. Braxton led the congregation into the new St. Mary Church in Mt. Vernon Jan. 13 after accepting architectural plans for the facility and after pastor, Father John Iffert, ceremoniously “unlocked” the doors.
(Click on the photo at right for a slide show of the event.)
A handbell choir from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Herrin processed into the church, leading visiting clergy and more than 600 people into the church for the dedication of the church and altar.
People were overwhelmed with gratitude that the day had finally arrived.
“This has been awesome,” Barbara Lawrence said.
A parishioner for 50 years, Lawrence said the transition to the new church has been “wonderful” with Father Iffert.
Terry and Marijo Swinnen were married in the old church, and they said they were “ready to enjoy the beautiful dedication.”
The couple “loved the way they incorporated the old with the new.”
Statues and Stations of the Cross from the old church blended seamlessly into their new places and spaces.
“Every aspect was just outstanding,” Mary Beth Mezo said.
Playing the piano kept her tears of joy at bay, she said. “I was glad I had the piano to keep from crying.”
Throughout the rite, people watched and listened as the relic of St. Boniface was carried into the church and later deposited beneath the altar.
“The presence of the relic of the martyr provides a witness to the Church’s belief that the Eucharist celebrated on the altar is the source of grace that won sanctity for the saints,” the program notes said.
After the gospel reading for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Bishop Braxton spoke to the people not only about their new church and gathering space but also about taking “Jesus of Nazareth out of the manger and into the world.”
The bishop described the new church as a “sacred space,” and “the altar and wall of the church were anointed with Sacred Chrism. Chrism is perfumed oil consecrated by the bishop during Holy Week,” according to the program.
“The anointing of the church signifies that it is given over entirely and perpetually to Christian worship. The four anointings (of the walls) signify that the church is an image of the holy city of Jerusalem, according to information in the worship aid.
“After the altar is dedicated with the Sacred Chrism, incense is burned on the altar to signify that the sacrifice of Christ, which is there perpetuated in mystery, ascends to God as an odor of sweetness. It is also a sign that the prayers of the people rise up pleasing and acceptable, reaching to the throne of God,” according to the program.
At the end of the liturgy, Father Iffert thanked the many people involved in bringing the church from idea and dream into reality.
He described the day as one “we have been looking forward to seeing for a long time.”
Father Iffert thanked everyone, beginning with Bishop Braxton and Bishop Stanley Schlarman “who has encouraged me personally since the first days of my priesthood.”
Although the weather probably prevented some priests from attending, Father Iffert thanked the priests who were able to come, including Msgr. Daniel Jurek, the former pastor, and Father Robert Zwilling who spent time at St. Mary’s.
“Finally,” Father Iffert said, “thank you to all who made this possible in a direct way; St. Mary’s parishioners, donors and benefactors, architects, builders, artists, and artisans. We are very proud of the work that you have wrought for the Glory of God.”
Excerpt from Bishop Braxton's homily at the dedication.
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