Bishop Crosby’s Homily During The Dedication Ceremony For Our New Church, October 22, 2023
My friends, the Dedication of a Church and Altar is a liturgical celebration that does not happen very often in this Diocese, or any Diocese for that matter. Today’s dedication of St. Catherine of Siena Parish is a joyful blessing for her Pastors, pastoral ministers, and parishioners, for the entire Diocese of Hamilton, and for me!
I begin these reflections by expressing my profound gratitude to all who contributed anything to the construction of this beautiful church, and most especially to Father Mark Gatto, first Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish. He is experienced enough as a Pastor to know that the project was not just about building a church, rather it was about the even more delicate project of bringing two parishes together – Our Lady of Lourdes and Corpus Christi – and building, with you, a thriving community of faith! Today is the crowning of that important work.
I am also grateful to Deacon Tom Vert, the man Father Gatto trusted to follow closely the entire construction for him, for me and for us!
I know Father Mark will do this more amply later, but I also thank the architects and the master builders who have worked to assure that this Catholic church, the first constructed in Hamilton on the south side of the Lincoln Alexander Expressway, is the visible sign of faith for many, drawing them in through its doors to worship the living God who made us and who saved us!
Many men and women have shared their God-given gifts and talents to build this beautiful and sacred temple; and so many others have contributed through generous financial gifts to make it possible! Thank you! Finally, I thank Mr. Jim Long, Chancellor of Temporal Affairs for the Diocese, who followed the construction carefully from the Chancery Office and assured that the financial resources were available when required.
The readings we have just heard proclaimed for this unique ceremony are mandated by the Church. Like the Sacrament of Baptism and of Confirmation – which are celebrated only once in a person’s life, the Dedication of a Church happens only once in the life of a parish. It is precisely why this celebration is so significant – it inaugurates the ministry that this place offers for the parish, for the Diocese and for the broader community!
The readings remind us that this church is set aside for sacred things: first and foremost for the encounter with God, both in the proclamation of His Word, as we heard in the First Reading from the Prophet Nehemiah; and in our communal prayer, when, at every Mass, we experience and receive from this altar the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ!
St. Matthew reminds us in today’s Gospel excerpt of Jesus’ words: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven!” Here Jesus’ healing and liberating power will be communicated and experienced.
I do not doubt that the men and women who have worked here for the past two years or more will attest to the uniqueness of this place and of the experience of “divine presence” as they went about their work. As you gather to pray here – alone perhaps, and certainly together as a community of faith – I am sure you, too, will experience the presence of the Risen Lord who inspires and who lifts us up. This is a place of “sacred encounter.”
The story is told of St. Jean Vianney, the Cure of Ars, in France, who noticed an elderly woman sitting alone in the front pew of the parish church every day, her eyes fixed on the crucifix at the front. One day he asked her what she was doing. “Oh good Father,” she replied, “I am looking at Him, and He is looking at me!” Prayer – no words necessary! Even His gaze can save us!
Few people know and love the parish church more than the Pastor. This is, we can say, his “creation”. Father Mark showed me around the building two or three times – the first time when the building was framed, not yet closed in, and the last time on Friday, even bringing me upstairs to see the air conditioning and other “workings” of the place! I assure you he knows every nook and cranny. He may not know how things work, but he knows where they are!
When the architect produced the original draft drawings, Father Mark studied them carefully so he could explain them to us for final approval! How many times has he walked around the place as it started to take shape, patting the walls!
He knows every light switch and every closet. He has approved every feature of the building – from the altar, to the tabernacle, to the main crucifix over the altar, to the Baptismal Font, to the Stations of the Cross, to the Dedication Candles which have been lit today, and will be lit at every anniversary of this Dedication Mass, to the sinks and toilets, to the kitchen warming ovens – and what a kitchen it is! He has considered what pictures will hang where and he knows what treasures have been brought over from one parish and what have come from the other! You name it – he knows it, much as every new parent knows every blemish on their newborn child, he knows this place intimately. Take time to let him explain things to you. He knows what makes this beautiful worship space special in our Diocese.
Parents bring their children to church to celebrate the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. In this way, they dedicate them to the Lord – praying for God’s special love and attentiveness for them.
In simple terms, this is precisely what we are doing here today. We have already sprinkled you and the walls with Holy Water – baptizing it, we might say. We will soon anoint the altar and the walls with Sacred Chrism – much as we do when we celebrate Confirmation. Finally, we will light the candles and incense the altar, indeed the entire sacred space, and celebrate the first Mass offered on the altar – which will be appropriately adorned for the occasion, the first Eucharist of a number impossible to count to be offered on it for how many years?!
Every time we celebrate, we remember and thank God for Jesus’ total gift of self for us, so that we are fed and drawn closer to Him and to one another – sisters and brothers. This church is Father Mark’s “baby” we might say, and it is ours – all of ours! Today we dedicate it to God as a place of faithful encounter and we dedicate YOU – Pastors and parishioners – to the care and mercy of the Lord of Life and Love.
Here sacraments will be celebrated at key moments in life: Baptism – of newborn children, or of adults who make a life choice about their faith; Confirmation – anointed by sacred Chrism and by the Spirit to be “more like Christ”, who is THE anointed one; Reconciliation – forgiveness for sins, failings, weaknesses, and healing and restoration to the fullness of community life; Matrimony – that fundamental and exclusive commitment of love and life – the “domestic church” as it is often called; Holy Orders – Ordination to the Diaconate and the Priesthood, promoting good order and assuring the pastoral care of the community; and the Sacrament of the Sick, where the ill are anointed and commended to the Lord who knows our suffering because he lived it!
We gather here to sing praise, to listen to Sacred Scripture proclaimed, particularly the Gospel stories that nurture and inspire us, to pray our thanksgiving, to be renewed in faith and courage, to be blessed and strengthened by His Body and Blood, and to be sent out to proclaim the Gospel by what we say, but even more by what we do and how we do it!
Parishioners will be welcomed to this church every day – and I expect that you will welcome visitors from near and far, who will want to take a peak, and enjoy, perhaps, the solace that a time of quiet and prayer can bring to one’s life. All who come here seeking peace and an encounter with the Lord, can truly say they are coming “home”!
This place is made “holy” by the people who come here; by what happens when they gather; and by the very One they encounter here. Here a relationship is nurtured between God the Father and His children, between Jesus Christ and His disciples, between the Holy Spirit and those who are anointed by His love.
Here community is formed – and transformed. We remember what Jesus said and did – and we leave here TO DO what Jesus did – to continue his good work in this community and beyond. Here we are fed the Body and Blood of Christ and we become what we consume; we become the Body of Christ – more like him every day!
Thank you to all who have made this sacred place another jewel in the Diocese of Hamilton. Thank you to the Building Committee, the Parish Finance Committee, the Parish Pastoral Council, the Liturgy Committee, the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Women’s League, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and to all the parish committees and parishioners whose generosity – time, talent and treasure – have already started to make St. Catherine of Siena Parish a vibrant community of faith, and liturgy celebrated at its best.
Today we give thanks to the Lord: for the blessing of a community in which we can live in peace and raise our children in security, providing them the very best Catholic education in the country; for the blessing of a beautiful and holy place of worship where we can gather to pray in freedom and peace; and for the blessing of a people who promote and nurture justice and peace here and abroad by what we say and do and how we say and do it.