By Celine Klosterman
FAIRFIELD — Stepping into St. Mary Parish’s new church feels almost like entering the old, Dale Mineart said.
Stained-glass windows transferred from the former church helped create that feeling for Mineart, who was baptized at the old St. Mary’s. “A lot of us were born in this parish,” he said. Though a closing service for the previous church was sad, he added, the new building is beautiful.
“Many, many thanks to countless parishioners and members of the great Fairfield and Jefferson County community who have made this particular day such a blessed one to celebrate,” Father Stephen Page, pastor, told about 600 people during St. Mary’s dedication Mass Jan. 31. “May we always treasure and remember this house of God and this abode of believers, whose primary purpose is for the glory of God, to honor the Blessed Virgin for the sanctification of humanity.”
That house of God was made holy Sunday as its altar was anointed; the church was sprinkled with holy water, and incense was burned.
“This edifice is the temple built of living stones, the place where the holy people of God will gather to hear the word of God, to pray together, to receive sacraments and above all, to celebrate the Eucharist,” Bishop Martin Amos said in his homily.
Citing Jesus’ words in the Gospel story of Zacchaeus chosen for the Mass — “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” — Bishop Amos said St. Mary Church is where we are found.
“As the Scriptures are proclaimed and the word broken open for us each week, we come to understand where we should be,” he told members of the 370-family parish, including Knights of Columbus; and visitors, among whom were 17 priests. “When we come to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, we are found again… In our liturgical prayer and our private prayer we find our proper place in the Lord as Jesus seeks us out and saves us.”
The bishop also linked St. Mary Church to Jesus’ words to Zacchaeus: “come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”
“Today I would come to both the house that is this church and the house that is our hearts,” Bishop Amos said, explaining Jesus’ message. “Each Eucharist that will be celebrated in this church, the Lord says, ‘Today I would come to your house.’”
At the end of the eucharistic celebration, he noted, the Blessed Sacrament would be placed in the tabernacle and a lamp lit to symbolize the Lord’s abiding presence and invitation home.
“…Accept the request of Jesus to stay in this house and your house today, for salvation has come.”
The bishop’s homily and presence and the rituals followed during the Mass helped make the liturgical celebration especially meaningful for parishioners Denise Mineart and Deirdre Bachar. Denise Mineart said she also appreciated visiting priests’ participation in the Mass and that many parishioners played roles in the celebration.
“I’m really taken with the dedication Mass,” said Bachar, who’s belonged to St. Mary’s for 14 years. Having grown up on the East Coast, she is more accustomed to old churches, but found her parish’s new building “amazing. It’s beautiful.”
Denise Mineart complimented what she saw as the church’s resemblance to an “old cathedral.” Mary Ann Ledger, who was married at St. Mary’s and whose children received sacraments there, also voiced appreciation for the new church’s reflection of history, especially the stained-glass windows from the former building. “I can still feel part of the old church here,” she said.