Children ring the bell after the dedication ceremony and first Mass at the new St. Anthony’s Church in Lake Nebagamon. The bell was transferred from the bell tower on the old church, and the ringing announced the new building is now a place of worship. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

The dedication of the new St. Anthony’s Church in Lake Nebagamon, which took place the afternoon of Sunday, June 20, was an occasion for celebration.

“We come to dedicate this sacred space to our God,” Bishop James P. Powers said in his homily, “transforming it from just any ordinary space to truly holy ground.”

The bishop affirmed what a special day it was – in their lives, in the life of the parish and in the life of the diocese. He encouraged listeners to feel a healthy and hard-earned pride for making it all happen and thanked them for the gift they have given to generations to come.

“What a witness, working together as a family,” he said, noting the challenges to the construction project with the complications from COVID-19 and the many individuals who went beyond the call of duty to bring it to completion.
Among those concelebrating were priests who have served and continue to serve the parish: Fr. Andrew Ricci, newly appointed Fr. Joji Reddy Boyapati, Fr. Adam Laski, Fr. Leon Flaherty and Fr. Dean Buttrick.

Particular mention was made of the foresight that Fr. Buttrick, who was pastor from 1997-2008, had for the building of the parish center. That project included future plans for a worship space to be added and which Fr. Buttrick was able to see come to fruition.

Bishop Powers brought attention to the readings for the Mass, those designated for the dedication of a church. The readings highlighted the Jewish roots of assembly and the Christian understanding of each person as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

“Today, everything that we do is done to help us to bring to life the reading,” he said, “… especially to lead us out of darkness into our Lord’s wonderful light.”

He noted the rites and actions are meant to “help appreciate who we are and what we do every time we gather in a space like this … celebrating that great gift of the Eucharist, that promise of our God’s great love for us – that hope, that promise of eternal salvation.”

The bishop focused on the first act of dedication, the sprinkling of the doors with holy water, doors through which the people come and go “to hear the Word of God, be nourished with the Eucharist and sent forth to take what you have received back into our world that so needs to hear that love and truth of our God.”

He also spoke about the altar and how it was not reverenced as part of the processional rite.

“It will be transformed into the most sacred piece as the altar where bread and wine will be transformed into the Eucharist,” Bishop Powers said and also explained how the ambo was no longer merely a podium but also a sacred piece once the Gospel was first proclaimed.

He iterated, “The altar is the center of our Eucharistic celebration, the sacrifice of our salvation. The altar is the sacrament from which all other rites and celebrations, and the very life this Christian Catholic community flows through.”

Bishop Powers explained in detail and depth each element of the blessings and dedication, culminating in the climax of the first Eucharistic consecration to take place on the altar.

“We are to be spiritual altars – as members of the Body of Christ,” he drew the parallel between the sacred space and the soul, “On which that sacrifice of a holy life is to be offered back to our God.”

“My dear people, I hope and I pray that you know that love of God in your hearts today as never before,” the bishop concluded. “May God bless you. May God bless the community and the world through you.”