St. Anne Church in Somerset was rededicated Nov. 26, the Solemnity of Christ the King, after a two-year process of restoration and renovations. Alongside structural and efficiency improvements, the most notable change was made through architectural and artistic painting on the church’s interior. The parish, whose first log-built church dates back to 1856, dedicated the existing church building in August 1917, with help of architect E. L. Masquery, who has designed the Cathedral in St. Paul and Basilica of Mary in Minneapolis. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

As parish members, family and friends of St. Anne Catholic Church entered the newly renovated space for the afternoon rededication Mass on Nov. 26, both the old and new aspects of the church building were apparent.

The sound of creaky wood floors mixed with the smell of newly varnished wood and the sights of well-worn pew number plates as well as an empty tabernacle. The once plain white walls are now painted in grayish blues and warm beiges in architectural patterns highlighted with ornately painted details. Eyes are drawn to the altar with the colors becoming clouds surrounding God the Father and angels, with clouds focusing on the altar – where the same crucifix was placed, but beneath a gold-painted dome with an image of the Holy Spirit, whose emanating rays mirror the rays of light reaching out from the Father above.

Bishop James P. Powers welcomed all present, “coming together as the one Body of Christ to dedicate this sacred space,” and mentioned the past pastors of St. Anne’s who were concelebrating the Mass.

A representative of the parish presented the bishop with the building plans and specifications for the renovation, which he said were completed on time and on budget. He noted the various structural and energy efficiency improvements as well as the interior beautification restored “to the grandeur that was envisioned during its construction, over 100 years ago.”

The sprinkling rite followed after the bishop blessed water and, assisted by deacons, sprinkled the people, the temple, the walls and altar of the church, “as a sign of the cleansing waters of salvation in which we have been washed.”

As he began the homily, Bishop Powers brought attention to the various rites and elements of the Mass of rededication, “everybody and everything possible to bless and send the Holy Spirit upon this space and each one of us.” He invited applause for all who had given selflessly of time, talent and treasure to make the renovations possible.

He turned to the readings for the liturgy, which he noted superseded even those for the church year’s Solemnity of Christ the King, to show “the specialness of what we’re doing even trumps that.”

From the Old Testament book of Nehemiah relating the re-establishment of Jewish faith practices after exile to reading from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians emphasizing Christ as the one true foundation, to the Gospel of John’s account of the cleansing of the temple, the bishop preached, “through baptism, we are the temple of God.”

“Light came into the world,” he continued, “but people preferred darkness. Everything we do today is an attempt to bring forth that light. To live as temples and to understand who and what we are about any time we gather to celebrate the Eucharist.”

Bishop Powers pointed out other details unique to a Mass of dedication – that the altar was bowed to, but not kissed during the procession; the special prayer and presentation of the lectionary before it was read at the ambo for the first time; the consecration with Sacred Chrism that would soon after anoint the altar, making holy “the table where the community will come together;” the incense burned to signify the prayers going up to God and candles lit for the first time symbolizing Jesus as the light for all peoples; and the praying for the first time of the Prayer of Consecration.

“Without sacred Scripture, nothing of what we’re about as we gather today, or any day, makes sense. Without that meditation and prayer bringing us together to this table… there’s no way that we can have the strength or courage that we need to be those temples of God that we are created to be.

“Because just as Christ is head and teacher, is the true altar we as members and disciples are to be spiritual altars on which the sacrifice of a holy life is offered to our God. Only then will we be able to begin to understand and appreciate the truth and the free and redeeming, infinite love of our God, which he so desperately wants to shower upon us every day, every single moment of our lives.”

The Litany of Supplication was sung, led by the choir. After the Prayer of Dedication and Anointing of the Altar, the choice sang “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” (Come, Holy Spirit) while the altar and entire church was incensed. The altar was then covered and adorned with candles and flowers which were brought forth by parish youths.

Before the concluding rite, the tabernacle was inaugurated with prayers and incensation of the Blessed Sacrament, which was then processed around the outer aisles of the church. The final element was the lighting of the sanctuary lamp, which will remain lit as long as the Eucharist is present.

In comments offered by parish priest Fr. Joseph Madanu, he said, “This is truly the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.” He acknowledged the many, many persons by name who has been instrumental over the last two years in all aspects of the renovations.

He echoed words shared in the parish bulletin, of the blessing the St. Anne’s parish and church has been for more than 150 years, years during which “some of us, and our children, and our children’s children were baptized here, received their first reconciliation, first holy communion, confirmation and sacrament of marriage. And in times of sorrow once again this church has been here to comfort us and offer us hope.

“This is the place where we receive Christ into our hearts and where we listen to the Word of God and grow in faith day by day … Thanks for passing on this faith and this beautiful tradition to our next generations.”