St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne has a longstanding and rich history of adoring Christ in the holy Eucharist. An adoration chapel incorporated into the 2001 construction of the present church building, along with frequent exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during scheduled holy hours and parish events, have provided places and opportunities for countless seekers to enter into deep, personal prayer with the Lord in ideal, grace-filled ways.
To offer more opportunities for parishioners and visitors to spend time in prayer before the Real Presence, the Oratory of St. Mary Magdalene opened on the parish campus in November. A perpetual adoration chapel and columbarium located in the parish’s old cemetery, the Oratory of St. Mary Magdalene encourages the evangelistic underpinnings of the faith community and offers to all a peaceful, prayerful encounter with the risen Lord.
The addition of a place of endless adoration magnifies the work of the Lord and affirms His presence, Father Scheidt told parishioners during Mass in September, just prior to its dedication. “Our parish will always be at prayer.”
Twenty years before the Civil War began, a group of pioneer Catholics established a faith community a few feet from the corner of what are now called Auburn and Wallen roads. A log cabin church was erected for worship, and deceased members were laid to rest in the surrounding earth.
The current, expansive St. Vincent de Paul Church lies across Wallen Road from the original. It’s the faith home of more than 10,000 Catholics who continue to build on the legacy of those founding families.
The Oratory of St. Mary Magdalene aspires to honor the legacy of the old church and cemetery as well as provide for the Christian burial of current and future parishioners. It exists as a new missionary outpost of pioneering prayer on the ground where the parish began, Father Scheidt said last year. The chapel bears witness to Jesus Christ’s triumph over sin and death and the power of the risen Lord to make missionary disciples who will invite others to share His victory and new life.
It also fulfills a promise made more than 20 years ago by Father Scheidt, who in 1999 spent the summer serving St. Vincent de Paul Parish as a seminarian.
Appointed by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades eight years ago as the parish’s pastor, Father Scheidt arrived in Fort Wayne with a prayer in his heart from that summer. It took the form of a vow he made in the Old Cemetery, he told parishioners last year a note included in the parish family directory.
“Lord, if you ever make me Pastor of this Parish I shall see to it that you are worshipped and adored on this spot forever,” he committed.
Once settled in the St. Vincent de Paul rectory, it became clear to him that the promise was to be fulfilled. So on All Souls’ Day 2017, the first brochure explaining the planned construction was presented to parish members.
Into the deep
For two decades, several Scouting groups have flourished under the leadership of exceedingly dedicated St. Vincent de Paul volunteers. Operating initially out of a storage shed located in the Old Cemetery, the Scouts built up additional facilities next door to accommodate their growing numbers and the thousands of visitors who pack an annual Halloween Haunted Castle hosted by the troops for the parish and general public.
The Haunted Castle is the largest single event that takes place on parish grounds, welcoming more than 20,000 people per five-week fall season to the parish — many of whom might never have considered accepting a more direct invitation to visit “church,” Father Scheidt noted.
The graveyard of the members’ ancestors is geographically well-located to welcome all people to behold the risen Christ’s victory over sin, death and division, Father Scheidt wrote to parishioners in November. Rather than being indifferent to that fact, it was decided that the evangelical task of the parish compelled it to build on the Scouts’ hospitality and to welcome visitors “with the Lord’s love.” The storage unit was demolished in 2008 and work on the chapel began in the same location.
Creating authentic witnesses
“Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, Jesus spoke to her in the flesh and she was so filled with joy that she had to share it with other people and she wanted them to see it too,” said Father Scheidt. “The Oratory is designed to give everyone who comes the grace that Mary Magdalene received. The grace of beholding the risen Lord in the Eucharist, and be so filled with the Holy Spirit that they are compelled to invite others.”
During his homily at a Mass of blessing and dedication of the oratory in September, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades elaborated on the example of St. Mary Magdalene’s deep faith and unbridled joy of learning of the resurrection of Jesus. He declared her the secondary patron of the parish.
“I am happy to have blessed this beautiful Oratory today, a place of spiritual refreshment, of adoration of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, on this sacred and historic ground of the old Saint Vincent de Paul Church, here at the resting place of the faithful departed of this parish,” the bishop said during the Mass. “In the beautiful art of this Oratory, we see many quotes from the Old Testament book, the Song of Songs, and we heard a passage from the Song of Songs in our first reading today. The bride is seeking Him whom her heart loves, but she could not find him.
“It’s the same with Mary Magdalene in the Gospel today. She is seeking the Lord whom she loved, but does not find him. She reported to the apostles: ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.’ She went back to the tomb and wept. Her tears reveal her love.” But that was not the end of her story, nor that of those who are now saved by the divine sacrifice.
Both Mass and eucharistic adoration are ordered to mission, the bishop noted.
”We who encounter Jesus in His love, like Mary Magdalene did, have a mission to show charity to our neighbors, which takes the form of concern for others, tenderness, compassion and mercy. Pope Benedict XVI called this “Eucharistic consistency.” We are counter-witnesses and hypocrites if we spend a Holy Hour in adoration and go forth and show anger, disdain or malice towards our neighbor. The Eucharistic form of the Christian life is sacrificial love. This is what can transform our nation and the world which so desperately needs love and respect, peace and solidarity, justice and fraternity.
“I pray that St. Vincent de Paul Parish will be an example in our diocese of a vibrant authentically Eucharistic Christian spirituality. As Pope Benedict taught: “the celebration and worship of the Eucharist enable us to draw near to God’s love and to persevere in that love until we are united with the Lord whom we love.” He prayed that St. Vincent de Paul and St. Mary Magdalene would intercede for the parish, and that like the two saints, its members might be authentic witnesses of the mystery of the Eucharist, the mystery of Christ’s love.
Visitors, passers-by, those drawn to Scouting program events and all others, especially those working at, visiting or served by nearby Parkview and DuPont hospitals, are welcome and encouraged to join parishioners in prayer throughout the day, every day. The Oratory is open for silent prayer from 5 am. To 8 p.m. From 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. it is accessible only by those who have committed to a particular hour of nocturnal adoration and hold an electronic key, which can be obtained from the parish office.
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