FORT WAYNE — Hundreds met on the last day of the Christmas season as Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades blessed the new narthex at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Fort Wayne. In addition to the new gathering space, the bishop also blessed the new baptismal font and ambry, which is the repository for the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens and the Holy Chrism. The bishop then celebrated Mass for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord with all those gathered prayerfully inside the church.
In his homily Bishop Rhoades said, “Multitudes of people from all over Jerusalem and the region of Judea went through the desert wilderness to the Jordan River, one of the lowest points on the face of the earth (some 1,200 feet below sea level), really to the middle of nowhere, to hear John the Baptist preach and to be baptized by him. From Jerusalem, it would take many hours to walk there, through rugged terrain and desert heat. They did so because they thought John might be the Christ.”
The bishop shared, “Today is the feast in which we celebrate the arrival of the new Joshua at the Jordan River. The name ‘Jesus’ is the Greek for ‘Joshua,’ a name which means ‘God saves.’”
Jesus comes to lead Israel through the Jordan and to the new Promised Land.
“We celebrate today Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Certainly He did not need baptism or repentance. He was without sin. But He went into the waters like all the other people to demonstrate His solidarity with them. He shows us that He came to unite Himself to sinners whom He had come to save. This action, at the beginning of His public ministry, foreshadows how Jesus will bear the sins of all the world on the cross at the climax of His public ministry.
Bishop Rhoades spoke of how the catechism makes this point in its explanation of the Baptism of Jesus: “Jesus allows Himself to be numbered among sinners; He is already the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Already He is anticipating the ‘baptism’ of His bloody death.” (CCC 536).
The bishop suggested parishioners reflect on the following when they gaze upon the painting of the Baptism of the Lord by the new baptismal font.
At the moment of Jesus’ Baptism, St. Luke reveals, “heaven was opened.”
“The Holy Spirit came upon Him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said to Jesus: ‘You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased,’” the bishop said. “This was an amazing scene! Heaven stands open above Jesus. He came to earth to open heaven for us. God the Father proclaims who Jesus is: His beloved Son with whom He is well pleased.”
The third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, appears in bodily form like a dove.
Bishop Rhoades quoted Pope Benedict who wrote: “The mystery of the Trinitarian God is beginning to emerge, even though its depths can be revealed only when Jesus’ journey is complete.”
Bishop Rhoades noted, “Later, at the end of His earthly mission, Jesus will send His disciples into the world to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We entered into Jesus’ own Baptism when we became Christians, when we were baptized. We became beloved sons and daughters of God the Father. The Holy Spirit came upon us and gave us new life.”
“With the sacrament of Baptism,” he said, “we truly became a new creation, as St. Paul teaches. We received new life. God’s Spirit filled our souls and transformed us with His supernatural life.”
Regarding the new narthex, Msgr. John Suelzer, pastor of St. Charles for the last 30 years, said, “Many parishioners are so pleased that this has become a reality and value. It is my hope, it was always my dream, that this would be the community builder that we all seek in our church: To build up community and to build up God’s kingdom here upon this earth. I appreciate the generosity of our many parishioners, who gave so generously for this gathering space, to make it a reality.”
Jack Krouse, who managed the building project, said he immensely enjoyed working with Msgr. Suelzer. “He’s not our typical client in that he was so patient and contractors responded accordingly by giving 110 percent.” Weigand Construction was the contractor. Larry Weigand, chief executive officer, and retired Bob Weigand, who is a charter member of the parish, commented, “What a beautiful gathering space. We are so proud to be a part of a gathering space such as this.”
Pam Batt, a parishioner for the last 14 years believes, “It will be a well-used space for encouraging fellowship among parishioners. Viewing before funeral Masses will also be easier and nicer.”
Cassandra Smith, who is a fifth- grade student at the school said the narthex will “definitely help thin out the people coming though the doorways all at the same time.”
Complimentary coffee and doughnuts followed the celebration.
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