March 12, 2024 // Bishop

Bishop Dedicates New Altar at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Laetare Sunday – the Latin title meaning “rejoice” given each year to the Fourth Sunday of Lent – was indeed a day for rejoicing at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne.

The church’s renovations, which have been ongoing since last July, took a giant step toward completion on Saturday, March 9, when Bishop Rhoades presided over a special Mass for the dedication of the new altar and ambo. Father Terry Coonan, Pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, assisted with the Mass, along with Parochial Vicars Father Jake Schneider and Father LeeAllen Fortin.

Bishop Rhoades speaks to the faithful at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. – Photos by Eric Peat

“The church is beautiful, and I’m so happy to be with you today to dedicate the new altar and ambo,” said Bishop Rhoades. The Mass featured several extra rites, beginning with a sprinkling of both the congregation and the new altar and ambo with holy water.

In his homily, Bishop Rhoades remarked on the appropriateness of dedicating the altar on the vigil of Laetare Sunday, fitting for such a “joyful occasion.” He then recounted the events of the first reading, in which the people of Judah were exiled in Babylon for 70 years before being able to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple and altar. “I understand you were in exile in the gym – but not for 70 years,” Bishop Rhoades joked, referencing the six weeks that weekend Masses at the parish were celebrated in the St. Elizabeth gymnasium due to construction.

Bishop Rhoades places the relic of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton inside the new altar at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish on Saturday, March 9.

Bishop then detailed what makes an altar dedication such a special ceremony. He highlighted the use of sacred chrism oil, which is usually reserved for baptisms, confirmations, and ordinations, and is only used outside of these sacraments to consecrate a new church or altar. “Those are three sacraments that can only be received once, because there’s a permanent seal in our souls from baptism, confirmation, and ordination,” Bishop Rhoades said. “The altar, because it is the central object of the church where the holy sacrifice of the Mass is offered, is consecrated, dedicated to God, which means nothing else can ever be done on this altar except Mass.”

Bishop Rhoades rubs chrism oil into the surface of the altar during the Mass of Dedicaiton at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish on Saturday, March 9.

Bishop underscored the importance of the altar in every Catholic Church as the location where the sacrifice of Jesus becomes present to the congregation. “And at this altar, for many decades to come, the community of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish will gather with joy to be refreshed and nourished with Christ’s body and blood,” Bishop Rhoades continued. “When God’s people returned from exile in Babylon, they rejoiced when they rebuilt the Temple and erected a new altar, which was dedicated for their sacrifices of animals. The new altar we dedicate today is for the greatest and most perfect worship: the sacrifice of Jesus, which has gained for us salvation.”

Next, those gathered sang the Litany of the Saints, a reminder of their unity with the Communion of Saints. One ancient Church tradition that honors the saints is the placing of a saint relic within each altar. Bishop Rhoades helped to place a relic of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton inside the new altar, which two parishioners sealed shut. Bishop then read a prayer of dedication over the altar, referencing key figures and moments of salvation history and how Christ fulfilled each in the New Covenant. He also anointed the altar with chrism, pouring it in the center of the altar over the relic and in each corner of the altar. Once the chrism was rubbed in across the entire surface, Bishop Rhoades burned incense on the altar, praying: “Let our prayer rise to the Lord like incense in your sight. And as this house is filled with the pleasing fragrance, so let your Church be fragrant with the aroma of Christ.” Father Schneider and another parishioner then covered the altar to prepare it for the Eucharistic sacrifice.

Fathers Terry Coonan, Jake Schneider, and LeeAllen Fortin assist at Mass with Bishop Rhoades, alongside Deacon Rob Slocum, left.

Finally, the lighting of the altar signified the Church’s responsibility to shine Jesus’ love all around us. “May the light of Christ shine upon the table of this altar,” prayed Bishop Rhoades, “and may those who share the Lord’s Supper shine with His light.” At that moment, all the lights above and behind the altar were turned on for the first time, eliciting more than a few sighs of reverence from the pews.

Deacon Rob Slocum lights the candles for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The remainder of the Liturgy of the Eucharist continued as usual, with Bishop Rhoades consecrating the body and blood of Christ for the first time on the new altar. Just before the final blessing, Father Coonan expressed his gratitude to Bishop Rhoades for his presence. “Thank you once again, Bishop, for a beautiful celebration,” Father Coonan said. “The sanctuary is looking more and more complete, and it’s beautiful to be able to see the altar, and be able to celebrate Mass on the altar, and to be able to call it an altar, because it finally actually is. So, thank you so much for being here. What a joy that we got to do this on Laetare Sunday.”

Bishop Rhoades responded by thanking Father Coonan for his leadership in the renovations of the church, which he noted gave the church a bigger feel. “He did such a good job. I promise you I’m not going to transfer him in June – or Father Jake, for that matter, or Father LeeAllen,” Bishop quipped to many laughs and cheers. “Now, just so you know, you owe me big time for giving you these three good priests,” continued Bishop Rhoades. “But you have a wonderful parish, and I’m so grateful to all of you for your generosity for this beautiful house to give glory to God. That’s what it’s all about, this beautiful altar that is now sacred.”

Bishop Rhoades visits with parishioners after Mass.

A separate article detailing the renovations at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish will be published by Today’s Catholic at a later date.

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.