Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer
July 24, 2023 // Diocese

New Altar at Oratory of the Holy Family Dedicated

Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer

Last summer, Bishop Rhoades visited the Our Lady, Patroness of America Center in Rome City, with the hope to dedicate a new altar for the celebration of Holy Mass. While he was able to formally rename the chapel “Oratory of the Holy Family” and permanently reserve the Blessed Sacrament there, during installation of the altar stone, it became seriously damaged and needed to be completely replaced.

While this was an unfortunate delay, President Al Langsenkamp remained hopeful and saw God’s providence at work even in the tragedy. He said then, “We are excited that Bishop Rhoades will be coming back to do another Mass!”

Photos provided by Our Lady, Patroness of America Center
Bishop Kevin Rhoades consecrates the new altar at the Oratory of the Holy Family in Rome City on Saturday, July 15. The ritual requires pouring sacred chrism onto the corners and center of the altar, which the bishop then spreads over the surface with his hands.

A year later, these expectations have been fulfilled as Bishop Rhoades returned to the Oratory on Saturday, July 15, and successfully dedicated the new altar and blessed a new ambo. Designed by local liturgical architect Phillip Breckler and constructed by Larry Campbell of Te Deum LLC, the altar depicts iconic symbols of the Holy Family and now holds relics of St. Agnes and St. Gallicanus.

The Mass for the Dedication of an Altar had special readings reflecting the sacred character of the event. In his homily, Bishop Rhoades exclaimed, “In the first reading from the book of Maccabees, we heard the account of the dedication of the new altar in the temple of Jerusalem after it had been attacked, pillaged, and turned into a pagan shrine. The books of the law had been torn up and burned and any Jews found practicing their religion were tortured and executed. Faithful Jews revolted and fought back, as Judas Maccabeus formed and led a Jewish army. Even though they were greatly outnumbered, they defeated Antiochus Epiphanes and his forces, recapture Jerusalem, rebuild the city, and purify the temple. For eight days, the faithful Jewish people ‘celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered burnt offerings and sacrifices of deliverance and praise.’”

Bishop Rhoades places the altar stone into the new altar at the Oratory of the Holy Family in Rome City on Saturday, July 15. The stone covers the first-class relics of St. Agnes and St. Gallicanus.

Emphasizing the similar jubilation felt on this day, Bishop Rhoades continued, “What we began last summer here at the Our Lady, Patroness of America Center with the rededication of this Oratory and its dedication to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is completed today with this celebration of the dedication of this beautiful new altar. While the Jews celebrated the dedication of the Jerusalem temple, how much greater must be our joy in knowing that on the altar I will dedicate, an infinitely greater sacrifice will be offered; not burnt offerings of animals or crops, but the sacrifice of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ and the Church. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass fulfills the meaning of the sacrifices that were offered on the altar of the temple in Jerusalem. On this altar and on the altars of Catholic churches and oratories throughout the world, Christ’s sacrifice is made present for our salvation and for that of the whole world.”

He emphasized that “Pope Benedict once said, ‘Christ’s presence is a dynamic presence that takes hold of us to make us His, to liken us to Him. He attracts us with the force of His love, bringing us out of ourselves to be united with Him, making us one with Him.’ This is what happens at every Mass. The real presence of Christ makes us His temple, His house, and all together we form His Church.”

Bishop spoke further about the uniqueness of this particular liturgy, saying, “I will consecrate the altar with sacred chrism. This is quite unusual because chrism is usually used at the consecration of persons, not things. We were anointed with sacred chrism when baptized and confirmed. Priests and bishops are anointed with chrism at their ordination. When I consecrate this altar, I invite you to think about your own consecration. What does it mean to be consecrated? It means to be ‘set apart.’ This altar will be set apart for divine worship, nothing else will be done on it, it cannot be used for any other purpose other than for the offering of the Lord’s sacrifice. When we were consecrated, we were set apart for the service of God and the building up of His Kingdom. This demands our continual conversion, a sacrificial dying to ourselves so that we belong more and more to God. This is the path of holiness, the journey of our Christian life: living our baptismal consecration.”

Following the consecration of the altar at the Oratory of the Holy Family in Rome City on Saturday, July 15, volunteers helped wipe clean the excess chrism and prepare the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which included dressing it with sacred linens and adorning it with new candles. Father Nathan Maskal and Father Daniel Koehl assisted in the arrangement.

The true Christian life is the life of discipleship. It’s the life that the Blessed Virgin Mary teaches and shows us. Her life and St. Joseph’s life mirrored their divine Son’s own loving self-oblation in obedience to the will of the Father. In imitating the Holy Family, we discover true freedom and joy, which draws others to the Lord and His Church. I pray that the pilgrims who come here to this Oratory and who worship at this altar will experience the love and joy of the Lord!”

At the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Rhoades blessed hundreds of lilies for visitors to take with them. At its origins, the Rome City property served as a sanitarium to treat infectious diseases and was operated by Sisters of the Precious Blood, who sought to bring healing to the bodies and souls of their patients. The inclusion of relics in the new altar from St. Agnes, known for her purity as a virgin martyr, and St. Gallicanus, who founded a hospital and cared for the sick, seem particularly appropriate for this chapel.

Remarking on the day, Al Langsenkamp exclaimed, “Pilgrims at The Our Lady, Patroness of America Center have once again been given a great gift by Bishop Rhoades!  Dedicating this proper and permanent Altar of Sacrifice will bring even greater reverence to celebrating the Holy Eucharist in the Oratory of the Holy Family.”

Following Mass, a reception was held to celebrate the special day with the more than 400 visitors in attendance.

Of the many in attendance was Parker Zurbuch, accompanied by his wife Maria and young son Kolbe. Zurbuch had previously lived on the property as a novice with the former Franciscan Friars Minor. At that time, much of the property required extensive repairs and rehabilitation due to damage, misuse, and neglect from those who ran the property decades earlier. The renovations, which have since been completed by Langsenkamp, Property Manager Larry Young, and many others, have been tremendous improvements. Zurbuch shared, “I thought today was a wonderful example of how God uses His people to restore what has been broken. He restored humanity through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, and He has restored the Oratory in Rome City for His glory and the glory of the Immaculate!”

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