By Kay Cozad
Visit the photo gallery for more photos from the dedication.
WATERLOO — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades joined St. Michael the Archangel pastor Father David Carkenord to concelebrate a special Mass of dedication and blessing on Aug. 29 for the enthusiastic members of the parish. The restoration of St. Michael has been completed after over six months of intense labor by construction workers and parishioners alike.
The Mass began with the greeting, after which the standing-room-only congregation watched reverently as Bishop Rhoades blessed the colorfully restored statues of saints, Stations of the Cross and the altar itself with holy water.
In his homily the bishop expressed his amazement at the parish’s history remarking on the “excellent research on the founding parishioners and their genealogies.” The first church building was built in 1881, followed 40 years later by construction of the present edifice. The bishop continued, “Now we are gathered almost 90 years after this church was built and dedicated for the blessing of the church’s renovation, restoration and dedication of its altar.”
Bishop Rhoades referred to the 14 founding families and subsequent parishioners who were “strong and faith-filled Catholics who worked hard and made incredible sacrifices of their time, talent and money to build this parish.” Noting the devoted priests and sisters who served at St. Michael over the years, with the six priestly vocations that came out of the parish, Bishop Rhoades encouraged the rapt crowd to continue to pray for and promote vocations.
As he spoke of the anointing of the altar the bishop reminded the congregation, “The most important reason why this church was built and renovated, and the greatest act to be celebrated here, is the Eucharistic Sacrifice. … The Eucharist is what builds you up as a parish and nourishes you to love as Christ loved and to be a true evangelizing community here in DeKalb County, a community that proclaims the truth of the Gospel in word and deed.”
The bishop concluded his homily by saying, “As I bless this sacred place, we are reminded that this building is not merely a gathering place or assembly hall. Rather, this building signifies and makes visible the Church living in this place, the Christian community of St. Michael, the members of which are called, as all Catholics are called, to be built into a spiritual house and to be ourselves temples of the living God.”
Following the Profession of Faith, the Rite of Blessing began with the harmonious chanting of the Litany of Saints. Bishop Rhoades then removed his golden chasuble and donned a white apron as he gently poured the holy chrism onto the altar and rubbed the precious oil into its surface. The oil, said the bishop, is generally only used for person-centered sacraments such as Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, but holds a special place in the anointing of altars as well. The altar was incensed by the bishop after a group of women from the congregation reverently wiped the altar dry and then dressed it for the Eucharistic celebration.
The restored interior is stunning to behold with fresh paint, reworked original stenciling and newly constructed ceiling beams, new inlaid terrazzo flooring with new sanctuary steps and marbleized columns, and refinished pews. An elevator was constructed for handicapped accessibility and the lighting and electrical wiring were also enhanced. The original baptismal font was reworked to include a flowing water source and is used for holy water at the entrance to the sanctuary. And in addition to a new efficient heating and cooling system, the exterior entrance stairway and the basement parish hall were also redone.
At the close of Mass, the congenial Father Carkenord, thanked all who were instrumental in completing the restoration and the blessing of the church. He remarked, “As we have transformed this building, I pray that we are transformed by it as we come to worship here.”
He praised the sacrificial efforts of the parishioners saying, “The people of the parish are so generous. They are a tremendous, loving group of people. Thank you for making this possible for us and for God.”
Father Carkenord continued humbly, “In programs like this — the celebration of the project and blessing, we recognize the beauty of God. And we cherish that.”
Though the parish regularly holds its parish potluck and festival in August, due to the special events of the day, a catered luncheon was provided for the congregation following Mass on the church grounds where Rebecca Szeman joked with fellow longtime parishioner Robert Schiffli. She said, “Just think, our ancestors built this church.” Schiffli’s great grandfather donated the land on which the church and cemetery rest.
Cathy and Hank Cornelius, St. Michael parishioners for 15 years, worked on the decorating committee for the restoration. They said of the restoration, “It’s everything we hoped for. We’re bringing life back to the old lady. It’s good to be back home.”
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