Pentecost Sunday marked the beginning of construction of a new oratory at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Wayne, with a blessing for the groundbreaking. The Oratory of St. Mary Magdalene will be a perpetual adoration chapel. The site of the future oratory sits in the center of St. Vincent Cemetery, across from the grade school building along Wallen and Auburn roads. The site also is the former location of the first four churches of St. Vincent.
Father Daniel Scheidt, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul, called Pentecost “the ideal day” to break ground. In his June 2 pastor’s column, he wrote that the groundbreaking is an act of love that “flows from a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit from the historical cradle of St. Vincent’s to bless multitudes within and beyond our visible boundaries, providing them the invitation and the place to gather in uninterrupted prayer to our Eucharistic Lord.”
Father Scheidt celebrated the blessing of the groundbreaking service, standing at the front door of the future oratory. The service consisted of two hymns, a Gospel reading and homily, intercessions, the groundbreaking with Schenkel Construction, and the blessing of the oratory’s perimeter.
The reading selected for the groundbreaking came from St. John’s Gospel and is the account of St. Mary Magdalene seeing the risen Lord at His tomb. In this Gospel, Mary went to the tomb but found it empty. She went to find Peter and John, and after the men came and left the empty tomb she remained there and encountered the Lord.
In his homily, Father Scheidt explained that “the first disciples went to the burial place of the Lord in tears.” He linked these tears to the generations of parishioners who have gathered on the grounds of the future oratory for the burial of a loved one.
He also reflected on how, because of those burials, there have been thousands of groundbreakings at this site — along with those of the former churches. The first of the churches was a log cabin built by pioneers in 1846. The second was another log cabin, built in 1852. A clapboard church, the third church at St. Vincent, stood during the Civil War. The last church to stand on the property was a Romanesque church that older parishioners may remember, with its final use being in 1968. The current St. Vincent church stands across Wallen Road, just west of the groundbreaking site, and across from St. Vincent de Paul School.
Father Scheidt ended his homily by saying that “as we ask the Lord to bless this ground, we know that it is already blessed.” Together with those present, he prayed for good things to come from the Oratory of St. Mary Magdalene, with some of these prayers being for lifelong consecrations, good marriages, the discovery of the meaning of life by the young and old, and the unity of Christians among divisions in Christianity.” He prayed that those prayers would be blended into the intercessions of the congregation, which include the thanksgiving of their ancestors and those buried in the neighboring Highland Cemetery and for the healing from the abuse and profane of all sacred things; and “for all the blessings we cannot yet see.”
The Oratory of St. Mary Magdalene is “being built as a sanctuary of quiet personal prayer,” Father Scheidt said. The perpetual adoration chapel will serve as a quiet place away from the main church where people can pray without being disrupted by everyday liturgies and activities at St. Vincent. It will allow more space for people to come and pray than does the church’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel: Seating 90 people, it also will give students of the grade school and religious education program the opportunity “to pray silently together as a class.”
The oratory will “continue the ministry of providing a place of Christian burial.” Three hundred niches will be built into the apse of the oratory and will hold ashes and 300 burial spots along the southeast side of the building. These burial spots have been available for purchase with the funds going toward construction. The project “is entirely funded by designated donations rather than any ordinary parish funds,” Father Scheidt said.
He also sees the oratory as a way to reach beyond his parishioners. One of these ways is by providing a prayerful space for medical and support staff of nearby health care centers, especially Dupont Hospital and Parkview Regional Medical Center. He envisions the staff and the families of those they serve finding a “peaceful place of restorative recollection” in the oratory.
Construction of the Oratory of St. Mary Magdalene should begin around the end of June as long as St. Vincent receives the necessary permits and approvals. Construction of the exterior should be complete around Christmas, and interior work will continue into 2020. Father Scheidt hopes that the oratory can be dedicated sometime between the Easter season and the memorial of St. Vincent de Paul on Sept. 27, 2020.
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