St. Luke Parish in Temple celebrates rededication
By Kira Ciupek
The streets and neighborhoods surrounding St. Luke Parish in Temple were busy March 14 as hundreds of cars streamed into the church parking lot where orange-vested attendants and police cruisers directed traffic. The 44 year-old parish welcomed an estimated 650 people to celebrate the Mass of Rededication. The event signaled an important milestone in the parish’s three-year “Coming Together in Faith Capital Campaign.”
Parishioners, family and friends arrived early to get seats in the newly remodeled church, which had been transformed with overhead skylights above a new, white stone altar. Bishop Joe Vásquez celebrated the Mass along with Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Garcia, Father James Ekeocha, pastor of St. Luke Parish, and various priests from the Austin Diocese.
Father Ekeocha said the purpose of the Mass was “consecration and dedication of this church, and ourselves. Without the people, there is no church.”
Every pew was filled in the main sanctuary, while overflow crowds were seated in the newly constructed Blessed Sacrament Chapel, which is visible through the glass doors behind the altar. An honor guard featuring the Knights of Columbus in full regalia stood at attention along the aisle with swords drawn as Bishop Vásquez processed into the unlit church.
Once there, architects Larry Neal and Tim Rafferty delivered the building plans to the bishop in honor of his position as the “chief pastor of his diocese and shepherd of the flock,” Father Ekeocha said.
Drawing from the Scripture readings, Bishop Vásquez underscored the importance of churches and sacred spaces.
“Churches are sacred places where we encounter the Living God,” he said. Referring to the reading in 1 Peter 2:4-9, he expressed the importance of holiness, and the dignity of all Christians who, as living stones, “form the one structure of the Holy Church through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Holiness, he said, comes through encounters with God “in and through the sacraments.” As we “encounter Jesus in the sacraments, particularly in the Eucharist, we are strengthened to respond to our brothers and sisters in need,” he said.
Following the bishop’s homily, the Rite of Dedication began with the Litany of the Saints, which was followed by the Deposition of the Relics, during which the relics of four saints (St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, St. Catherine Laboure and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton) were placed in the base of the new altar.
“These were first class relics directly from the Daughters of Charity International,” Father Ekeocha said after the Mass. “These have become additional patron saints and our role models in faith because of their acts of charity.”
Then the altar and walls of the church were anointed and the bishop placed incense into the brazier upon the altar, after which members of the parish community covered the altar with a linen cloth. Then the overhead lights came on.
“The peak of the whole Mass is the anointing of the altar and the walls of the church,” Father Ekeocha said. “The altar becomes the gravitating point for all of us. We cannot celebrate Mass without an altar that has been consecrated, for this is where Christ is made visible in the form of the bread and wine.”
More than 500 families in the St. Luke Parish pledged their support to the three-year renovation project that included the remodeling of the sanctuary, construction of a new Blessed Sacrament Chapel, creation of an outdoor pavilion, and renovation of the religious education building and parking lot.
Dominic and Marisa Lucia, parishioners of St. Luke since 2004, brought their four young children to the Mass. “We homeschool,” said Marisa, “and in school we have been talking about the different levels of authority within the church. We wanted our children to see the bishop and the new sanctuary. It’s a chance to see what we have been supporting, and to celebrate its completion.”
For more information on St. Luke Parish, visit www.saintlukesparish.org.