Monday December 7th: Walk free
December 7, 2020
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December 8, 2020

St John the Baptist RC Church “rejoices” with new look

As the church of God is a place of reverence and awe for Catholics so too should the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Reverence and awe must also be shown for each other.

“In coming in here, we are reminded of who we are: God’s holy people, so when we leave here, we leave with our identities intact and ready to live the mission for which we are called,” Archbishop Jason Gordon said at the dedication of the St John the Baptist RC Church, St Augustine.

The church was closed for a year and a half during which the old structure was demolished and a new one erected. Some parts of the old building were retained.

Alluding to the memories which the original church had for parishioners who were baptised, made First Communion, or got married, he commented that it must have been agony to see it knocked down. Entering the new building and seeing its beauty was a moment of joy and “to rejoice in this new moment in the history of this parish”.

In the Gospel reading John 2: 13- 22, Archbishop Gordon said a connection is made between Jesus’ physical body as the temple and, “being destroyed in three days it will be raised up”. He added, “in making this connection you and I have to see now the symbolism of the church where we are because we who are gathered here are the real temple of God; we are the living stones out of which Christ temple here on earth is made”. The physical building is also His temple, His body and through it grace will flow to countless persons through the coming years.

Archbishop Gordon mentioned some of the sacraments which persons will receive: baptism, First Communion, Confirmation and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults which occurs at Easter. These made the Church a “fruitful bride of Christ” as the people experience their “nuptial union” which is witnessed. As domestic church, they receive the grace that comes from the sacraments and are a reflection of His love. “Those who have never been born will benefit from the Grace that will flow from this place,” Archbishop Gordon said.

He reminded that church is a place of encounter with Jesus and Catholics had to bring people to church to encounter Him. He highlighted the baptistry where people will come to be part of His body and the family of God, the Blessed Sacrament chapel, and altar which is a symbol of Christ, giving Himself again and again. “Each time we come to the Eucharist and each time the priest says the words of consecration, Christ is sacrificing Himself again on the altar”.

Archbishop Jason Gordon consecrates the altar

The first reading for the dedication of a church is traditionally from Nehemiah in which the people of Jerusalem gathered in the presence of the scribe Ezra to hear the proclamation of the law of God (Neh 8:1-4a, 5-6, 8-10). Archbishop Gordon noted that the people after feeding on the Word, they wept and repented because they recognised how sinful they were. The people were told to feed on fine food and to share with those who had nothing. “The reading has the whole plan for the new evangelisation,” he said.

Each time the congregation came to the Eucharist and were dismissed by the priest they are told to go and “proclaim God’s love” or “go in peace”. Archbishop Gordon said: “he is sending you to take what you receive from the Word and from the Eucharist to take it to the poor and to the community and to those who have nothing and those who do not know the Lord.”

The dedication of a church is a solemn liturgy full of ritual. At the beginning, the church was handed over by two representatives involved in the constructing. The people as the spiritual temple, the walls of the church, and the altar are sprinkled with holy water.

In the gospel, Jesus cleansed the temple; Archbishop Gordon said the sprinkling was a cleansing of the church “because this is to be a place of prayer, a place dedicated to God”. Every time the congregation entered the church, they are to be conscious it is a holy place. “A place set apart where God Himself dwells among His people, where God feeds His people”. The Prayer of Dedication, rites of Anointing, Incensing, Covering, and Lighting the Altar took place after the homily. In attendance were clergy and the Abbot of Abbey of Our Lady of Exile John Pereira OSB.

Sacred space for worship

In an interview ahead of the dedication, parish priest Fr Arnold Francis told the Catholic News the previous building was broken down, termite ridden and leaking. It was decided that a new church and offices should be built and would be a “sacred space for worship” that would be comfortable for everyone. “What we built is pleasant to the eye, a place where people feel happy to worship,” he added. Apart from having “a nice new building”, Fr Francis was hopeful, it could inspire parishioners to be “wonderful for God” as themselves temples of God, “a place God must dwell”.

Architect Martyn Joab said the floor slab, some beams and columns, from the previous structure were kept. While the general floor space of the existing church has not been changed, the sanctuary was expanded into the new extended area. “Four chapels, two on either side of the sanctuary house our patron saint John the Baptist, a Baptistry, Tabernacle and Our Lady of Guadalupe. The administrative office and waiting area were redone. The new extension has office space for the parish priest, a meeting room and toilet facilities”.

Additionally, the extension also has a new area for the priest to vest, sleep quarters and private bath room. Parishioners now have a new adoration chapel. The church and offices are air-conditioned.

Joab said ‘He must increase’ from John 3:30 was a guiding theme. The area over the sanctuary was raised to double volume space and “to get an elevated feeling inside the church.”

A “modern look” was kept for the exterior façade.

Archbishop Jason Gordon and Fr Arnold Francis after the re-dedication Mass on Friday