Cardinal dedicates new altar at Chelsea parish

Cardinal O'Malley places incense into a brazier on the newly dedicated altar in the lower church of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Chelsea. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault

CHELSEA -- All pews and standing room were filled at a dedication Mass for the altar in the newly renovated lower church of St. Rose of Lima on July 24.

The renovation, funded in part by the sale of the closed St. Mary of the Assumption Church, took "nine months of intense work," according to the administrator at St. Rose, Father Hilario Sanez.

"I'm so grateful to the Lord for all his blessings," he added. "He really provides everything for us."

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley and Bishop Mark O'Connell were among the celebrants of the dedication Mass.

"From the very first pages of the Bible we read about altars," Cardinal O'Malley said in his homily, citing the examples of Noah and Abraham. "There are actually 450 references to altars in the Scriptures."

As a young priest, he said, he used to tell couples preparing for marriage that there would be two important altars in their lives: the family table, and the Communion table. Both, he said, are places where members of a family share a meal, bond with each other, pass down their history, and learn about their identity.

The Gospel reading, Luke's account of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), was read in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Comparing the story of Zacchaeus to other events recorded in the Gospels, Cardinal O'Malley drew a distinction between "the crowd" and "the community."

"The crowd is always pushing people away from God," he said. "It's the community that gathers people around the altar."

The Cardinal then pointed to the example of the group of friends who brought a paralyzed man to Jesus in spite of the crowds (Matthew 9:2, Mark 2:3-5, Luke 5:18-19). "They are the community that takes people to the Lord, that brings people to Christ. That's our task, and that must be our commitment as we rededicate this altar. We want to change the crowds into a community. We want to be the ones who are not pushing people away from God, but inviting them to be part of Christ's family."

The parishioners presented a gift basket to Cardinal O'Malley at the end of the Mass, which was followed by a reception in St. Rose School, adjacent to the church.

"I'm so happy, believe me," said Ulia Chuy, who has been a member of St. Rose of Lima parish for 30 years. "Not only happy, but I have the feeling that we are doing the right thing, you know, growing our parish, with any kind of people, welcoming them every single day."

Father Sanez expressed hope that the lower church will emphasize "the beauty of the assembly" and serve "the pastoral needs of the parish in an aesthetic way."

Speaking to The Pilot during the week following the dedication, Father Sanez said parishioners are thrilled with the new lower church.

"The people are saying, after a few days, that they feel like they are in paradise because of the beauty," he said.

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