The renovations at St. Mary's, Danvers include a new new altar, ambo, tabernacle stand, baptismal font, and presider's chair. Pilot photo/Mark Labbe
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DANVERS -- The season of Advent is always a time of expectation and preparation. For the parishioners of St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish in Danvers, this year's preparation included something special -- the dedication of their new altar and the inauguration of their new tabernacle by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley during a Dec. 18 Mass.
"This Advent, your parish has come together in great joy preparing for Christmas in a very special way," said Cardinal O'Malley, who celebrated the Mass at St. Mary of the Annunciation Church.
"You proclaim that there is room in the inn, and there's room in your hearts," he said.
Installed near the end of 2015, the altar was part of a larger renovation project that saw massive changes to the church.
Those changes included a new reconciliation room, dedicated meeting space, kitchen, storage area, and gathering space. A new altar, ambo, tabernacle stand, baptismal font, and presider's chair, all made of Italian marble, were added.
Additionally, new handicapped accessible entrances, walkways, ramps, and seating were constructed, and a parking lot was created next door.
The church was also repainted, a new floor was put in, and some architectural changes were made to make the interior more aesthetically pleasing.
In total, St. Mary of the Annunciation pastor Father Michael Doyle told The Pilot in the days before the Mass, renovations cost around 3.4 million, and took over a year to complete.
The tabernacle, used for the first time that day, had been crafted by an artisan in Gloucester.
In his homily, the cardinal spoke about altars, saying that they can serve as a means to bring people together. He recalled that as a young priest he helped prepare couples for marriage, and would speak to them about the importance of eating together around the dinner table as a family.
So, too, he added, do Catholics gather as a family around the altar.
"For us, as a family of believers, the altar is our family table, where we gather with our extended family with Christ, the head of the family. The Mass is banquet and sacrifice," Cardinal O'Malley said.
"We gather around this table as Jesus' disciples, struggling to lead that new commandment, to love one another, so that the world, seeing our love for each other, will feel an invitation to follow Christ and accept the Gospel," he continued.
During the Rite of Dedication, Cardinal O'Malley placed the relic into the bottom of the altar, which was subsequently sealed. Then the cardinal anointed the altar with chrism oil, before burning incense on it.
The altar was then covered with cloth and candles were lit next to it, preparing it for the celebration of the Eucharist.
The cardinal brought the Blessed Sacrament in procession to the new tabernacle for the first time as the Mass concluded.
Speaking to The Pilot following the Mass, parishioner Judy Finn said that it was "thrilling" to take part in the Mass.
"I was just very proud to be part of it. I love this church," she said, noting that she had grown up in the church and was married there.
"It was the most beautiful service, Mass, I've ever seen," she added.
Peter Cullen, a member of the St. Mary's pastoral council, echoed Finn's sentiments.
"This was a once in a lifetime experience," he said.
To have all the work that went into the renovations "come to a fruition today in this manner, it was just a wonderful, wonderful experience," he said.