O'Fallon, Illinois

Preparing for the Rite of Dedication

May 05, 2009

CAROLYN McWATTERS

St. Clare of Assisi Parish of O’Fallon, Illinois dedicated a new worship space on September 30, 2007. This is the first of two articles on preparing and celebrating the Rite of Dedication.

As a result of the work that had been done between 2000 and 2005 by the Building Committee in concert with the architectural firm BCDM and our liturgical design consultant, Ken Griesemer, excitement about the building of our new church steadily grew. In May 2006, we had an official groundbreaking ceremony at the new site. Later that summer, the parish staff Outside St. Clare's Parish in O'Fallon, ILmoved into the farmhouse on the property, which had been renovated for parish offices. By utilizing every opportunity to get parishioners to come to the new site, we all slowly began making this new space our own.

In August of 2006, the parish Liturgy Committee began studying the history and present form of the Rite of Dedication. An invaluable resource in this effort was Holy People, Holy Place: Rites for the Church's House by Thomas G. Simons. A subcommittee was formed to devise a year-long plan to prepare the parish for the dedication in September 2007. The committee formulated four goals:

» Create greater ownership among parishioners in the new church;
» Build interest in and excitement for the new church;
» Provide for a smooth transition from the old church to the new;
» Invite wide participation in the Rite of Dedication.

To keep the new church in everyone’s minds, we began by planning a schedule of bi-monthly bulletin articles about liturgical furnishings, which ran from November through April. We included a “Dedication Box” in the bulletin for that year, which featured quotes from the Rite and periodic updates about our progress. The final installment was a sermon by St. Augustine in which he compared the building of a church with the process of our being made into the handiwork of God. We ran a special article in our parish newsletter explaining the most important parts of the Rite. A prayer card was designed and distributed to all parishioners so that we would be united in prayer for the big day.

To more fully appreciate what the Rite is all about and to understand its symbolism, we were able to obtain a video of the Dedication Rite of another church, which the Building and Liturgy Committees reviewed. That really got us excited! The lavish use of symbols, the unhurried pace of the ritual, the inclusion of liturgical dancers, the involvement of people from all segments of the parish – all of this was very inspirational and got our creative juices flowing.

St. Clare's new church in O'Fallon, ILWe then shared segments of the video with the parish as a whole. The gatherings included the reading of the actual Prayer of Dedication so that people could be introduced to its rich imagery. These sessions quite successfully filled people with a sense of awe at the beauty of the Rite and instilled a desire to be part of our own celebration. At each session we solicited participants’ ideas/ requests in writing.

In January 2007, we began the planning of our celebration by choosing readings and music, and later issued an invitation for additional singers to join the dedication choir.  In the summer we designed invitations and determined who would be invited.  We also selected parishioners who would assume particular roles in the celebration. We gathered those responsible for publicity, music, liturgical ministers, dancers, parking, reception, and worship aids, along with our diocesan Director of Worship, to walk through the ritual and make a timeline of what needed to be done by each entity. During the last few weeks before the dedication, training sessions were held for liturgical ministers to acquaint them with procedural changes that would need to happen to accommodate our new worship space.

In August, we offered an evening of “Memories, Stories and Songs.” This was designed to help people acknowledge and grieve the loss of the church building that had been the parish’s home for more than 100 years. We composed a poetic reading that paid tribute to the various groups that make up our parish – e.g., farmers, military personnel and their families, seasoned members and younger families. A display of pictures and parish memorabilia adorned the church, arranged by an octogenarian with a great love for and sense of parish history. Eight people from a cross-section of the parish shared their personal stories – a favorite memory, an event which strengthened faith, or a recollection of a person who had been a source of inspiration. This reinforced the sacredness of our history and of the worship space we would soon leave. We concluded with song and a blessing, then celebrated with an ice cream social on the lawn.

On the last weekend before we moved into the new church, each Mass concluded with a blessing of significant parts of the old church – the font, the altar, the tabernacle, and the ambo. In so doing, we paid tribute to the place that had nurtured the faith of our community for several generations.

The effort that was put into acquainting people with the Rite and helping them be psychologically and spiritually prepared bore great fruit. We had a clear sense that our parishioners were indeed ready to embrace our new place of worship!

Photo credit: John Dempsey

Sister Carolyn McWatters is the Director of Liturgy and Music at St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church, O’Fallon, Illinois.

READ OTHER ARTICLES BY CAROLYN McWATTERS:

Celebrating the Rite of Dedication

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