By Colleen Rowan/The Catholic Spirit – Bishop Michael J. Bransfield celebrated the Mass of Dedication of the new altar and blessed the renovated sanctuary at the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston Dec. 17, welcoming all to this “wonderful house of God.”
The faithful packed the church for this long-awaited celebration of the parish community. Concelebrating the Mass were Msgr. Frederick P. Annie, V.G.; Very Rev. Donald X. Higgs, Assc. V.F., rector of the basilica; Msgr. P. Edward Sadie, former rector; and Msgr. Kevin M. Quirk, J.V., rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling. Father Brian Crenwelge, vice rector of the basilica, served as master of ceremonies.
As he began his homily, Bishop Bransfield spoke of the joy in the anticipation of Christmas and the dedication of the altar that day. “For me as your bishop, for your rector and vice rector, and for you, the wonderful members of this Basilica Co-Cathedral, that reflected joy of the approaching Christmas is made all the brighter and our rejoicing all the more sweet as we gather to dedicate this new altar and bless the renovations carried out in this Cathedral Church,” the bishop said. “The joy that we share today, gathered as the parish family of Sacred Heart around this new altar, anticipates the joy of gathering with friends and family for Christmas, and points to that fullness of rejoicing we will experience when Christ the Sacred Heart will appear at the end and gather us into the one Kingdom.”
Following the homily, the bishop began the Rite of Dedication inviting the congregation to pray with the singing of the Litany of the Saints. The bishop then prayed the prayer of dedication and then anointed the altar with sacred chrism—making it a symbol of Christ. The bishop then burned incense on the altar, signifying Christ’s sacrifice. Parishioners Carla Guthrie, Laurensia Riimanu, Clair Tupta and Jonathan (Joi) Zuniga then came forward to clean and dress the altar; and seminarians of the diocese then placed the candles. This was followed by the lighting of the altar by Rev. Mr. Dennis Nesser.
The project was a gift to the basilica on behalf of the diocese from Bishop Bransfield.
“There are so many who have contributed to this … and I want to thank each one of them,” Bishop Bransfield said, thanking Father Higgs, Msgr. Annie, Martin Rambusch, the architect for the project, and all involved.
In remarks at the end of Mass, Father Higgs thanked Bishop Bransfield for “this very generous gift” and Msgr. Annie for his vision and guidance in the project and to all who helped to bring it to fruition. “On this Gaudete Sunday, we have many reasons to rejoice,” Father Higgs said, “one of which is our return to our sacred home.”
The basilica received an array of enhancements and renovations, including a new altar, ambo and cathedra and sanctuary floor—all of Italian marble. “The altar is a beautiful design with eight statues of saints around the base,” Father Higgs said. Depicted are St. Kateri Tekawitha, St. John XXIII, St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Junipero Serra, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Joseph and St. Martin de Porres. Relics of St. Kateri Tekawitha, St. John XXIII, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton are in the altar. Father Higgs said that the relic of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a gift to the basilica from Msgr. Anthony Cincinnati, S.T.D., V.E. On the ambo are statues of St. Peter and St. Paul.
The Diocesan Coat of Arms (the back of which, the bishop signed) was placed on the floor in front of the sanctuary, which was enlarged. A new presider’s chair has been installed, and the the high altar has been cleaned.
In the nave, the flooring has been replaced with ceramic tile. On the back of the tiles, parishioners, parish staff and students from Charleston Catholic High School and Sacred Heart Grade School signed their names and preschoolers offered their little handprints. The pews have been re-stained to match the organ cabinetry, new lighting and a sound system have been installed, the dome has been painted and the Marian Shrine and St. Joseph Shrine have been moved up and mounted to the walls. The original baptismal font was cleaned and moved to the entrance of the church.
(See full story in the Jan. 5 issue of The Catholic Spirit)