The interior renovation of Saint Mary Church in Norwalk, Connecticut, took place as a multi-phased project. The main elements in phase one focused on transforming the sanctuary with a new marble floor, the addition of a new marble altar rail, a new altar and side shrines, and a new marble ambo. Phase two was a decorative paint scheme throughout the interior of the church. The final phase provided a new high altar reredos that frames a new painting of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Leonard Porter.
His Excellency William E. Lori, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut re-dedicated Saint Mary Church on May 7, 2010. His homily follows:
The Blessed Virgin Mary is surely smiling upon us as we re-dedicate this Church of St. Mary to the glory of God. We do so in this month of May, traditionally dedicated to Our Lady, and in the Easter Season, made bright with the joy of the Risen Christ. And thus, through the prayer of the Church, we yet again call down the Holy Spirit upon this venerable structure, with hearts filled with joy and gratitude to the Triune God.
The beauty of this Church, this Domus Dei, this house of God in our midst, reflects the beauty of its patron, the Virgin Mother of God. No other creature reflected God’s beauty more than Mary, immaculately conceived and full of grace, a fitting temple in whom the Eternal Son of God deigned to dwell and take flesh. From her we have received the Incarnate Word, the Word made flesh, proclaimed in the Church for two millennia. From her we have received the Redeemer who died and rose to save us and whose visible presence and saving deeds have passed into the sacraments, celebrated in this magnificent parish Church, one of the oldest in the Diocese. Let us now ask Mary, brimming with the beauty of the Risen Lord, glowing as the moon glows with the light of the sun, to help us acquire a faithful understanding and an understanding faith as we celebrate the rededication of St. Mary Church, among the most beautiful of the Church’s sacred rites. Above all, may Mary help us to worship this night, in spirit and in truth!
As the Scriptures were proclaimed, I prayed: “May the word of God always be heard in this place as it unfolds the mystery of Christ and achieves salvation with the Church.” This night, we call upon the Mother of the Word Incarnate, who accepted the Word of God in its totality with complete obedience, to pray for us that we will listen to her Son speaking to us in the Scriptures whenever we gather for Holy Mass and for the Sacraments. Through Mary’s prayers and example, may we regard the Church as both our mother and our teacher as she guides us to accept the authentic Word of God through her Magisterium.
At the beginning of these sacred rites, I blessed water and sprinkled you, the congregation, the church’s walls, and the altar as a reminder of Baptism and, by extension, the sacrament of Penance. As we bless the beautiful new baptismal font, we call upon Mary, the New Eve, the Mother who gave us new life in Christ. With St. Gregory of Nanzianzen, we acclaim baptism as “…God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift” which has made us adopted children of the Heavenly Father, members of the Church, and disciples of Christ. And we ask Mary, the model of all consecration for all time, to pray that we will be faithful to the consecration we received at Baptism, so that we will reject sin, embrace the faith, and live the law of love in the spirit of the beatitudes.
Within this beautifully renovated church, is a newly installed confessional where the burden of sin is lifted by the words of absolution, where God’s grace is renewed within us. Here too, we turn to Mary, as the Mother of Reconciliation. Mary was sinless from the first moment of her conception and throughout her life, not so as to be an impossible ideal but rather to be a sign of hope for us. With those who have gone before us, we call upon Mary, the refuge of sinners, and ask her to lead us to her Son, whom we call “Mercy Incarnate”. When we go to confession, do we not sense Mary’s loving presence and her maternal hand guiding us toward the path of holiness and virtue? We sense this because daily we pray to her, ‘pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death!’
In a few moments, the new altar will be dedicated, that place where heaven and earth intersect, where earth is joined to heaven. Here Christ makes himself present when, through the words of the priest and the action of the Holy Spirit; the paschal sacrifice of Christ in truth is re-presented, as bread and wine become His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Just as Mary stored in her sinless heart all that her Son said and did to save us, so too does the Church remember the saving words and deeds of her Redeemer, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, brings them forth, for us and for our salvation. Just as Mary told the waiters at Cana to do what her Son would tell them, so too she urges us to obey the command of her Son uttered at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me!” Even as Mary conceived the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in her womb, so too she asks us to welcome the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ into our hearts so that we might bring is light to a sin-darkened world. No wonder the Venerable Pope John Paul II reminded us that Mary is present with the Church whenever the Eucharist is celebrated. How she smiles upon us, how she prays with us and for us as we dedicate this altar to the divine mysteries of her Son, Jesus Christ!
Pope Paul VI once described the tabernacle as “the living heart of each of our churches”, for it is here that the Blessed Sacrament is always reserved, here that the Eucharistic Lord waits for us to visit him to bring our love, our thanks, our needs, and to receive the help that we need. When the Word was made flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she became, as it were, the first tabernacle in history. Aided by the prayers of Mary, we recognize the tabernacle of this church as the place where Christ dwells among us and we hail him in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “Verum corpus, natum de Maria Virgine,” – “Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary! As we do so, we ask for the grace to become ourselves living tabernacles whenever we receive the Eucharist, so that our hearts, our homes, may be dwelling places for Christ in the Spirit. Thus, in this moment of solemn re-dedication, may the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for this parish of St. Mary, for its pastor, Fr. Markey, who has overseen this restoration, and may she obtain for us all the graces we need to arrive at our heavenly home!
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!