Gathered for the solemn dedication of their new church on December 18, 2011, the congregation at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Harrisburg that day heard their bishop speak on the symbolism of their place of worship.
“The Church is not a building,” the late Bishop Joseph McFadden told parishioners a decade ago. “This building is magnificent because it houses the Body of Christ. You and I are the Body of Christ. This space is sacred because each and every day, the Body of Christ gathers here to continue to give praise to God.”
A decade later, again gathered on the Fourth Sunday of Advent in their Romanesque-style church, parishioners heard once more from their bishop on the significant meaning of the place they were gathered. This time, the words were from Bishop Ronald Gainer, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the dedication of the church on December 19:
“We use the word ‘church’ to refer to much more than just a building,” he said. “‘Going to church’ means gathering with a believing community, being immersed in the liturgical celebrations of the mysteries of our salvation. Church means all of that. It is much more than an arrangement of stone and steel, of wood and glass – as beautiful as it is. The church building is a symbol for us Catholics, a symbol of something much greater than what it is composed of. It is, indeed, a tangible, physical symbol of Christ and His mystical body – us, the Church.”
Built at twice the size of the former church, which is used as parish meeting space, Holy Name of Jesus Church features a number of items from both the former church and from closed churches. Among the pieces: an ornate Italian marble altar from a school in Washington, D.C., stained-glass windows from a church in New York, and Stations of the Cross that date back to the 1930s. Statues of Our Lady and St. Joseph, the altar, the tabernacle and the large corpus were incorporated from the former church.
With more than 3,000 families on its register, Holy Name of Jesus Parish instantly benefitted from the size of the new church, where Masses had to be celebrated in overflow spaces to accommodate parishioners more than a decade ago.
“The new church has been a real blessing to our parish, it enables us to manage our liturgies and devotions much easier. The beauty of the new church truly provides a setting to bring joy to those present. The whole reconstruction of the parish has given us a very user friendly campus for everything from facilities to traffic flow,” Father Edward Quinlan, pastor, told The Witness.
“With our church seating more than 1,400, we are able to accommodate large groups, especially for some larger Diocesan events, such as the ordination of Deacons last year, and we were honored to hold the funeral Mass for Bishop McFadden in this church he dedicated,” he said.
“The new church is a real testimony to the generosity of our parishioners,” Father Quinlan remarked. “They were able to pay off the church financing with the Diocese in just five years and that has well positioned us for the projects we are currently working on.”
These projects are part of a parish capital campaign aimed at raising $2 million for campus improvements, including a separate residence for priests, adequate work areas for the business office, the modernization of the social hall, and improved handicap accessibility.
“A lot has been written about the symbolism of our Catholic churches,” Bishop Gainer said in his homily during the anniversary Mass on December 19. “The sanctuary is meant to be a symbol or a kind of foretaste of heaven. It is here that the eternal mysteries take place, the mystery of Christ’s abiding presence among us in the most Holy Eucharist celebrated here in our midst….The faithful gather, as you are this morning, to be present to the sacred mysteries.”
“All of this and more is wrapped up in that word, ‘church,’” he said.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness