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  • Sep
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St. Gabriel Parish opens with colorful ceremony

Posted By September 16, 2011 | 6:00 am | Lead Story #1, Local

By Tanya Connor

UPTON – “We’re not two parishes anymore. Today we became one.”
Mary Lee Siple made that comment Sunday after the dedication of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish at 151 Mendon St. She was a religious education administrator at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Mendon, and now is at St. Gabriel’s, which was formed Sept. 8 from St. Michael’s and Holy Angels Parish here.
“It was so gratifying to see it go from a building to a church today,” said  David Baldiga, who, with his wife, Christine, co-chaired St. Gabriel’s Design and Construction Committee. Mr. Baldiga is a construction manager for CRB Builders of St. Louis, Missouri.
“It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions today, but it ended on a very joyful note,” he said, after his wife told of bidding Holy Angels goodbye.
Mrs. Baldiga said that, at the end of the last Masses at Holy Angels and St. Michael’s that morning, people processed out with the Eucharist and the remaining liturgical items. Most items were already in the new church, she said.
“I had a hard time moving, but when I walked into this parish the Lord was with me,” Patricia Roy said after Mass. “He said, ‘This is your new home.’ I was very active in St. Michael’s Parish. I hope to be active in this one too.” She wasn’t going to get too involved, she said. But there she was, packing up refreshments after the collation offered by St. Gabriel’s Women’s Guild.
Also after Mass, Neeni Francis’ photos of the building process were displayed.
God has chosen once again to dwell among his people, Bishop McManus said in his homily, noting that at St. Gabriel’s God’s word will be proclaimed and the Eucharist celebrated. (After Communion the Eucharist was carried in procession and placed in the tabernacle. The sanctuary lamp was lit.)
In his homily the bishop said that, although built with human hands, the church becomes the gate of heaven.
He said the clergy had not kissed the altar, which William Andrews made along with other sanctuary pieces. The altar was merely a piece of wood, the bishop said, but after he anointed it with chrism and parishioners clothed it, he would kiss it with emotion and reverence. He also anointed the walls, where candles were lit.
“Today we dedicate this church building” as a reminder that parishioners are living stones, the bishop told listeners, who had displayed stones they painted for the foundation at the 2007 land blessing. A photo of those stones was brought forward at the Presentation of the Gifts, along with a statue of the Holy Family, a Marian icon, meeting minutes folder, computer keyboard, hammer, watering can and bucket.
Bishop McManus spoke of those who served the two parishes, and those killed in the terrorist attacks on the United States 10 years ago. St. Gabriel told Mary she would be the mother of Jesus, Prince of Peace, he said, calling for the banishment of violence.
“Today…you begin a wonderful journey of faith,” he told parishioners, whom he called “Catholics working together,” the name they gave themselves as they planned the new parish.
“What made this whole church was the parishioners,” said Rosemary Trettel, of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Milford, whose husband, Steven, donated his consulting services for the site work and foundation. “We love the people here. We love Father Larry. We love Father Mahoney. It’s our community also.”
Father Laurence V. Brault, formerly Holy Angels’ pastor, and Father Thomas E. Mahoney, formerly St. Michael’s pastor, are co-pastors of the new parish. At the end of the dedication Mass they told how the parishes got to this point.
“Good evening,” Father Mahoney began, drawing laughter from the congregation that arrived before 2:30 p.m. to give Bishop McManus items associated with St. Gabriel’s, and to watch him knock on the door before entering.
Father Mahoney said he and Father Brault met over dinner five or six years ago to consider the feasibility of bringing the two parishes together.
“And so we decided to try this, in that Chinese restaurant,” he said.
“The kids said it very well in that song that they sang: The Lord is truly present in this church,” he said, referring to one of the selections by St. Gabriel’s Children’s Choir. “I felt it when I came in and saw this overwhelming crowd. And it will continue.”
Father Brault said the two parishes took a unique step with a process that allowed parishioners to tell the bishop their desires for their parishes.
“I am deeply humbled to have been part of a process that brought us to this moment,” he said, expressing thanks to God and the Blessed Mother. He said he placed the project before Mary at the monastery of Our Lady of Jasna Gora in Poland and within a week of his return the parishes bought the land for St. Gabriel’s – on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2006. Prayers for Mary’s intercession continued, he said, rejoicing in the merge Sept. 8, her birthday.
“Can there be any doubt that the power of prayer has been foundational?” he asked, adding that people persevered even when it was difficult.
He thanked Bishop McManus for the line of credit, his prayers and friendship; Msgr. Robert K. Johnson, director of the diocesan Office for Divine Worship, and Elizabeth A. Marcil, associate director, who provided liturgical help and sanctuary planning, and Father Mahoney for his leadership, love, faith and prayerfulness.
“It is an honor to serve as co-pastor of this parish with you,” Father Brault told him, to long applause from the congregation.
He thanked Bishop Reilly and the other priests who concelebrated the dedication Mass, and people who helped with it and what led to it. He spoke of looking to Jesus while moving forward as St. Gabriel’s.
Daniel Lambert, chairman of the Catholics Working Together steering committee, thanked numerous people who helped with St. Gabriel’s, telling of the different steps they took and their ongoing prayer. He spoke of coming closer to Christ and inviting others to come.
“It’s really about building Church,” he said later; the building is the way to the “end.”
The project cost, including the purchase of the land, was $8 million, Mr. Lambert said. The expected debt, after the sale of all Holy Angels’ and St. Michael’s properties, is less than $2 million. So far Holy Angels’ rectory and two St. Michael’s building lots have been sold, he said. Money also came from a capital campaign and a $2 million line of credit from Bishop McManus.
“I’m moved by the involvement of the laity,” said Rev. Jan Gregory-Charpentier, pastor of United Parish here. She said it “feels like a witness to unity among Christians” and expressed hope that members of her congregation could come “enjoy this beautiful space.”
“I can only think of Mom, whose rock is in the foundation,” Elaine Oliver Gardner said. She said her parents, Frank and Marie Oliver, introduced her to St. Michael’s, and are now deceased. Her mother said she would not be there for the dedication, she said. Had she been, she would have remarked, “What a glorious day!”