Father Terry Grachanin, who in 2019 was appointed pastor of St. Noel Parish in Willoughby Hills, knew there were problems with the roof on the 38-year-old church building.
What he didn’t know was how complex the project would become. Father Grachanin said once crews got to work on the roof, they discovered more extensive work was needed – work that kept parishioners from using the church for a year. He also learned that the church and altar were never consecrated.
With the renovation complete, Father Grachanin invited Bishop Edward Malesic to celebrate Mass during which the church and altar were consecrated. The liturgy took place Oct. 20, the day after the feast of the Jesuit Martyrs of North America. St. Noel Chabanel, the parish’s patron saint, was one of the Jesuits killed in 1649 by natives in Canada.
The parish, which also is celebrating its 41st anniversary, received a relic of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). It was placed in the altar during the consecration.
During the altar consecration, the bishop poured and rubbed sacred chrism oil, which had been blessed at the annual Chrism Mass earlier this year, onto the altar. He also rubbed some of the oil on the church walls. The bishop also sprinkled the altar and church with holy water and incensed the altar as part of the consecration. Later, parishioners cleaned the oil from the altar, added a protective layer and an altar cloth, after which Deacon David Nethery prepared the altar for the rest of the liturgy.
Bishop Malesic noted it was unusual to use a sacred space for many years before its official liturgical consecration. “With the consecration of this decades-old church and its (new) altar, it seems as though we will keep this place,” he told the congregation. “This has become your home. This is where you pray together, hear God’s word together and are moved to go forth and serve God’s mission together.”
A church is not just a building, he said. ”The people and the God we worship are much more than the buildings in which we gather.” However, the house of worship- is an important symbol of the family of faith: the Church. “This is where we learn our traditions and practice much of our religion. It is a place where we try to absorb the virtues of love patience, kindness and generosity. It is the place where we gather for support,” he said, adding sometimes, bad news is delivered and good news is shared.
“This is the place of many memories. It has surrounded you with its walls of comfort,” the bishop said, noting it has witnessed baptisms, first Communions and confirmations. It has been a place of reconciliation, new beginnings in marriage and endings in funerals The sick have been anointed in the church “and there are more prayers that have risen up to heaven from this place than we could ever imagine,” he added.
The bishop also reminded the congregation that the church is the most important home for our extended faith family. And the altar is the most important table because it’s where the Lord sacrifices his life for ours and we give our lives to him.
The chrism used to anoint the altar and church walls is the same oil used in baptism. It marks the altar as something special to be used for the celebration of the holy Mass. The pulpit is special because from it, stories of our faith are shared.
Bishop Malesic also reminded the congregation that Jesus gave the Church a mission to invite people to the banquet of the Lord. “Let this sacred building be a sign of who we are as the living Church empowered by the Holy Spirit,” he said.
“We need to make ourselves as beautiful as this church is,” the bishop added.
“This was the crowning achievement of our return to worship in his sacred space,” Father Grachanin said, as he thanked the bishop for his presence and all who played a part in the celebration.