Dedication and Blessing of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Arlington

North Texas Catholic
(May 10, 2024) Local

Approximately 1,000 parishioners came out to the Mass of dedication and blessing of St. Vincent de Paul's new altar, baptismal font, and renovations on May 7, 2024. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

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ARLINGTON — Prudence and Ray Brett, charter members of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, have witnessed a lot of growth and change during the past 48 years. But, walking into the church building for the first time in 10 months, nothing prepared the couple for the transformation before them.

“It’s stunning,” said the mother of five adult children viewing the striking wall of Austin stone that is now home to niches for a tabernacle and statues of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph. “I love the light and beauty of the added cupola on the roof. It makes a huge difference.”

The improvements are part of a $3.2 million renovation started inside St. Vincent de Paul Church last July. A new altar, baptismal font, lectern, pews, sound system, and choir section helped turn the once plain, minimally decorated sanctuary into a more traditional-looking place of worship.

Parishioners had the opportunity to see the upgraded narthex, nave, and altar space during a Mass of Dedication and Blessing concelebrated by Bishop Michael Olson and pastor Father Philip Brembah on May 7.

“We have gathered today to bless this new font and to dedicate a new altar by celebrating the Lord’s sacrifice. Let us join in these sacred rites with fervent hearts, listening to God’s word with faith and sharing joyfully at the Lord’s table,” the bishop prayed at the start of the liturgy.

A parishioner sings during the Mass of dedication and blessing of St. Vincent de Paul's new altar, baptismal font, and renovations on May 7, 2024. Bishop Michael Olson was the celebrant. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Despite recovering from a stroke suffered in January, Eliza Hatton wasn’t going to miss this milestone in parish history. The 84-year-old has been part of the SVdP community since its first Mass on Feb. 29, 1976, and raised funds for the project on the Capital Campaign Committee.

“I’m thrilled to be here. It’s gorgeous,” Hatton said from one of the newly installed dark wood pews. “It definitely looks like a church now instead of an auditorium.”

The longtime parishioner is confident in her opinion. Although a convert to the faith, “I’m from Chicago. The land of Catholic churches,” she quipped.

Moving the baptismal font from the narthex to the sanctuary and installing a tabernacle in an elevated niche behind the altar are two major departures from the church’s original design. When St. Vincent de Paul Church was completed in 1984, baptisms were held in a gathering space near the doors of the church and people stepped over a glass-enclosed stream of water that fed into the font.

In keeping with the U.S. Catholic bishops’ guidelines that “the rites of baptism, the first of the sacraments of initiation, require a prominent place for celebration” and to address infrastructure issues the parish had with its “river of water,” a new baptismal font was

constructed and placed near the altar. Inlaid river rocks now fill the path where water once flowed as a sentimental reminder of the many baptisms celebrated in the narthex.

Another change is the addition of a new tabernacle in the main church, along with one kept in a nearby 24-hour chapel of reservation.

“Having a tabernacle in the church after all these years will take some getting used to,” admitted JoAnn Smith, a longtime parishioner. “We always taught the kids back then that coming into the church, they didn’t have to genuflect, just make the Sign of the Cross, because there wasn’t a tabernacle in the room. It helped them understand the importance of when the Eucharist was present.”

In front of the gold-toned tabernacle, a new altar is made of white marble but fashioned in the simple style of its wooden predecessor.

“Following Father Philip’s instructions, I took the original design of the altar and recreated it to make it nice and bright,” said Arlington cabinet maker and SVdP parishioner John Anton who also made the candle holders, baptismal font, and lectern to complement the altar. “It’s nice to be part of a Church for 30 years and finally be able to contribute and build something. It was a blessing to be involved in this.”

In his homily, Bishop Olson asked the congregation to pray for all those baptized, married, buried, made their first Communion, or had a religious vocation nurtured in the parish since its founding.

Bishop Michael Olson blesses the new baptismal font during the Mass of dedication and blessing of St. Vincent de Paul's new altar and renovations on May 7, 2024. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“Besides my intentions for all of you, I’m offering this Mass for the repose of the souls of Monsignor Philip Johnson, founding pastor of St. Vincent De Paul, and Father Tom Craig. Both dedicated their lives to Christ and served with their whole hearts and souls here,” he added.

Referencing the Latin phrase Altare Significat Christus, the altar signifies Christ, and its centrality during Mass, the bishop said, brings people together to focus on the mystery of Jesus Christ and his plan for salvation.

“In the centrality of the celebration of the Eucharist, we are blessed to be transformed from a crowd of individuals very different from each other to one Church united together — people of every race, every color, every language, every age, every economic and social background but one Church,” the homilist told his listeners. “The altar enables us in its representation of Christ to see each other not as individuals but as members of His Church called by Him and transformed by Him through the gift of His sacraments.”

Following a prayer of dedication, Bishop Olson anointed the new altar with holy chrism consecrating it as a symbol of Christ, “The Anointed One.” A perfumed oil used for three sacraments received only once — baptism, confirmation, and holy orders — chrism is a powerful symbol of the Holy Spirit. Just as people are anointed with chrism to signify a particular sacrament, anointing an altar with chrism sets it apart for sacred use.

When the anointing was complete, incense was burned on the altar to indicate prayers rising to the throne of God. Parishioners then wiped the altar clean with towels before covering it in white linen to prepare for the sacrifice of the Mass. Candles were lit and placed next to the altar to remind worshippers that Christ is the light of the world.

Addressing the crowd of 800 attending the Dedication Mass, Fr. Brembah expressed gratitude to the parish for supporting the renovation project.

Bishop Michael Olson pours Sacred Chrism on the altar during the Mass of dedication and blessing of St. Vincent de Paul's new altar, baptismal font, and renovations on May 7, 2024. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“The prayers, gifts, and talent you have contributed will help our parish grow in love and strength,” he said. “I thank you for all you have done to make our dream become a reality.”

In closing, Bishop Olson recognized the pastor for his pastoral care and leadership and asked parishioners to pray for vocations. Recently ordained transitional Deacon Isaac McCracken and Father Maurice Moon are former members of St. Vincent de Paul.

“I know there are many people who pray for vocations here and this is the answer to those prayers,” the bishop observed.

Citing the increasing anger and violence in the world, the leader of North Texas Catholics also requested prayers for peace.

“We need Christ’s peace so much today,” he asserted. “The Lord is asking for more than tolerance. He’s asking for love.”

Theresa Awuor, a native of Kenya, said the new statues and stone wall in the sanctuary, coupled with an improved sound system, made the church look and sound like a cathedral.

“It’s beautiful and is more like a Catholic Church now,” she said, praising Fr. Brembah for spearheading the changes. “Our priest has been very good, and we love him. He takes his work very seriously.”

Prudence and Ray Brett, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, growth, Mass of Dedication and Blessing, Bishop Michael Olson, Father Philip Brembah, trending-english