Story by Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
In the presence of hundreds of faithful of St. Hedwig Parish, Trenton, and their pastor, Father Jacek Labinski, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., consecrated a new marble altar Sept. 24 in the landmark inner-city church.
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“It is a day for pride in our Church and gratitude to our pastor, Father Jacek, and the generous people of our parish who made this occasion possible,” Bishop O’Connell said in his homily. “As your Bishop, I join you in that pride and gratitude.”
The solemn, ancient ritual of consecrating an altar unfolded after the homily with the choir singing the Litany of Saints. The Bishop, who celebrated Mass, poured Sacred Chrism on the altar’s surface and then spread the oil with his hand. After the altar was incensed, two longtime parishioners dressed the table with altar linens. The deacons and altar servers lit candles and placed floral arrangements in the sanctuary as part of the consecration ritual.
Bishop O’Connell reflected on the first Reading from the Book of Isaiah, which “encourages us to ‘seek the Lord,’ to ‘call to him while he is near.’”
“We come into Church each week, every day for that matter, to do just that. We seek the Lord on this altar, in the Eucharist,” Bishop O’Connell said. “We call him, and he responds with his presence on the same altar at Holy Mass, a presence that is generous and merciful and forgiving.”
“At this altar, all who approach the Lord will find him there, last, first and in between,” the Bishop continued. “And from this altar, he will be generous with his love in ways we cannot expect or imagine.”
Father Labinski said the new marble altar, which replaces a wooden table, is part of a number of refurbishments being made throughout the church, including completing marble flooring in the sanctuary. He estimated that the wooden table had been used since late 1965, at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council and when the celebration of the Mass had changed from the Extraordinary Form to the Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo). Prior to that time, the high altar had been used during Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
Embedded in a cavity in the new altar are the relics of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, which the parish acquired when the church was built in 1924. In addition, the depiction of the Last Supper that had been at the base of the high altar is now installed at the base of the new one.
“We were very happy to have Bishop O’Connell consecrate our altar,” Father Labinski said. “It’s a beautiful ceremony that not many people have an opportunity to witness. This was very special for our parish.”
As the owner of Marble and Granite Fabricators, Trenton, parishioner Andrzej Podlesny said it was a privilege to help install the new altar.
“This is a beautiful church with a lot of history,” said Podlesny, a member of St. Hedwig Parish for some 20 years. “As members of St. Hedwig Parish, we are responsible for the prosperity and continuation of our Catholic community.”