By John Heuertz
Special to the Catholic Key
LEE’S SUMMIT — “I urge you to use the occasion of this church’s dedication to renew your own dedication to Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Robert W. Finn thus exhorted the congregation at the Rite of Dedication of Our Lady of the Presentation church in Lee’s Summit on Friday night, June 29 in a busy weekend for diocesan church construction and renovation.
About 700 people joined the bishop, including, Pastor Fr. Tom Holder, parish Deacon Rev. Mr. Mike Peterson, Assisting Priest Fr. John Eldringhoff, former Pastor Fr. Mike Clary, former Associate Pastor Fr. Ken Riley, diocesan liturgist Rev. Mr. Ralph Wehner, the parish choir, and host of individual parishioners to celebrate the church’s first renovation since 1985.
Presentation’s previous interior served its purpose well for almost 25 years. But about three years ago, consensus was reached that a renewal was in order.
Presentation grade school had won a $500,000 grant, and its renovation was tied to the church’s renovation, making one project with two architects and some shared new infrastructure like parking and water mains.
Project groundwork was successful, and the church was closed after Masses last October 16.
About $1.9M was budgeted for the renovation and an Easter target date was projected for the new structure.
The project stayed on budget — “everyone was diligent about cost” said Larry Reynolds, a parish construction manager — and the parish will likely retire its debt on schedule by December 2013.
“The debt committee has done a tremendous job at keeping the debt down,” Reynolds said. “The stewardship committee too. We have some very energetic people on these committees.”
But the opening was pushed two and a half months into the future — because the renovation turned out to be a building saver, and perhaps a life saver too.
Large laminated wooden arches hold up Presentation’s roof. But eleven of them were found to have suffered potentially disastrous water damage. They were all rotten at their bases.
Between eight and 36 inches of every arch had to be cut off and the wood anchored to new concrete piers and pads — a fairly complicated engineering problem mitigated somewhat for Reynolds and co-manager John Jackson by having an excellent structural engineer on hand.
“God was looking out for us,” Reynolds said. “Had we not started the renovation and found those problems, we would have had a corner of the building come down on us in the near future.”
“We had to shore up the whole building” — a $200,000 detour for the project.
Friday night’s beautiful liturgy fits into the Mass after the Nicene Creed and before the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins. It is at least 450 years old, and far older than that in its essentials.
Every part of it is rich in symbolism and filled with Catholic theology, beginning with the Litany of the Saints, and it makes literal sense of the idea that where the bishop is, there is the Church.
First Bishop Finn blessed water and sprinkled both the church and the people with it as a symbol of purification and Baptism.
Then he deposited relics under the altar. The altar lends honor to the relics, as it were, not the other way around. This is because it’s on the altar that the bloodless reenactment of Christ’s sacrificial death on Calvary for all humanity takes place at every Mass.
Then Bishop Finn anointed the altar by hand with Holy Oil as a symbol of Christ, the “anointed One.” The church walls were also anointed in four places, permanently setting the building aside as a sacred place of Catholic worship.
Incense was then burned on the altar to symbolize that when the prayers of the faithful ascend to God, they imitate the way that Christ’s own sacrifice of Himself at every Mass ascends to God as an odor of sweetness.
Then the congregation was incensed to symbolize that each person is a living temple of the Holy Spirit, and the building was incensed to indicate that the church is a house of prayer.
Finally, parishioners wiped the altar dry and dressed it with altar cloths on top and flowers around the base, and Bishop Finn gave Deacon Peterson a lighted candle.
The bishop called on the Light of Christ to shine in the church, and then Deacon Peterson lit the altar candles in preparation for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Near the end of Mass, Bishop Finn processed around the church with the consecrated Hosts left over after Communion and put them in the tabernacle.
“The lighting behind the tabernacle just came through in the last week,” Reynolds said. “Everything in there is dedicated to Mary so we painted it blue and stuck those lights in there and I think people were awed by the beauty of it around the tabernacle.”
“I think the new inside will revitalize the parish.”
“The holiness of this place will also be verified and intensified by the acts which will continue to be celebrated here, we hope for many generations: the encounter with Christ in the Church’s sacramental life,” Bishop Finn said.