Coronation Church altar and renovation consecrated

The bishop pours the Oil of Chrism on the new altar, consecrating it to God for his people. After he incenses the consecrated altar, it will be dressed. (Marty denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

GRANDVIEW, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals had lost, again, to the New York Yankees and it had rained off and on all weekend, but the people packing the pews at Coronation of Our Lady Church early in the evening May 20 looked joyfully nervous. Would Bishop James V. Johnston Jr., approve of the recently completed renovation of the church?

The altar was bare, the tabernacle open, waiting to be blessed and consecrated to God for his people.

The voices of the choir swelled as the procession of priests, deacons, seminarians and the bishop made its way past the Knights of Columbus color guard and Bishop Johnston’s smile grew wider as he glanced around.

Bishop Johnston sprinkled holy water on the statues, shelves, altar, empty tabernacle, stations of the cross, pews, floors, walls and doors, and those in the pews.

The 14 Stations of the Cross are large, with a very Germanic feel to them. Fr. Hansen later said that the Stations are from Belgium and the titles under each are in Dutch. They are terra cotta, that was fired in 1870, in wood frames. Bishop Johnston referred the renovation committee to Fynders Keepers, on whose website they found the Stations. The asking price was donated anonymously. They arrived on Sept. 15, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. The parish plans to install English titles below the Dutch ones soon.

Following the sprinkling rite, the bishop proceeded with the Liturgy of the Word, with the readings for Pentecost.

Beginning his homily, he said, “I am so pleased to be here with all of you today in this beautifully renovated church. I have to say Wow! That was my immediate reaction. Congratulations to Fr. Steve Hansen and to the parish.”

Bishop Johnston acknowledged and thanked the “many donors from beyond the parish,” and called it “a labor of love for the many people who contributed in a variety of ways.” A major donor from ‘beyond the parish,’ Lamar Hunt Jr., was seated in a front pew. The bishop congratulated the workers who brought the drawings on paper to life in stone, paint and wood.

“The main thing tonight is the altar,” he said. “In a few moments I will anoint this altar with the same oil you and I were anointed with at Baptism, the Oil of Chrism.

“The altar is first and foremost for the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, a sacrifice renewed at each Mass. The altar is also a table where we, the sheep and lambs of Christ are fed, but most of all, it represents the sacrifice of Christ.

“The altar is the center of everything in a Catholic Church,” he continued. “In fact, this altar is the epicenter of Grandview. This is where the power that runs the world flows forth into us.”

He explained that is why priests kiss the altar and all people bow before it.

As he was reflecting on the Confirmation he had presided over earlier that day in Warrensburg, and the Scriptural readings of Pentecost, his mind turned to sports. He had played several sports in college. He was struck by way the competitions are measured – football and basketball have two halves; baseball is played in nine innings, and hockey and soccer have three periods.

That thought brought him to the history of human existence. We measure history like football or basketball – in two halves: Before Christ and After Christ. Bishop Johnston asked the congregation to consider history more like soccer or hockey – in three periods.

The first period encompassed God’s creation and the fall of the human race – the Garden of Eden and the sin of Adam and Eve – bringing about chaos, division and despair.

“The second period began with the birth of Christ,” he said, “who became human to address the chaos, the division and the despair, sharing the Good News of God with his friends and disciples. The second period was brought to an end 43 days after the Crucifixion, when Christ ascended into heaven and took his place at his Father’s right hand.

“The third period, the Age of the Holy Spirit, began on the first Pentecost, and he has been at work ever since to bring all nations into the family of God.

“We get to live in this era of the Holy Spirit!” the bishop proclaimed, “receiving power from God through the Holy Spirit, a spiritual power that transforms us. We have the power to call God our Father with confidence. That reaffirms and reinforces who we are as children of God.

“The power draws us to Christ, uniting us to him. The Holy Spirit is given to us to enable Christ to live in us.

He reminded the congregation that “The power of the Holy Spirit makes it easier for us to grow in holiness. He interiorly perfects our spirit so we can reject evil and choose what’s good. He is a helper, an advocate, changing our outlook on life.

“The Holy Spirit fortifies us against the wiles of the evil one and the assaults of the world, enabling us to take an offensive position.

Bishop Johnston gives the homily.

“Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we give witness to Jesus’ resurrection, and share the Good News, that God can deliver people from sin, demons, addictions and despair. Yes, Jesus is still at work in the world.”

As Bishop Johnston said quietly, “So many people living in despair have no relationship of love with Christ,” you could hear a pin drop.

“When I was a child,” he continued, “there was a show on TV called Mission Impossible. It always began with the heroes, the agents being called on to listen to a recorded message: ‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it …’ That is my final charge to you today. Embrace who you are as Christians and, like a spiritual athlete, adopt both an offensive and a defensive position. Specifically, put faith into action, into love. Be bold enough to reject sin.

“God wants all hands on deck. The Holy Spirit is working to change your life. Let him do it!”

At the homily’s conclusion, the container with the first-class relics of St. Junipero Serra that would be installed inside the altar, was ceremoniously given to the bishop, who handed it on to a parishioner who crawled under the altar and unscrewed the cover for the inner niche. Bishop Johnston watched from his chair as the reliquary was set into the niche, the cover replaced and tightened down, before being taped over.

After reading the words consecrating the altar, he removed his red chasuble and, with emcee Deacon Ralph Wehner’s help, pulled temporary sleeves over the sleeves of his alb to protect them from stains. A large apron was tied on to protect the alb itself. The bishop then approached the altar carrying a vessel filled with Oil of Chrism in one hand and a white cloth in the other. He poured the oil in the form of a cross in the altar’s center and at each corner. He wiped the oil with the cloth, followed by other cloths, until the oil was absorbed and the marble gleamed. It was ready for the incense.

Lighting the incense, the bishop reseated himself and allowed the plumes of fragrant smoke to billow over him, the altar, the tabernacle and all the priests, deacons, acolytes and seminarians seated nearby.

Two women unfolded the altar cloth onto the marble and then two men carried a panel of glass to the altar and laid it across the front.

Into the wreaths of smoke walked a group of young women, members of the Maria Goretti Society, carrying lilies, roses and candle holders. While the lily bearers placed their flowers in a large vase, those with roses laid them on the altar, interspersing them with the candles. A lectionary was placed on a golden book stand. The altar was now dressed.

The vase holding 14 lilies, one of the saint’s attributes, was carried to a shelf on the wall behind and to the right of the altar, and placed on the shelf.

The candles on the altar, and around the tabernacle, were lit. The bishop blessed the ambo, tabernacle and the images of four saints standing on shelves behind the altar – St. Katharine Drexel, Our Lady, Queen of Heaven and Earth, St. Joseph the Worker and St. Junipero Serra. A statue of St. Maria Goretti will soon be placed on the shelf where the vase of lilies was taken.

The door to the tabernacle was closed.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist followed. At the conclusion of Mass, there was to be a reception in the parish gymnasium, but Father Hansen spoke to the congregation first. After thanking the Bishop and all those involved in the celebration of the Mass, he recalled some of the background on the renovation project.

He spoke of St. Junipero Serra and the many mission churches he built in California that cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Bernardino and San Jose, grew around. Presenting the bishop with a prayer card featuring a piece of the saint’s clothing, Fr. Hansen reminded him that the first-class relics, pieces of the saint’s bones, were inside the altar.

He also said that all the confessions heard during the renovation would be offered to the bishop as a spiritual bouquet. On the relic card was written 6004, which Fr. Hansen explained was the number of confessions heard. He added that for every 1,000 confessions, Bishop Johnston would be gifted with a Pale Ale.

May is the time when the bishop makes decisions as to where his priests and deacons will serve next. Father Hansen shared the news that he had been appointed pastor of the Cathedral of St. Joseph with newly ordained Father Jayson Becker as his associate. Father Adam Haake will be Coronation Parish’s new pastor.

He also commented that another former pastor was seated with the other priests, Father James Hart. Fr. Hart was pastor when the church was built in 1977.

As the group with Bishop Johnston, priests, deacons, servers, acolytes and seminarians, began to rise to pose for photos before heading to the gym for the reception, Fr. Hansen quoted a 4th century African Christian who said, “This is a dwelling place of God and he delights in dwelling here.”


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October 30, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph