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The following is the homily for the Fifth Anniversary of the Establishment of St. John Paul II Parish, Southbridge, MA. and the 100th anniversary of the dedication of Notre Dame Church given by Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski. 

2 Chronicles 5:6-10, 13-6
1 Corinthians  3: 9c-11, 16-17
Matthew 16: 13-19

 

        Bishop McManus, Fr. Joyce, brother priests, deacons,

women and men religious and dear parishioners of Pope St.

John Paul II parish:

        When Bishop Thomas Beaven arrived here in

Southbridge to dedicate this Church of Notre Dame, what

awe he must have felt to see such a beautiful church, an

astounding steeple that graces this town and an interior that

welcomed him to an antechamber of heaven.  We gather

here today, one hundred years after Bishop Beaven

dedicated this magnificent church, still in awe of its beauty

and in awe of the great faith of those who have gone before

It was their sacrifices that built this church and it is a

physical representation of what was so dear to them as they

settled in Southbridge from their towns and villages in                   

France.  Similarly, as we mark the fifth anniversary of the

establishment of Pope St. John Paul II parish, we thank God

for the love of our Catholic Faith that the Polish, Irish and

Spanish ancestries have brought to this area of Southbridge.

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In the early part of the last century, immigration to this

part of Massachusetts was based upon the industrial works

that were so predominant here, the various mills and

factories that provided a living for families.  The churches

that were established reflected the ethnic makeup of the area

and provided a touchstone for the people to have a

connection with both the lands from which they came and

the faith that was the fabric of their lives. 

        In the first reading from the book of Chronicles, we

hear of the great rejoicing of the Hebrew people when they

dedicated the temple built under the reign of King Solomon.

Not only did the people find that they had a home on earth

for God to dwell, but they themselves felt at home with God.

The Lord’s glory filled that temple and brought great joy to

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The people of Israel.  It was the fulfillment of God’s

Promise made in the book of the prophet Ezekiel 37:27,

“My dwelling place will also be with them; and I will be

their God, and they will be my people.”  What greater

joy can we have than the abiding presence of God with us

In His covenant sealed with the Body and Blood of His Son.

When the sacrifice of Christ is manifested at each Mass, we

participate fully in the presence of God and not in a cloud,

but in the bread and wine, we are nourished and sustained

with this food for the journey.

        Throughout his life, St. John Paul II was ever conscious

Of God’s presence to him, especially in the sad times of his

youth.  As a young child, he lost his mother and later his

older brother; as a teenager, he lost his father.  Who else did

he have but the God who gave him life and the Blessed

Mother to give him the mantle of her protection.  After such

tragedy, he suffered through both Nazi and Communist

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persecution that sought to obliterate both Faith and

Homeland.  Yet, though all of this, he persisted in his

priestly vocation, gathered the young people to strengthen

their faith, accepted the will of God when he was called to

be a bishop at age 38 and offered himself sacrificially to the

Universal Church when he was elected Pope on October 16,

1978, the feast of St. Hedwig.

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        St. John Paul teaches us the importance of remaining

faithful, even in the most adverse times, to God who is ever

faithful to us.  If anyone had the excuse to become

embittered at life, Karol Woytyla had many reasons.  Yet,

his faithfulness to God allowed him to be for the world of the

late 20th and early 21st centuries, a Witness to Hope, as

George Weigel entitled his biography of this great saint.

        In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples the question:

“Who do people say that the son of Man is?”  It seems to be

a general question of curiosity.                                          

After they give their answers, Jesus makes this a very

personal question, “And you, who do you say that the Son

of Man is.”  Over these years, beginning one hundred and

seventy-five years ago when the first Mass was celebrated in

Southbridge by Father James Fitton, SJ, through the

churches of St. Mary, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Hedwig,

Notre Dame, St. Peter, so many have sought to answer Jesus’

question with the response of their dedicated Faith.  The

question that Jesus poses to His Apostles in the Gospel is

also asked of us.  We seek to answer it, not only with our

lips, but by living as those redeemed in His Blood, following

Jesus’ invitation to us to live the Gospel.  Our Faith is a

dynamic one; ever changing to adapt to the needs of our day,

yet rooted in teachings of Jesus.  Our ancestors who arrived

in the United States as immigrants faced many challenges,

poverty, discrimination and isolation being but a few that we

know.  Yet, it was their faith that carried them through,                                              

rooting them in the values we hold dear as Catholics and

allowing them to thrive in this area.  We, too, face our

challenges today.  Secularism, apathy, a bias against

anything religious and I might add, Catholic are part of

our world of 2016.  Yet, we celebrate the same Gospel that

enlivens our Faith, gives us hope and brings us closer to

our God and one another.  As the presence of God filled

the temple of Solomon, so Jesus promised to be with us

always, even until the end of time.  St. John Paul II, our

parish patron, gloried in this promise of Jesus and knew

that God’s promise to us would never fail.  May we live

following this great saint’s example, filled with the Joy of the

Gospel and the light of Faith, to bring to the community of

Southbridge and beyond the hope that always goes before

us!

 

 

 

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