June 19, 2015

Archbishop Tobin blesses new shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and Franciscan Father Thomas Merrill pose on May 17 on the steps of St. Mary Church in New Albany with youths who recently received the sacraments of first Communion and confirmation at the New Albany Deanery faith community. (Photo by Leslie Lynch)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and Franciscan Father Thomas Merrill pose on May 17 on the steps of St. Mary Church in New Albany with youths who recently received the sacraments of first Communion and confirmation at the New Albany Deanery faith community. (Photo by Leslie Lynch)

By Leslie Lynch (Special to The Criterion)

NEW ALBANY—Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin visited St. Mary Parish in New Albany on May 17 to bless its new Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine during a noon Mass that was celebrated in Spanish.

The event marked another step in the process of integrating St. Mary’s English- and Spanish-speaking communities, according to parish leaders. The effort began last July when Franciscan Father Thomas Merrill was appointed St. Mary’s pastor.

Father Thomas is the first priest assigned to shepherd both the English- and Spanish-speaking congregations who worship at St. Mary. The Hispanic community at the parish has grown to more than 100 families with roots throughout Central and South America.

Diversity continues to play a key role in the parish’s life of faith. The creation of a dedicated shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe near the existing shrine of Mary’s apparition at Lourdes, France, is a tangible sign of that universality.

“I always saw the community as one since we both worship the same God, have the same Mother, and ask the guidance of the same Spirit,” said deacon candidate Martin Ignacio, who is also a member of St. Mary Parish. “But the shrine has brought a sense of belonging to something bigger.”

“Our Mother protects us, all her children,” added Carolina Moran, 16. “A person can go to the room and be with her now.”

A procession at the beginning of Mass included youths who recently received their first Communion or received the sacrament of confirmation. Each placed red or white carnations and roses in vases to adorn the new shrine for the blessing.

Archbishop Tobin was the principal celebrant of the Mass, with Father Thomas concelebrating. Transitional Deacon Nicolás Ajpacajá Tzoc assisted at the liturgy.

The shrine took shape from a space that had once been a confessional, then served for a number of years as a storage area, said Father Thomas. The priest recognized the potential of the room, particularly its marble and stained-glass elements. Moving the shrine from its previous crowded location in a corner also created a more permanent and inviting place for prayer. The new configuration places both the existing and new shrines to Mary in complementary locations within the sanctuary.

Much work was required to rehabilitate the deteriorated walls and woodwork of the shrine. Paint and a new tile floor brought life to the space. The large images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego were moved into the alcove, and a kneeler placed before the image of Mary.

Additionally, a painting by Uriel Garcia, a talented 16-year-old parishioner, graces one wall. Representative of pre-Columbian Mexico and emphasizing the Catholic influence in the country, the painting features a pyramid and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Its frame and the crucifix superimposed over the painting are the sole surviving Stations of the Cross artifacts from the former Holy Trinity Church in New Albany after a fire destroyed it in 1975.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe is the voice of the weak,” Ignacio said. “The words she gave Juan Diego to give him peace and trust that she would always be there—‘Am I not here, who am your Mother?’—she also gives these words to us.”
 

(Leslie Lynch is a member of St. Mary Parish in Lanesville.)

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