Rebirth of St. Pius Tenth Church in Chili ‘a true miracle of God’
CHILI — When St. Pius Tenth Parish’s church was destroyed by fire in January 2015, Parochial Administrator Father Paul Bonacci spoke about being an Easter people and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“You only get to Easter Sunday through Good Friday,” Father Bonacci recalled during a recent interview with the Catholic Courier. “If the fire was our Good Friday, then we must have a wonderful Easter coming.”
On March 19, just two weeks before Easter 2018, the faith of parishioners was rewarded when a new church was dedicated during a special Mass celebrated by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano.
Hundreds of parishioners, community leaders and area residents packed into the standing-room-only celebration of the parish’s rebirth on the feast day of St. Joseph. That date was chosen for the dedication because of its significance in the church, explained Brian Porter, who led the parish’s rebuilding committee.
Members of the rebuilding committee were among those whom Father Bonacci asked to stand for recognition and thunderous applause before the Mass concluded. He thanked all who made the March 19 dedication possible, including members of the design committee and his staff, and all the parishioners who were steadfast in supporting the parish.
“This building is a miracle of God,” he said, quoting a line from Bishop Matano’s homily. “God does miracles in our lives every day. … May this building always be a sign that God works miracles.”
In the homily, Bishop Matano called the new church building a magnificent house of the Lord.
“Here we are to behold before our eyes, a true miracle of God,” he said. “Now, as this new church has been born among us, this parish joyfully looks to the future. We are mindful that from this sacred place, memories upon memories will transform the material used to build this church into a living edifice alive with the presence of our living God.”
Among the memories to be born will be reception of the Holy Eucharist, the joining of men and women in the sacrament of matrimony, and children being baptized and becoming God’s own children, Bishop Matano said.
“Memories of holiness, memories of happiness, memories of Christ; these will accumulate in this sacred place as the years go by,” he noted. “Such is the joy and peace of this parish church.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that the Rite for the Dedication of a Church and an Altar are among the most solemn liturgical ceremonies because “visible churches are not simply gathering places, but signify and make visible the church living in this place, the dwelling of God with men reconciled and united in Christ.”
During the Mass, the bishop blessed holy water and walked the perimeter of the church, sprinkling the water on the walls and the congregation. Following the Profession of Faith, he deposited relics of the parish’s patron saint under the mensa — the table top — of the main altar, which is inscribed with the words “Pope Saint Pius X, turn your gaze on Christ’s Church, which you so loved.”
Bishop Matano then said a prayer of dedication before he rubbed the Oil of Chrism on the Italian marble top of the altar before blessing it with incense. Each of the altar’s two side walls features an alcove containing a fire-singed statue from the original church building.
Then he once again walked the perimeter of the nave to make the sign of the cross below four cross-shaped sconces on the church walls.
Candles on the altar and throughout the church were lighted just before the Liturgy of the Eucharist began, as altar servers placed two bouquets of white flowers in front of the altar. The lighted candle represents the light of Christ, while flowers bring in beauty of the natural world into God’s house, Bishop Matano said in his homily.
Before and after Mass, parishioners young and old expressed great excitement at seeing their new church.
“It was like a resurrection,” said Alice Gusherowski, who attended the dedication with her husband, Rich, and several other decades-long parishioners known as “The Legends.”
“We’ve been through a lot of history,” she said. “To see young people is so nice for us. We’ve passed the baton. … There’s a lot of positive energy.”
Elizabeth Zerrillo, 14, a youth-group member who helped pass out cookies during a reception after Mass, also said she was thrilled to see the return of so many people who had been worshipping at other churches following the fire. The timing of the dedication before Holy Week could not have been better, she said.
“It’s so nice because Easter is a time of new birth,” Elizabeth said. “We are just (excited) to experience our new church.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: To see a multimedia presentation on the new church, visit www.catholiccourier.com/stpius.