Homily — 30th Sun. OT 80th Anniversary Weekend 10/25/09
The Lord has done great things for us,
We are filled with joy!
Today’s first reading and psalm speak of the joy the Israelites had when they were able to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem after the Exile.
Even Jeremiah, usually a pretty grim, doom and gloom prophet, is bursting with happiness at seeing God’s Temple go up, as he says in the first reading: Thus says the LORD: Shout with joy, proclaim your praise and say “The LORD has delivered His people!” Behold, (now) I (the LORD) will gather them . . . . the blind and the lame, mothers and those with child, an immense throng.
(Now) I will console and guide them, I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road so that none (of them) shall stumble.
Today’s readings are most appropriate for us, as we rejoice, as we celebrate this weekend the 80th Anniversary of the building of this Temple of God, St. Joseph Church Woonsocket.
The story of the birth of our parish goes back to the mid 1920′s. Our wonderful parish historian, Raymond Bacon, has for over 30 years chronicled our parish history, and as the current Pastor I’d like to take the opportunity to thank him for his excellent work, just a little of which I will share with you in this homily.
In the late 1920s, this area of East Woonsocket was rapidly changing from a rural farmland to a populace suburb. The population of Woonsocket had doubled since the turn of the century, and St. Anne’s Parish which then included East Woonsocket was bursting at the seams.
In July of 1926, at the request of East Woonsocketers who felt a strong need for a parish in their growing corner of the city, the Bishop of Providence, Bishop Hickey, purchased 6 acres of land from Elmer and Edwin Jillson, which is the present site of St. Joseph Parish. The cost of the whole 6 acres: $23,000 – less money than it cost to repair our steeple this past summer!
Two and a half years later, the Bishop gave permission for a new parish to be founded. The Reverend Joseph F. Dumont, a curate at St. Anne’s, was appointed Pastor of the still unbuilt parish on Friday, July 12, 1929.
But Fr. Dumont wasted no time getting things moving. As Ray Bacon tells it in his history: “On Tuesday afternoon, July 16, work was begun on the new Church. As if inspired by their patron saint, some fifty men, under the direction of Mr. Aime Lefebvre, gave of their time, their talent and their labor, and successfully completed the Church in time for the following Sunday, July 21 1929.”
“The original structure was 80 feet long, 30 feet wide, and had a seating capacity of some 500 people” (And I’m happy to say, we continue to this day to be blessed with people in the parish who work hard in that same spirit of sacrifice – the building committee, food cupboard workers, bingo volunteers, liturgy committee, 50/50 Club, choir, and so many others)
On that Sunday, July 21, 1929, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated for the very first time at St. Joseph’s Parish, and Jesus our Lord took up residence in the Tabernacle, where He has happily lived for the past 80 years.
The Lord has done great things for us
We are filled with Joy!
Filled with Joy, over the thousands of people who were born again of water and the Holy Spirit from this Baptismal Font.
Filled with Joy for the many holy vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life and married life that have been nurtured from our parish.
Filled with Joy that over these past 80 years, countless men and women have been nourished with the Eucharist, reconciled to God through the Sacrament of Penance, healed and consoled by Jesus through the anointing of the sick, and honored with Christian burial when their earthly pilgrimage ended, all here at our parish.
Filled with Joy, that 80 years later, in 2009 we now worship God in this beautifully renovated Church building (with one of the best Steeples in Woonsocket!); and our Catholic School and Public School children are getting taught the faith in a equally impressive, solidly built school building.
But the greatest thing by far the LORD has done for us, my brothers and sisters, the thing we are most filled with joy about, is that the Faith our ancestors built this parish upon remains strong in the hearts of those who come to Mass here each week.
Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, the Foster Son of St. Joseph, continues to be the Lord of our Hearts,
Jesus Christ continues to be made known through the lives of so many faith filled parishioners.
May St. Joseph our Patron, and Mary his Immaculate Spouse continue to shower these blessings from their Son down on us, as we celebrate this weekend, and for many many years to come.