By Paul McMullen
JOPPA – “Want to see where your classroom is going to be?”
With a mix of gentleness and excitement, a man asked that of the little boy holding his hand Aug. 12, during the dedication of the new parish center at Church of the Holy Spirit in Joppa.
The pair were among those who couldn’t find a seat in the packed Simmons Room, named for Father Joseph C. Simmons, longtime pastor of the parish, which had been without meeting space for religious education and other needs since December 2009, when a fire destroyed its previous parish center.
Archbishop William E. Lori celebrated 11:15 a.m. Mass, then dedicated the 8,500-square-foot parish center, built by J. Vinton Schafer and Sons, Inc with a project budget of an estimated $2.1 million. On a glorious summer Sunday, he walked through an honor guard of the Knights of Columbus, blessed the new building, then pronounced, “This is indeed a day of rejoicing.”
Archbishop Lori met parishioners young and old during a reception in the spacious Simmons Room, which is adorned with a photo of Father Simmons and a plaque, courtesy of the Knights Council 6188, which serves Edgewood, Joppa and the chapel at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
In his remarks, Father Simmons thanked the Knights, state and Harford officers of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians in attendance, and Kathy Meneghini, the staff member who does a little of everything for the parish.
“She did every document, advised me every step way, measured every inch of the space and cleaned a lot of it,” said Father Simmons, who jokingly alluded to his office remaining in the church. “She can get a lot more done with me out of the way.”
Father Simmons noted that Church of the Holy Spirit opened in 1963 and is preparing for its golden jubilee year.
“Be thankful to the Lord that the accident caused no bodily harm,” Father Simmons said. “What a gift from the Lord, for our 50th anniversary, in 2013.”
The footprint of the new parish center moved it considerably closer to the church, which was standing room only at the 11:15 a.m. Mass.
“One of my great joys as your new archbishop is to visit parishes, to see first-hand the wonderful, vibrant communities that make up our Archdiocese of Baltimore,” Archbishop Lori said after the opening procession. “Let us pray that the parish center be a place where people can come together from near and far to experience God’s blessings of faith and love.”
In his homily, Archbishop Lori made particular note of the Gospel reading, John 6:41-51.
“The Gospel reading is the source of charity, the Eucharist,” Archbishop Lori said. “The Holy Spirit transforms from sin to grace to glory.
“If you haven’t been to confession in a while,” he continued, “do a good, unburdening confession. You and I can’t put a price on a clear conscience. I remember a bishop who was perpetually happy. He was asked, what was the source of his joy? ‘I go to confession every two weeks. If the Lord can forgive me …’ ”
Copyright (c) Aug. 13, 2012 CatholicReview.org