By Elizabeth Lowe
Debbi Russell was thrilled to celebrate the 100th anniversary of her parish, New All Saints, Liberty Heights.
“Reaching a centennial of anything is wonderful,” said Russell, who has been a parishioner of the Baltimore parish for 34 years. “We are a very close church, a very strong spiritual community.”
Russell was one of more than 250 people who filled the church Dec. 16 for Mass to celebrate New All Saint’s centennial liturgy. Knights of Columbus members were present.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, the principal celebrant, said “what a joy it is to pay this very first visit (to New All Saints). Rejoice in God’s many blessings to this parish.”
The Mass and a gala later that day were the formal culmination of the predominantly African American parish’s centennial celebration, which began in October 2011.
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In his homily, Archbishop Lori, who a day earlier had returned to Baltimore after being in Rome for several days, said “in leading good Christian lives, living in the world with our hearts set upon the world that is to come, we discover the joy that Christ came to bring us, a joy and a peace which nothing and no one can ever take away from us.”
He continued, “so on this Gaudete Sunday, let us indeed rejoice but not with a flimsy joy but rather with joy and a love that is stronger than sin and more powerful than death.
“Let us rejoice in the Lord’s mercy by making a good confession in the remaining days before Christmas, and let us rejoice in seeking and finding the face of Christ in the poor, the sick, the abandoned, and the suffering. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say it, rejoice.”
Father Donald A. Sterling, pastor of New All Saints, said All Saints and Our Lady of Lourdes merged around 1995 to form New All Saints. The parish numbers close to 800 families.
“They came here which has been a tremendous blessing,” he said. “They called and said to me, ‘we’ve been dealing with our future and we’ve decided we want to join All Saints parish.’ That’s awesome to hear.”
Events that began during the centennial year, including community outreach and ways for parishioners to get to know one another, will continue, Father Sterling said.
“I see it as a new beginning, a stepping stone, a marker for us,” he said. “The year has been excellent. It has given us added incentive to consciously and assertively look at who we are.”
He added, the past year has “offered us some unique opportunities to touch base with people. I’m just grateful to God to be a part of the process and very grateful to parishioners that have given very generously of their time and talent and their ongoing commitment.”
Last month the parish celebrated a special liturgy for deceased parishioners from All Saints, Our Lady of Lourdes and New All Saints, Father Sterling said.
“It was a wonderful celebration,” he said. “People do value their past and their religious past and their loved ones.”
Thelma Daley, chairwoman of the centennial committee, said the centennial year “has brought the people together.”
Copyright (c) Dec. 17, 2012 CatholicReview.org