At Dedication of St Lawrence Church in Saki, Bishop Badejo Tasks Catholics on Family Altar, Prayer
The Church, as rightly described in the Decree of the Rite of Dedication of a Church and Altar, is “the place where the Christian community is gathered to hear the word of God, to offer intercessions and praise to God, above all, to celebrate the holy mysteries and also to preserve the holy sacrament of the Eucharist.
Consequently, the church (building) stands as a special kind of image of the Church itself, which is God’s temple built from living stones”, that is, the people of God.
It is against this backdrop, that a church is set apart through an intense liturgical rite of dedication. The entire family of St Lawrence Catholic Church, Saki had been preparing earnestly and looking forward to that day when their church will be dedicated and this came to realization on the 27h of August, 2023.
The ceremony started on the 26h of August 2023, with the first vespers (evening prayer I) of the Dedication of a Church at the adoration chapel where the relics of the saint to be placed in the Altar, St. Maria Faustina, was placed till the following day. Her relics were specially chosen as an invocation of divine mercy on the parish, parishioners and the entire diocese. The evening prayer was graced by His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo (Catholic Bishop of Oyo Diocese), Priests, Deacons and Seminarians.
The following day, the ceremony started with the relics carried in procession from the chapel of adoration to the grotto where the people of God were assembled, as the entrance rite commenced from the grotto to the church. Because of the nature of the dignity of celebration, His Lordship invited the people of God to be active and prayerful at the course of this historical event stating clearly that the dedication is for the glory of God, edification, and sanctification of his people.
When the procession got to the entrance of the church, the reconstruction committee chairperson handed over the keys of the church to His lordship who in turn handed it to the charge of Fr Michael Eke, CMF, the parish priest. Thereafter, the Bishop preceded by the crucifix bearer led the procession into the Church after which the rite of blessing and sprinkling of holy water around the altar, the church and the people of God took place as an act of penitence and cleansing in line with Ex. 19: 9-25, to cleanse the people and the structure of the church.
After the Gloria and Collect, then came the Liturgy of the Word.
In his homily, the Bishop exhorted the people to rejoice and animated them with songs of rejoicing accordingly, for the dedication of St. Lawrence Catholic Church is a fulfillment of the hope of all those who had worked in the parish, past and present, living or deceased.
Drawing from a robust scriptural foundation cutting across the readings of the day as well, he stressed that the dedication of the church has three significances for the people: the edification, sanctification and salvation of the people.
Above all, he noted that the hearts of the people were more importantly to be dedicated to God, for the dedication of the church is the dedication of her members. Consequently, the dedication of the church invites everyone to a life of holiness and consecration to God. Quoting St. Francis, he said, “if you are too busy to pray then you are busier than how your creator wants you to be.”
He thus called for the restoration of the practice of having a family altar, for in his words, “a family altar can alter the lives of a family.”
In conclusion, he implored the parishioners to support the parish priest so that he can continue to spread the glory of God across the stations.
After the homily came the profession of faith closely followed by the Litany of Saints which signifies our communion with the Saints and invoking their intercession. Then followed the depositing of the relics of St. Maria Faustina in the altar, immediately followed by the prayer of dedication.
Thereafter, the Bishop took off his chasuble and wearing a gremial (apron), anointed the altar and together with the Parish priest anointed the walls of the church. This was followed by the incensation. Having put incense into a pot of burning coal placed on the altar and thurible, The Bishop incensed the altar, after which he was incensed by the parish priest and the priests, people and the wall of the church were incensed in this order. After the rite of incensation, the Bishop handed a lighted candle to the Deacons who began first by lighting the candles by the altar, then the candles on the walls of the church and afterwards, other lights were lit in the church.
Due to the nature and dignity of the celebration, at each liturgical moment, Bishop Badejo explained the meaning of each liturgical sign or symbol employed. Firstly, the anointing of the altar and other parts of the church with chrism makes the altar a symbol of Christ, who, before all things, is and is called ‘The Anointed One’; for the Father anointed him with the Holy Spirit and constituted him the High Priest so that on the altar of his body he might offer the sacrifice of his life for the salvation of all. Secondly, the incensation of the church indicates that the dedication makes it a house of prayer. The Altar, Bishop, Priests and the People of God are incensed, because they are the living temples in which each faithful member is a spiritual altar. And the lighting of the altar and the church is a reminder that Christ is ‘a light to enlighten the nations’; his brightness shines out in the Church and through it in the whole human family.
After all these sacred liturgical rituals had been performed, other liturgical rites took place as usual. After the Liturgy of the Eucharist, The Parish Pastoral Council Vice Chairman, Mr. Cosmas Ogbu and the Chairman of the Re-construction Committee Mr. Cletus Offodiri, both thanked His Lordship and the parishioners for their enormous support towards the re-construction of the church building which has come to fruition. The parish priest also thanked the the Bishop for his support and encouragement, as well as the parishioners for their overwhelming support and commitment towards the realization of the re-construction and dedication of the Church.
Finally, the Local Ordinary, Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo appreciated the people of God for building a wonderful edifice and he charged them to also build their spiritual lives which is the most important of all. In a special way, he also appreciated the Parish Priest, Very Rev. Fr. Mike Eke CMF, and his co-pastor, Rev. Fr. Francis Ilonwa, CMF for the wonderful work they are doing in and outside the Parish Center and he encouraged them and all parishioners to also channel the same energy in building the out stations under their care.
After the final blessing, there was a brief reception. The whole compound was agog with sounds of celebration. One could observe the beaming smiles on the faces of people which bespeaks indeed that the Lord has done a new thing in the lives of His people.