by JOHN GILLIES
GISBORNE — Gisborne Catholics celebrated a return to their spiritual home on December 3, with the rededication of the church of St Mary Star of the Sea in Campion Rd.
About 260 people gathered for a Mass of Rededication.
Repair and renovation of the church cost $1.6 million and took 11 months. During that time, Masses were celebrated in Campion Hall — formerly St Pius X Church in Emily Street — which was recommissioned and named St Philomena’s Church for the duration.
Leaky building syndrome and the need to bring the 16-year-old building to earthquake-safe standards prompted the project, and the parish took the opportunity to review the layout of the church.
The result was a church that was a worthy place of worship, said the Bishop of Hamilton, Bishop Denis Browne, who celebrated the Mass.
Assisting him were Gisborne parish priest Pa Yvan Sergy; his assistant, Fr Matt McAuslin; Msgr Michael Browne, the bishop’s elder brother and a former parish priest in Gisborne, now in Tauranga; Fr Simon Eccleton, now of Christchurch, but baptised in Gisborne; Fr Seejo Thandiackal, formerly of Gisborne, but now of Fairfield; Fr David Gledhill of Te Puna; and two deacons, the Revs. Mike Rolfe of Gisborne and Peter Richardson of Hamilton.
Before Mass, the clergy led the congregation in procession to the entrance, where architect James Blackburne gave Bishop Browne the book of work progress, Maurice Middleton of contractors Watts and Hughes presented the signed contract, foreman Chris McGurk presented the building plan, and Phil Simpson of the parish finance committee handed over the key.
Inside, Bishop Browne blessed the building and the people.
In his homily, Bishop Browne — who served in Gisborne in the mid-1960s — thanked those responsible for the refurbishing of the church. Pa Sergy had told him the workers never lost the sense that the building was a sacred place. It was the sacredness of the congregation’s gathering as a community that made it that way.
In the Rite of Dedication, Bishop Browne, Pa Sergy and Fr McAuslin anointed the church walls by making the sign of the cross with chrism oil on 12 crosses — referencing the twelve tribes of Israel.
Incense was burned and carried through the church and among the congregation. Candles and lamps were lit as signs of rejoicing and, after Communion, the bishop and clergy processed the Blessed Sacrament to the chapel of reservation. There the Blessed Sacrament was placed in the tabernacle, and the perpetual lamp was lit.
In the main body of the church, a time capsule was buried. It contained the signatures of those who attended the rededication Mass, an explanation and pictures of the work on the church, and a coin minted for the occasion.
As the Mass drew to a close, the contribution of Pa Sergy was recognised with a standing ovation.
by JOHN GILLIES