CHARLESTON, West Virginia — Bishop Michael J. Bransfield dedicated a new altar and blessed the renovated sanctuary at the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston as he welcomed hundreds of people to what he called a “wonderful house of God.”
The Dec. 17 celebration included current and former basilica rectors.
Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, spoke of the joy in the anticipation of Christmas and the dedication of the altar during his homily.
“The joy that we share today, gathered as the parish family of Sacred Heart around this new altar, anticipates the joy of gathering with friends and family for Christmas and points to that fullness of rejoicing we will experience when Christ the Sacred Heart will appear at the end and gather us into the one kingdom,” the bishop said.
“This new altar, made of noble stone, permanent and fixed, reminds us that Christ himself is the one true cornerstone of our lives,” he explained. “As the fathers of the church were fond of saying, the altar is Christ and points to Christ, the high priest and the lamb of sacrifice. The permanence of the altar shows us that Christ is that immovable rock, which gives solid foundation to all things.”
The faithful will draw strength from praying before the altar, knowing that “Christ the cornerstone cannot be shaken,” he added.
Bransfield urged the faithful to rededicate their lives to God every time they pray in the basilica, “so that Christ the Light will shine in and through you and you will proclaim the goodness of the Lord and rejoice always in his presence.”
The rite of dedication began with the singing of the Litany of the Saints. The bishop then offered the Prayer of Dedication and anointed the altar with sacred chrism, making it a symbol of Christ. The bishop then burned incense on the altar, signifying Christ’s sacrifice.
The project was a gift to the basilica on behalf of the diocese from Bransfield.
In remarks at the end of Mass, Father Donald Higgs, basilica rector, thanked Bransfield for “this very generous gift” and Monsignor Frederick Annie, diocesan vicar general, for his vision and guidance in the project.
In addition to the new altar, the basilica received a new ambo, cathedra and sanctuary floor, all made of Italian marble. The tops of the altar, ambo and cathedra were cut from the same marble of that on the tops of the altar and ambo at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling, West Virginia, and link the sister churches.
“The altar is a beautiful design with eight statues of saints around the base,” Higgs said.
Depicted are St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. John XXIII, St. Teresa of Kolkata, St. Junipero Serra, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Joseph and St. Martin de Porres. Relics of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. John XXIII, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton are mounted in the altar.
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Rowan is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.