Anniversary of the Dedication of Bishop Marty Chapel
Every year we celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel. This year marks the 65th year of our prayer and worship in this chapel dedicated to the praise of God. The dedication candles are lit, the sisters have gathered for statio, and our prayer of thanksgiving begins. But first, it behooves me to share the story of how the chapel was built from our sisters hopes and prayers, lead by Mother Jerome Schmitt, and told by our historians from a time much closer to celebration…
“…By far the crowning point of Mother Jerome’s external accomplishments was the erection of the magnificent Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel which rose steadily, stone by stone, throughout the difficult war and post-war years of 1946 to 1950 and was solemnly consecrated in the spring of 1950. The Chapel stands not only as a monument to the saintly Bishop through whom God called the Benedictines to Dakota but also as a living symbol of the faith of a community” (Travelers on the Way of Peace, 1955).
“There is one thing I ask of the Lord, to live in the house of the Lord.” ~ Benedictus Antiphon
The chapel’s very completion was an act of faith. It was built in the years after World War II; when building materials were both scarce and precious, M. Jerome and the contractors found a way through their trust in God. Bishop Martin Marty Memorial Chapel was completed and consecrated in the year 1950. The chapel has been filled with the voices of our sisters giving God praise since that day.
“…The construction, begun after frustrating delays, was nearing completion. With justifiable pride, she had watched the raising of the Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel which now crowned the cluster of building on the western elevation of the city of Yankton. It was something that…she had dreamed about at a time when realization seemed impossible. But, there was the stone steeple, rising to a height of 187 feet, directing heavenward the thoughts of motorists on Highway 50. This house of God was both artistic and functional: it was an imposing work of stone in modified Gothic design, which could take its place among thee architectural masterpieces of Europe.
“…The Most Reverend William O. Brady, assisted by five bishops, four abbots, and about 180 monsignori and priests from the Midwest carried out the colorful and symbolic ceremonies, which set apart forever this building for the sole purpose of giving glory to God…Bishop Brady in his closing remarks paid tribute to the pioneer members of the community and all members who had given reality to a dream of raising a fitting monument to the Provident of God, “under the shadow of Whose wings” the community had prospered” (Sr. Claudia Daratschek, Under the Shadow of His Wings, 1971).
“This is God’s holy temple, and we are the living stones. Let us bow down in prayer, singing God’s praises.”
~ Benedictus Antiphon, Anniversary of the Dedication of Bishop Marty Chapel
Father Thomas explained some of the Church teaching on how churches are dedicated through a special ceremony. Then he shared some reflections on the meaning of this dedication for those who worship in those churches.
“The feast of the Dedication of a church is celebrated annually only in those church buildings which have been consecrated by a bishop. The dedication sets the building aside as a sacred, holy place which cannot be used for other purposes. Among other things, the building must be debt-free when dedicated, so most church buildings are not consecrated. The ceremony is one of the most beautiful of all the ceremonies of the Church…
…Also part of the ceremony is the blessing of the walls. They too are anointed with the Chrism Oil at twelve locations throughout the church building. The twelve locations represent the twelve apostles on whose foundations the Christian faith rests and are marked with a cross and candle (called the consecration candles). Traditionally, those candles are only lit on the anniversary of the dedication of the church building.
The ceremony of dedication has similarities to the Sacrament of Baptism, especially regarding the anointing and candles. Those entering the church through Baptism are also anointed as a symbol of their being set aside (dedicated) to and for God. Those baptized receive a candle representing the Light of Christ. They are to receive and be the Light of Christ to the world” (Father Thomas on the anniversary of the Dedication of Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel, 2014).
This dedication of a place apart for prayer alone also appears in the Rule of Benedict. In Chapter 52, Benedict orders that the Monastery have an Oratory for the monks’ and nuns’ Work of God, their life of prayer…
Let the oratory be what it is called, a place of prayer; and let nothing else be done there or kept there. When the Work of God is ended, let all go out in perfect silence, and let reverence for God be observed, so that any sister who may wish to pray privately will not be hindered by another’s misconduct. And at other times also, if anyone should want to pray by herself, let her go in simply and pray, not in a loud voice but with tears and fervor of heart…