In his homily to a large gathering of parishioners Aug. 13 at St. Peter’s Church in Delano, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, spiritual head of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, petitioned “As we gather around to bless this altar, we ask God to bless us also.”
Hebda told parishioners he was honored to be present at the event that “. . . conveys the real strength, the symbol of unity” embodied in the altar and the church.
The consecration ceremony included anointing the altar with sacred oils and incense, installing of relics of saints, and chanting the litany of the saints.
The table of the Lord occupies a central place in the liturgy of the Catholic church. The significance of the altar dates from early Christianity when Mass was offered on the tombs of martyrs in the catacombs.
The practice grew to the tradition of venerating saints in an honored place in the church.
After the second Vatican Council of the 1960s, a simple, low altar was placed in most Catholic churches.
The current church, constructed in 1913, contains design factors inspired by the Western European ancestry of the people of Delano.
Graced with grand arches, Doric-style columns, and murals depicting people and events in church history, St. Peter’s is known for its distinctive ecclesiastic features.
The style of the new altar, designed by Alan Warnka, a specialist is church renovation, is consistent with the aesthetic elements and classic motif of the original church.
The altar features painted and sculpted icons symbolic of the patron of the parish, St. Maximillian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The front of the altar contains the sacred and immaculate hearts. The center emblem is the IHS, which translates from Latin as “Jesus Savior of Humanity.”
A dramatic feature of the altar is the number 16670 inscribed on the base. This was Kolbe’s prisoner number at Auschwitz, where, in 1941, he volunteered to die in place of a stranger who had children.
Altars in Catholic churches contain relics of saints whose lives exemplify the teachings of the church. The relics placed in the new altar are of St. Pius X and St. Francis of Assisi. These saints have special significance in the local parish.
Pius X was pope at the time St. Peter’s Church was constructed in 1913. St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Franciscan friar whose founder was St. Francis of Assisi. The new relics have been placed alongside the original altar stone.
Music for the consecration brought together a Mass choir of voices from the St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish. From classic Isaac Watts to contemporary Marty Haugen, director Terry Beaudry selected hymns that represented the old and the new in Catholic faith. The vocalists were accompanied by an instrumental ensemble.
In his written comments about the event, Fr. Nathan LaLiberte, pastor, said, “The altar for us Catholics is the bridge that brings together heaven and earth.”
In capturing the meaning of consecration, Fr. LaLiberte said, “The angels of God will be ascending and descending upon this place of consecration, bringing our prayers to God, and bestowing upon us the graces that our Father desired us to have.”
The installation of a new centerpiece of worship is a historic event in the parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe and in the community of Delano. Residents who wish to view the new altar are encouraged to contact the parish office.