No detail was overlooked in bridging the past, the present and the eternal inside newly renovated St. Jude Thaddeus Church in Mokane.
“What you see here when you look around is a product of faith, love and resolve,” Father Joseph Abah, pastor of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish and of St. Peter Parish in Fulton, said of the yearlong process of restoring the 128-year-old church to its youthful vigor.
He said the completed project is a testament to a resilient and passionate community.
“This church building looks deceptively small,” he noted. “What remains invisible are the big hearts it contains.”
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight traveled to Mokane the afternoon of Oct. 22 to rededicate the church and consecrate its new altar.
“This church building is truly ‘an abode of God’ and ‘a gateway to heaven,’” the bishop said in his homily, echoing Genesis 28:17.
“This very structure is our shrine that raises up our souls, minds and even our bodies to heaven through the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and texture,” he told a capacity congregation. “In this sacred place, God blesses us as we give him our worship and praise.”
The bishop reminded the people that “you and I are called to be temples of the Holy Spirit, with Jesus as our capstone, bearing the Word of God wherever we go.”
“And not just in our speech,” he emphasized, “but also in our actions full of the brilliance of the fire of charity.”
Therefore, said Bishop McKnight, this was not simply the dedication of a physical altar, “but the dedication of our hearts, our renewal of dedication to God through our belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church, through our charitable works, and through our sacramental life.”
Fr. Abah and several other priests of the diocese, among them previous pastors of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish, concelebrated the Mass.
They assisted in lighting the candles and blessing and anointing the walls.
The rededication was the culmination of more than seven years of planning and preparing.
Parishioners at first set out to build a new church, as the current one seemed to have deteriorated beyond repair.
They began raising money, but a series of turns and developments led them to reevaluate the current building and ultimately invest in its renewal.
A sacrificial gift by Dan and Pat Dickneite helped make the project possible, along with contributions from fellow parishioners old and new.
People of all ages marveled and gave thanks upon seeing the church ready for Mass for the first time since last November, when they took up temporary quarters in the nearby parish hall.
“The things that are most meaningful in life require a great sacrifice,” Bishop McKnight pointed out in his homily. “Therefore, in our celebration of Mass at this altar, we shall make a sacrifice of praise to God, with hearts full of gratitude lifted up to him.”
During the ceremonial handing-over of the church, the general contractor presented to Bishop McKnight a box containing a piece of stone from the church’s original 1895 foundation, with a plaque noting the dates of the original dedication and the rededication.
The rite for rededicating a Catholic church is filled with rituals, symbols and prayers dating back to Biblical times.
Bishop McKnight blessed water and used it to cleanse the altar and to sprinkle holy water on the people with the help of concelebrating priests.
He placed relics of St. Jude Thaddeus and St. Francis of Assisi below the natural stone top of the new altar.
Following an antiphonal Litany of Saints, he offered the Prayer of Dedication, imploring the Father to help “your faithful, gathered around the table of the altar, celebrate the memorial of the [life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ], and be refreshed by the banquet of Christ’s Word and his Body.”
“Here may the joyful offering of praise resound,” the bishop prayed, “with human voices joined to the song of angels, and unceasing prayer rising up to you for the salvation of the world.”
“Here may the poor find mercy, the oppressed attain true freedom, and all people be clothed with the dignity of your children, until they come exultant to the Jerusalem which is above,” he prayed.
Bishop McKnight then pronounced the Prayer of Consecration of an altar.
He recalled the altars that had been built by Noah, Abraham and Moses, as well as the table of the Last Supper, and the cross, the altar upon which Jesus presented himself as the perfect sin offering for humanity.
“Bless this altar built in the house of the Church,” the bishop prayed, “that it may ever be reserved for the sacrifice of Christ, and stand forever as the Lord’s table, where your people will find nourishment and strength.”
He poured Sacred Chrism in the outline of a cross upon the altar’s center and four corners, then carefully spread with his hands the sweet-scented Chrism across the entire surface.
Concelebrating priests then anointed the walls, applying Chrism in the shape of a cross near the four corners.
Anointing is symbolic of setting a person or place aside for a sacred purpose.
Sacred Chrism — named for Christ, God’s Anointed One, and consecrated by the local bishop each year during the Chrism Mass — is most often used to anoint Catholics during their Baptism and Confirmation, as well as priests and bishops when they receive the Sacrament of Holy orders.
Then, as a symbol of the multiple prayers that would ascend to heaven from the sanctuary and of the perfect, eternal sacrifice of Christ that is made present every time Mass is offered, the bishop burned incense in a brazier atop the altar.
The sweet smoke filled the church, mixing with the aroma of candles, the Chrism and the newly refinished woodwork.
Parishioners then came forward in procession to set the candles, flowers and altar linens in place.
The 1911-vintage bell in the rehabilitated tower echoed across the landscape as parishioners gathered after Mass for a photo with Bishop McKnight and Fr. Abah outside the church.
The people then shared a festive meal in the parish hall.
Now and then
St. Jude Thaddeus Church was originally built in 1895 to serve another congregation.
Father George Hoehn, who was pastor of the former St. Martin Parish in Starkenburg, bought the then-vacant Mokane church in 1910, renamed it in honor of one of the Twelve Apostles, acquired an altar and began offering Mass there.
The church was expanded and renovated several times through the decades.
“Each generation has made improvements on this building over the past 113 years,” historian and fifth-generation parishioner Heather Murphy wrote in the rededication program. “Each generation, in turn, becomes the caretakers of the building until that responsibility passes to the next generation.
“We know that it was our turn to leave our mark on the building,” she wrote, “and we know without a doubt that while we would all enjoy the fruits of that labor for a few years, in reality, it was all done as a gift to the children of our parish.”
The goal, however, was not just to preserve the church for future generations but to celebrate the people who had come before.
Special care was taken at every level of planning to retain the look and feel of “that little white church on the hill that we’ve been since the days when Mokane counted itself among the railroad boom towns,” Mrs. Murphy wrote.
A display cabinet inside the main entrance contains a striking collection of photos and mementos from the parish’s early history.
“It is our responsibility to keep the flame of our ancestors alive — to remember their names, to tell their story,” Mrs. Murphy insisted.
“And their story is our story.”