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20th Anniversary of St Irene's new Parish Church
by Deacon Charlie Ferraro (Dec 2017)
December 7th marks the 20th year since our church on East Street was consecrated and dedicated. It was such a beautiful day, clear, sunny and cool. It was truly what proceeded that day, which made it so very special. We were originally a mission church of St Bernard Parish in Concord, now Holy Family Parish. Our first Mass in Carlisle was celebrated in a barn warmed by a bulky smoky coal stove. This is how it was until 1960, when the remnants of an army building was used to build our small church of St Irene on Bedford Rd, next to what is now the US Post Office. December 7th, 1997 marked a third phase of our parish with the opening of our new church and hall next to the rectory, which had been built at the same time as our little church on Bedford Rd.
The joy and excitement of that day was the result of the overwhelming participation from our parish, from 1988 when Father Tom arrived and began to reinvigorate a committee, which was started by his predecessor Father Byrne, to determine how we should properly accommodate the rapid growth of parishioners. My earliest recollection of its origin had to do with the first time Nancy and I attended Mass in Carlisle after moving into our home. Father Byrne stopped us as we entered the church and asked who we were, and we asked how he knew we were new. He mentioned that there were not many Catholics in Carlisle, so we were easy to spot. Where upon he asked what we did for work. Once he found out I was involved in real estate, he asked for my participation on the building committee. This was the way we all became involved in our little parish. Many of us could recount a similar story.
Next time you come to church, stop at the rear of the church and read the names of the families who participated in making the reality of the dedication possible. Or as you sit in your bench, observe who purchased a memorial for their family. There are plaques throughout the parish commemorating memorials of our new church, a testament to their faith and their commitment to provide for the evangelization and passing on of the faith to the next generation. Now imagine their excitement and joy that day after the many years of building up to it. The day began with a closing and decommissioning of our little church on Bedford Rd followed by a procession lead by a banner announcing our new church, joined by singing of some 300 exuberant parishioners.
The procession reaches the new Church under blue skies, Dec 7th 1997.
When the procession reached the front door of the new church, we presented the keys to Cardinal Law, who unlocked the doors and began the consecrating of the church. This is an elaborate process on blessings and anointing followed by the lighting of the single candles, which you see still mounted on the walls surrounding the congregation area. The altar received a very special anointing, blessing, and installation of the relics. After the consecration, we were ready to celebrate the first Mass. The church was overflowing, the music was a brilliant and uplifting, prayerful and thanksgiving, as we sang “many are the blessing the Lord bestows on those who trust in his ways”. After beautiful readings reminding us of the establishment of our Catholic church 2000 years ago, we settled down to hear the Cardinal’s homily. It was then that a bright sunny day suddenly turned dark and foreboding. The wind began to whip up, and it was easy to see this through the clear windows in the apse behind the altar. As the wind picked up, it began to snow. Mind you there was no such forecast for snow that day. The Cardinal, as well as the all of us, was distracted by this sudden change. He paused in the middle of his homily feeling the need to comment on the structural integrity of our new church!
Cardinal Law speaks while the snow storm builds outside
Many of us in the congregation, who spoke afterward, felt it was a visible descending of the Holy Spirit upon our new church. It marked it as a House of the Father to be occupied by the presence of the Son in the tabernacle to bring us His Life, Love, and Grace through His Spirit. As suddenly as the wind, snow, and dark skies arrived, they vanished but remained etched in our minds as an outward sign of the special blessings, which were being bestowed on our parish. The Mass proceeded and with the liturgy of the table and the very first miracle of the bread and the wine becoming the real presence of Our Lord and Savior to reign in our church for now 20 years. After the celebration we all headed downstairs for a reception and a blessing of our new Religious Ed classrooms and hall.
It was a glorious day that represented culmination of years of Hope, Prayers and Community; not unlike the current Advent season. Imagine the Jewish people enduring thousands of years of God’s promise that He would send us a Messiah to reunite us with our God, a light unto the world to teach us the Way to eternal life. It makes our 50 year journey as a mission church / parish seem like a small period of time. In the fullness of time Jesus came, born of a virgin, in a barn warmed by the breath of the animals. He was unknown to most around Him, except for the shepherds greeted by angels, and the Wise Men who studied the sky and followed the brilliant light, which led them to the newborn King. We know the story that followed, and how our redemption was won for us. Death was conquered by the resurrection, giving us the hope of eternal life.
Our parish is about to enter a new phase of collaboration with Holy Family, a change that we will meet with the same Trust, Hope, Prayers and Community knowing “that we can do all things through our God who strengthens us, for His love endures forever”. Let us give thanks to Our God on this our 20th anniversary of our new church.
The original church on Bedford Road.
Procession through Carlisle.
Cardinal Law with the incense.
View from the Church toward the Rectory at the height of the snow storm during Mass.