Communion, mission emphasis of bicentennial


Diocesan commemoration begins Jan. 18 in Norfolk


For more than 18 months, Father Anthony E. Marques, rector of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and chair of the Diocese of Richmond’s Bicentennial Task Force, has been researching, writing, meeting and planning for the diocese’s 200th anniversary. Come the weekend of Saturday, Jan. 18 and Sunday, Jan. 19, he and Catholics throughout the diocese will begin the celebration.

Bishop Barry C. Knestout will celebrate the Mass for the Particular Church at 10:30 a.m., Jan. 18, at Sacred Heart, Norfolk. The prayers and Scripture readings for that Mass, instead of the those for the Mass for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, will be used at all Masses celebrated in the diocese that weekend. (See accompanying story, Page 4.)

Father Marques said that the Mass the bishop celebrates that morning “will, in a sense, carry over into all parishes throughout the diocese.”

He explained that since all parishes will be celebrating the Mass for the Particular Church, “Every Catholic in the Diocese of Richmond will be joined to the bishop in that celebration. There will be a letter from the bishop read at each Mass that summarizes these points and explains a bit more about communion and what we’re celebrating and the effect it can have in our lives. So, we’ll all be joined in a special way that weekend.”

The Mass is the first of three vicariate Masses. The one for the Central Vicariate will be celebrated Saturday, July 11, the date the diocese was established, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart; the one for the Western Vicariate will be celebrated at St. Andrew, Roanoke, on Sunday, Sept. 27, the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, patron saint of the diocese.

United to God, one another

Father Marques noted that in addition to recognizing the Catholic roots and the beginning of organizational Catholicism in the Eastern Vicariate, the location for the first celebration is significant because when Bishop Patrick Kelly arrived in Virginia, he found a local church where “the communion had ruptured.”

“There was a division, and that was the reason why Pope Pius VII established the diocese. The idea was that a local bishop could heal that rift,” he said. “It’s not just a historical arrival of Patrick Kelly (about which we’re reminded), but it’s also that there’s a perennial need for unity in the Church.”

The emphasis on communion and mission during the bicentennial is intentional, according to Father Marques.

“The bonds that unite us to God unite us to one another,” he said. “I hope that people experience that and deepen their communion with God and the Church, and that as a result of it, the mission of our local Church, the mission of each baptized Catholic, is renewed so that they have a deeper sense of their call to be a witness to the Gospel in their everyday lives — a deeper understanding of what it means to belong to the Church and therefore the mission of the Church.”

Motto reflects themes

Father Marques said those themes are reflected in the bicentennial motto: “Shine like stars in the world as you hold fast to the word of life.”

“Communion comes first, and then that leads to mission because the Church isn’t something closed. In the motto it’s reversed. You hear “shine like stars as you hold fast to the word of life” (Phil 2:15-16), but the idea is that to the extent that we are close to God, that enables us to shine ever more brightly,” he said. “We wish to show other people what we believe and why we believe it, and in that way offer them hope and invite them to know God in a deeper way.”

Father Marques said he hoped people would see the bicentennial as more than “just a commemoration of something institutional.”

“It’s a spiritual exercise. It’s a deepening, hopefully, of one’s own relationship with God and one’s relationship with the Church, and that begins in the home,” he said. “We regard the family as the domestic Church, and that carries over to the parish, that carries over to the diocese, but also then in the local communities where people are giving witness to their faith and putting their faith into practice.”

Octave of Service

A major component of “faith into service” will be the Octave of Service that will take place from Sunday, Sept. 27 through Sunday, Oct. 4 throughout the diocese. Father Marques described it as an opportunity to show that “how we live is a reflection of what we believe.”

While details about the Octave of Service will be forthcoming from the Bicentennial Task Force later in 2020, Father Marques explained why it is an integral part of the bicentennial.

“This is very vivid and concrete when it comes to the Octave of Service — that we’re putting our faith into action,” he said, referring to it as a way of honoring St. Vincent de Paul. “These things we profess each day or each Sunday are not limited to the time we spend in Mass, they’re outward bound, they have an effect in our lives and therefore in the lives of the communities in which we live.”

Editor’s note: Further information about the diocese’s bicentennial celebration is available at [email protected] or by calling 804-622-5200.

Bicentennial liturgies to reflect ‘who we are as a diocese’


When Catholics worship at the first bicentennial regional Mass Saturday, Jan. 18, at Sacred Heart, Norfolk, and/or celebrate the same liturgy in their parishes that weekend, Father Sean Prince, director of the diocese’s Office of Worship, would like them to realize they are part of something bigger than that region or their parish, that what is celebrated in the Eastern Vicariate will carry over into their individual communities.

“My hope is that each liturgy will speak of not only that particular region – which has its own feel and charisms and history within itself and its contributions to the diocese – but then also really speak to the liturgical life of that particular region or even of the particular parish,” he said. “But more so that it really speaks to who we are as a diocese.”

Father Prince said there is a “familial aspect” among Catholics that he experienced growing up in Norfolk.

“We’re part of a larger community. I’m hoping that our liturgies will reflect that. I think they will, too, especially with the bicentennial hymn,” he said. “That was a guiding piece of the selection of the hymn, making sure that we find something that speaks to who we are as a diocese and reflects our history — not just lyrically, but even musically.”

The hymn, “We Shine Like Stars in the World,” was composed by Dan Keeley, music minister at Our Lady of Nazareth, Roanoke. It will be the recessional hymn at the regional Mass, and Father Prince hopes it will be incorporated into the parish liturgies the weekend of Jan. 18 and 19.

Father Prince said he is excited about the bicentennial.

“What really excites me and kind of energizes me is the fact that we’re only the sixth or seventh diocese in this country that’s reached this milestone. To think of the vastness of the United States and that missionary Diocese of Richmond of 250,000 Catholics has reached this milestone. There is a lot to be said for that,” he said, noting that while the diocese doesn’t have the financial resources of larger dioceses, it does have a lot of American Catholic history.

Father Prince hopes that as the bicentennial year evolves, excitement generated from the regional and parish Masses will carry over into the diocese’s first Eucharistic Congress, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6 and 7.

“We are hoping that will become, in a sense, the major highlight for the year. This will be a new experience for the vast majority of people,” he said. “Because of that, there will be a level of excitement, too, and anticipation.”

— Brian T. Olszewski

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