Blessed and Dedicated -- Bishop O'Connell consecrates the new altar with sacred chrism during the anniversary Mass. John Batkowski photo
Blessed and Dedicated -- Bishop O'Connell consecrates the new altar with sacred chrism during the anniversary Mass. John Batkowski photo

By David Kilby | Correspondent

To the sound of trumpets, an organ and a choir, a procession of about a dozen priests with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., entered St. Rose of Lima Church, Freehold, to begin the parish’s 150th anniversary Mass Oct. 26.

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One of the highlights of the momentous celebration was the blessing of the altar, wherein a relic of St. Rose of Lima was placed. A deep sense of joy and reverence carried through, even as the incensing of the altar and church set off fire alarms and Mass was delayed for 15 minutes while the issue was resolved.

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell shared the wisdom of Jesus’ response to the question, “What is the greatest commandment?”

Jesus responded with a prayer that the Jews knew well, the “Shema Yisrael,” the most important and central prayer of Judaism, and an affirmation of the observant Jew’s faith in God and in his religion. It goes, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord alone, therefore you shall love the Lord with all your heart and soul.”

“Jesus uses his own Jewish roots and heritage to throw the lawyer off. He quotes that famous Jewish prayer,” Bishop O’Connell said.

“But Jesus does more. He throws in a second commandment and links the two.... If you truly love God, then you have to love your neighbor he created.”

“The real challenge ... for us who hear them again in our own day is to discover how do we live out these commandments?  How do we show our love concretely, priests and faithful, for God concretely?” He then asked, “How do we show our love concretely for our neighbor?  This is how we show our love for God. Everything depends on this love.”

The Bishop continued, “From its earliest days, this parish has lived the Gospel we hear today through countless Baptisms, weddings and funerals, countless parishioners and guests who have come to the door of this church with open hearts, with prayers and with needs known only to themselves.”

After Bishop O’Connell’s homily, the Litany of Saints was sung as the Rite of the Dedication of the Altar was prayed, and a relic of St. Rose was placed inside the altar.

The post-Communion hymn, Ave Maria by Franz Biebl and sending forth hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God,” sustained the reverence of the Mass as the parishioners and priests prepared to continue their celebration with a dinner dance in Southgate Manor, Freehold.

“There’s a wonderful history over years and years here,” said the pastor, Father James Conover, at the end of Mass. “God bless you for all you do, for all you have been doing, your kindness, love and dedication ... for all the gifts you have been and will continue to be.”

As they left their church, parishioners had nothing but words of fondness for their parish.

Dorothy Hoey said St. Rose of Lima Parish means everything to her.

“I’m so proud to belong to St. Rose. The people here are so happy, and they share a lot. It’s a wonderful family. Almost every activity we’re involved in is in the church.”

Joann Morrison concurred, adding, “We’re all given gifts and we all share them.”

“It’s the place I go every day for spiritual feeding in my life,” said Neil Hopkins.

Kathy Terlizzi said she felt a sense of familiarity the first time she walked into St. Rose of Lima Church, since it is similar to a church her father helped build in Queens, N.Y.

“I loved the cultural diversity,” she said of St. Rose Parish, reflecting on the first time she entered the parish community, adding that she appreciates there being a Spanish Mass since she is involved in the Spanish community. “I love the priests. They’re very in tune with the Lord and their mission.”

She mentioned how Father Francisco Saenz, parochial vicar of the parish, visited her father five times while he was ill.

Ed and Joe Nowak, brothers and ushers for the parish, shared how they have been parishioners since they were in grammar school, while Anne Nowak mentioned that her grandsons, Nicholas and Edward, held the Bishop’s miter and staff during the Mass with great honor.

“Hopefully we’ve got another 150 years,” Joe said. He and his brother’s sons attend Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, and St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, after having attended St. Rose of Lima School as well.

Ed explained that he had a job in Maryland for a while, but then returned to Freehold, mentioning, “The parish community is one of the reasons I came back.”