Bishop blesses new Warsaw altar
Bishop Michael Fisher pours holy oil on the new altar of St. Michael Parish in Warsaw. Blessing a new altar is a rare event. This is only the third time Bishop Fisher has conducted such a rite.
There was joy in Warsaw this weekend as Bishop Michael Fisher blessed the new altar at St. Michael Parish in the small Wyoming County town. The bishop mentioned that this was his first Mass outside of Erie County, joking that he was happy to bless the altar in a church of his own patronage.
“Let us join in these sacred rites with these fervent hearts listening to God’s words with faith, and sharing joyfully at the Lord’s table. Let us raise our hearts towards the blessed hope. As we come together at one altar, we draw nearer to Christ, the living stone, in whom we grow into a holy temple,” Bishop Fisher said in his welcoming on Sunday morning, Feb. 14.
The new oak altar was hand carved in North Dakota and arrived at the church in July. Father Michael LaMarca, pastor of St. Michael’s, remarked that as soon as he heard the diocese had a new bishop, he put in a request to have him bless it.
“The altar is a fundamental part of worship in many of our churches. It occupies a prominent place,” Bishop Fisher said. He pointed out a carving of a pelican, an ancient symbol of Jesus. The bird is said to pluck her breast to feed her young with her blood and body.
“The table of the Lord is also supposed to be a reminder of the last supper, which Jesus ate at with His disciples. This eating together at the same table made them into a table fellowship. It is to be exactly the same for us today. In many churches, the altar and the place that surrounds it is sacred and holy,” the bishop said, adding “The altar has always been and always will be a central and holy place for us to gather.”
After delivering his homily, the bishop put on an apron, then rubbed holy oil on the altar. This anointing makes the altar a symbol of Christ. The sacrifice of Jesus was symbolized by the spreading of incense over and around the altar.
It took two months for Father LaMarca to pick out an altar that he found fitting for the parish he has served the last two years.
“We wanted to get a new altar here at St. Michael’s that really signified that the Eucharist is the center of our community,” he said after the Mass. “Through help and assistance we were able to find this altar that’s hand-carved with the pelican and the self sacrifice that Christ makes that it represents. It’s always been one of my favorite representations of Christ, especially in the stained glass windows at the cathedral. So, in a way, it is bringing part of the mother church of the diocese here to Warsaw. Families stepped up and donated for it. We were waiting for the bishop to come and dedicate it and we’re thrilled we were able to do it.”
The new altar is placed almost exactly in the center of the parish property.
Following the Mass, Bishop Fisher was presented with a basket from Shawn Tiede, chairperson of pastoral team, containing the “fruit of our labor” – Eggs, maple syrup and homemade jams from parishioners. A donation was also made in the bishop’s name to the Warsaw Food Pantry.
“When you come to Wyoming County, you will not go away hungry,” Father LaMarca said.