“The Dedication of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel blooms like the first flower of spring,” proclaimed the Most Rev. William D. Byrne, Bishop of Springfield, at Monday’s Dedication Mass for Thomas Aquinas College’s New England chapel. “Winter makes way to summer. Days lengthen, and life prevails.”
Some 500 friends of the College, as well as ]25 local and alumni clergy, joined His Excellency at the March 7 liturgy on the Northfield, Massachusetts, campus. “This stone edifice, in which we gather together to celebrate God’s praises, is a sacramental sign of the Body of Christ,” the Bishop observed. “This chapel is a sign of hope and trust.”
Built in 1909, the erstwhile Sage Chapel was originally constructed for nondenominational prayer services at what was then the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies. When the College prepared for its first academic year on the campus in 2019, however, it began gradually transforming the building for Catholic worship — adding a central aisle, confessionals, and Stations of the Cross, as well as installing two altars, a tabernacle, and a reredos in the sanctuary.
With that work complete, Bishop Byrne came to campus on the March 7 Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas to administer the sacred Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar. “I thank you for this invitation,” he remarked, “and for this gift that you have given to the Diocese, the Church, and the United States.”
At the start of the 2½-hour Mass, Thomas Aquinas College President Michael F. McLean welcomed Bishop Byrne to campus and entrusted the Chapel to his authority. “While we have been celebrating the Holy Mass here for the past three years, it was always our intention to fully consecrate the Chapel with the Rite of Dedication, and all of us are pleased that this day has finally arrived,” he said. “Bishop Byrne, we present to you the architectural drawings of the Chapel. In doing so, we place the College and the Chapel in your service, for our faculty, staff, and students, and for you and the good people of the Springfield diocese.”
His Excellency then sprinkled the walls of the Chapel with holy water, inviting God to cleans the building for holy worship, as well as the faithful, reminding them of their baptism and as a sign of repentance. In his homily, he encouraged students to put their Catholic liberal education to the service of Christ. “You students, who walk in the footsteps of St. Thomas Aquinas, who will worship here each day, must allow yourselves to be built up in Christ,” he said. “You are truly the visible sign that Jesus promises to be with us always. Allow yourselves to be formed so that you can reform our culture.”
To begin the Rite of Dedication, the Bishop placed relics of two beloved saints into the Chapel’s altars. In the main altar, he inserted a relic of St. John Henry Newman — a gift of an old friend of the College, Raymond Cardinal Burke — and in its high altar, he deposited a relic of the College’s patron, St. Thomas Aquinas, given by the College’s California campus. He then anointed the Chapel’s altar and walls with sacred chrism, incensed the altars, and lit the Chapel’s candles for the first time.
After the Liturgy of the Eucharist, His Excellency blessed the crucifix and statues of the Virgin Mary, St. John the Beloved, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. John Henry Newman that appear in the Chapel’s sanctuary. He then proceeded to bless the shrine and icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. “Like Our Lady, in whom we entrust this chapel,” His Excellency said, “we are to be Christ-bearers — living temples of His love.”
The date of the Chapel’s dedication is doubly significant: March 7 is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, according to the pre-1969 Roman calendar. It is also the date on which the College’s California Chapel, Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, was dedicated in 2009. Because the date of a church’s dedication is observed as a solemnity within its local community, March 7 will henceforth be a sacred date on both campuses.
“We give thanks to Almighty God for bringing this historic day to completion,” Head Chaplain Rev. Greg Markey told the faithful at the conclusion of the Mass, after which the group gathered for a celebratory luncheon in the Tracy Student Center. “We are pleased so many of you could join us.”