7th October, 1999
Fr. Vincent Hodnett's
Rededication of St. Columba's
Lord, nearly 2000 years ago you said:
Make disciples of all the nations, and know that I am with
you always, yes, to the end of time.
And it is because the disciples did what you asked of them that we are gathered here tonight in this beautiful Church, very much aware that you are with us.
Lets go back, not 2000 years, but to 1814 when Fr. Thomas Barry dedicated this Church to our Lord, under the patronage of St. Columba. Just imagine the excitement of the people of Douglas at that time: bearing in mind that up to now, they were not free to practice publicly their religion. Poverty was also rampant, so to build a church at that time was a huge achievement. Tonight we visualise those people - sometimes bare-footed, women wearing shawls, men, no doubt, wearing caps; horses being tied up outside the church; many hungry; but all full of joy at the sacrifices being made to express their faith, trust, and love of the Lord through the celebration of the Eucharist.
In 1907, Fr. William McCullough improved the church further. It was extended, the gallery was added, and new glass windows were put in. Tonight we thank you Lord for the courage of Fr. Barry, and Fr. McCullough, and the people of Douglas, because since then this church has been a wonderful place of worship.
What is the Church? It is a building where we receive the waters of Baptism, where we Confess our sins, and receive forgiveness; where we receive our First Holy Communion; where we have the oil of Confirmation placed on our foreheads; where we kneel at the altar to be joined in Holy Matrimony; where we are ordained to the Priesthood; and from where, when lifes journey is over, we are taken to our last resting place. Besides these solemn occasions, we come to the Church to worship you Lord through prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist.
But the Church is also the People of God, which means the Community in which the talents of all - lay, religious and priests, are used by the Lord to continue his work on earth. And all of us are blessed and privileged to be your chosen people.
Tonight is a great night. We are here in St. Columbas Church for the Solemn Rededication of the Church to the Lord. It is refurbished once again, 90 years later, the undertaking of which shows the courage and foresight of Fr. Liam. Fr. Liam, I speak for everyone here when I say, St. Columbas is now truly magnificent. I saw and experienced how much of yourself you have given to this project. You have prayed, worried, had sleepless nights, and consulted with your people for many months before the work even began. Not to mention the worries you had during the renovations, especially the day the dumper nearly took away the side door, and the bucket went through the ceiling!
Now, we thank God for your courage, and the present parish community who were willing the undertake this project. In 1907 renovation costs were £1,200 - an enormous sum then - today the figure is much higher, and maybe appears just as enormous as then, but I have no doubt that the people of Douglas, will, as always, rise to the challenge.
My dear people, for the three years I was here, I experienced first hand, your wonderful sense of Christianity which manifested itself through caring, supporting and encouraging one another. This was very evident in times of bereavement and sickness, but was also evident in days of joy and happiness. The way in which all of you here in Douglas Parish give your time and talents to the many Parish organisations, was an inspiration to me, and plays a huge part in keeping the Church very much alive and active.
Lord, tonight, I pray and thank you for Fr. Liam and his leadership - and for the wonderful people of Douglas Parish. I pray for those who are sick or unwell in their homes or in hospital. I pray for those, who, because of commitments cannot be with us tonight. I also ask you Lord to give the fullness of eternal happiness to all, priests and people, who worshipped you here since this Church was opened.
And I ask you to bless this Church, and your people that their Christian Spirit will continue into the Millennium and beyond for generations to come.