At last, a permanent home for Most Holy Trinity
The weather warmed and the sun shined brightly Jan. 24 for the dedication of the new Most Holy Trinity Church and Family Life Center in Mandeville. Archbishop Gregory Aymond was the main celebrant at the dedication.
“It’s a culmination of the vision of the Archdiocese of New Orleans that began in December 2005,” said Suzanne Gilbert, one of the masters of ceremony.
Waiting outside before the official rite of dedication began, parishioners and visitors admired the 17,000-square-foot, 815-seat American Gothic church designed by Fauntleroy Latham Weldon Barre and built by DonahueFavret over the past 1 ½ years.
“It’s a new church, but a really traditional church, a beautiful church,” said Carol Wallace, a founding parishioner.
Those attending received a 30-page booklet along with a handmade decade of the rosary made by Most Holy Trinity Rosary Guild with a blessed “triquetra” medal symbolizing the Holy Trinity (with the hand of God, the Lamb of God, an ascending Holy Spirit dove and a fleur de lis stylized cross. This triquetra also is featured in a 10-foot-round stained glass window above the church entrance and on the altar.
Words of gratitude
Before entering the church, the rite of dedication began with Archbishop Aymond receiving the book of donors from parishioners Sylvia Calico and Jim Vallee; the church plans from architects Kieran Weldon and Ken Sprague; the keys from Kim Roberts, the job superintendent at Donahue Favret who remembered the stained glass as a child growing up at St. Maurice.
“It’s an historic day for you,” Archbishop Aymond said. “A day of family and accomplishments, and a day to ask for God’s blessing.”
After entering the unlit church parishioners were ushered to pews, while Archbishop Aymond remained in the narthex to bless the baptismal font.
“God bless this water and sanctify it and make it a sign of the saving waters of baptism by which we become one with Christ.”
He entered the main church and asked, “Do you like your new church?” Yes, was the resounding response. “It really is magnificent.”
Archbishop Aymond lauded the parish on its accomplishments in only a short decade of existence and for being a strong community of faith, with determination and a spirit of giving and stewardship.
“You welcomed all and opened the hearts and doors of your temporary church,” he said.
Using the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Archbishop Aymond said even without a permanent church, parishioners have always been “God’s building. You are the temple of the Lord. You knew that as you came together ... you were the church and would build a church you would call home.”
He thanked their pastor, Father Rodney Bourg, for being a loving father and a good pastor who worked tirelessly to get their church built.
“He has dreamed with you and made this dream a reality,” Archbishop Aymond said. “Together, as one family, you have made this dream a reality and we are grateful. … You will continue to grow as a family as you hear the word of God.”
The dedication continued after the Liturgy of the Word and profession of faith by invoking the saints, reciting the prayer of dedication, the anointing of the altar and walls, the incensing of the altar and church, dressing of the altar and then lighting of the altar and church, signifying that “Christ is a light to enlighten the nations.”
An audible gasp was heard and tears were shed when the church lights were turned on.
The church and Family Life Center, along with the parish offices (slated to be finished in spring), are Phase I of a four-phase project, said Father Bourg. Phase II will include the day chapel and parish rectory. Phase III will enclose the entrance walkway into a cloister to resemble European cloisters that create a separation from human life to the spiritual life, where one leaves behind daily stresses and enters a spiritual place, Father Bourg said.
Phase IV will be future expansion of the church.
“It means our home is complete,” Father Bourg said at the dedication of the church. “We are permanent now. As long as we were in a temporary building, it was home, but it wasn’t really home.”
Father Bourg worked for several years with parishioners to create the new worship space, sending those interested to classes on the creation of a sacred space. He noted several special features:
►The crucifix behind the altar surrounded by a sunburst – depicting the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s dying and rising – crafted mostly by parishioners with the corpus made in Italy;
►Restored stained glass windows of the saints from the former St. Maurice Church in the Lower 9th Ward;
►A baptismal font in the narthex modeled after one in Rome;
►A bronze tabernacle and mahogany liturgical furniture designed by Ruth Goliwas;
►Relics of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos imbedded in the altar;
►Gold lace on the altar cloth preserved from a damaged altar cloth from St. Rose de Lima as well as hand bells from St. Rose de Lima and St. Maurice;
►A new Allen organ.
When Father Bourg began his discussions to build a new church with former Archbishop Alfred Hughes, he said he didn’t want a multipurpose building.
“I began on my knees with a lot of prayer, discernment and decision making and, I must confess, a little bargaining” with the Lord, he said. During his prayers, he came across Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds a house, in vain do the workers labor.”
“We supplied the tools and we supplied the means, but (God) chose the workers” from the architects to the subcontractors,” Father Bourg said. “It was a lot of hard work and stress, but I can now relate to women who deliver children. It was a lot of pain and suffering, but now that it is here, I can love it.”
Dream became reality
The parish was officially established in June 2006 in response to the growth of St. Tammany Parish after Hurricane Katrina and to relieve the overcrowded Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Mandeville, then the largest Catholic parish in Louisiana. Mass was first celebrated in Rouquette Lodge, then moved, in time to celebrate Christmas Mass, to retail space on the Hwy. 190 Service Road that once was occupied by Mr. Fish.
The parish grew quickly, composed of a mix of long-time St. Tammany residents and those newly displaced from Katrina.
Archbishop Aymond mentioned how parishioners quickly established themselves as a “stewardship parish” of people who give of themselves and have been good stewards of the gifts that God gave them. They held a four-year capital campaign, ending in August 2016, to raise money to start their new church. In August 2014, a ground-breaking was held at the new church site on Most Holy Trinity Drive off Judge Tanner Drive in Mandeville and construction started.
Now that the new church is built, parishioners and Father Bourg expect further growth. They’ve seen lots of excitement as the building was under construction.
“We expect more interest when we are open,” business manager Terri Derbes, said.
“It’s come such a long way,” said parishioner Gail Hutchings, who joined the parish with her husband John at its first worship site of Rouquette Lodge. “We’ve really grown with this church as a faith community. It’s been great. … The church is a reflection of what the parishioners wanted to see in their worship center.”