‘Let us rejoice and be glad’

On Oct. 28, Bishop Raica dedicated Good Shepherd Parish’s new church building in Russellville. The complete text of his homily follows herein.

Dear sisters and brothers, it is my great joy to be with you today as you celebrate the dedication and the consecration of this new parish church here at Good Shepherd Parish. Today, all the work, all the efforts and prayers, and all your dreams have come true with the place of prayer, encounter, and mission. In particular, I thank the many individuals who have been involved in such an important undertaking. You have sacrificed much to get to this point, and, admittedly, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. It’s like you were praying for a miracle. There were unexpected setbacks and unanticipated obstacles and bureaucratic red tape you had to overcome. But, Father Vincent, you persevered and offered a lot of prayers to make all of this work out successfully.

In a particular way, I thank Father Vincent, your pastor, the parish pastoral and finance councils, the building committee, and many people at all levels about whom Father Vincent, on behalf of all of us, will have a chance to thank afterward and who have had an essential part to play in the planning, building, and oversight of this project. In addition, I give a shout out to the many benefactors who contributed large and small sums (even the widows mite) to the capital campaign to achieve this noble goal. As a result, we now have a new church for the many people from every stratum of life who call Russellville, Alabama their home. Thank you for your steadfast sense of purpose and mission.

Father Vincent, you rallied everyone to this cause including many other pastors who had a missionary heart and spirit to aid you for the good and future of this parish. Now, at this inflection point in which a new chapter begins at Good Shepherd Parish, we come together as a faith family to thank God for all the blessings we have received. I also welcome our visiting priests and visitors from other parishes who are here as well celebrating this accomplishment.

Just like in the times of Nehemiah, the Israelite community came together to recall what mighty deeds the Lord God was doing in their midst. In fact, in the book of Nehemiah, we heard of the people’s longing to hear the Word of God. They gathered to listen attentively to the sacred Jewish scriptures which we call the Old Testament. They heard the Word proclaimed like we do today, their hearts were filled with joy like ours are. Here, too, in our new church, we have created a worthy space where the Word of God, Old and New Testament, is proclaimed and cherished. This will be the place where we, like the Israelites, can come together to encounter the living Word of God and draw strength and consolation from its message.

In the letter of St. Peter, we are reminded that we are truly “living stones” built into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood. That is not some faraway place where this happens, which we may consider more holy or more worthy than us. No, it is here in Russellville. You are a holy people beloved by God right here. The new church is more than bricks and mortar and the physical reality. It is also a spiritual dwelling where we, the living stones of this parish, come to offer our spiritual sacrifice out of love of God. It is a place where we unite in prayer, offer our lives to God, and carry out the mission of Christ in the world.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we witness Jesus asking His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” It is Peter who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This profession of faith is the rock upon which Jesus builds His Church. Today, as we consecrate and dedicate this new church, we, like Peter, affirm our faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God, the cornerstone of our lives and our parish.

The symbols we will use to consecrate this church building are familiar to all of us – water, oil, and incense. Like a new Christian, these symbols highlight a new relationship with God.


Water is the symbol of baptism. In a way, we will baptize the building with water because we are blessing it, saying this is a sacred space where we who enter, having been baptized, also become a holy people, the People of God.

Chrism Oil

Chrism oil, used at baptism, confirmation, and ordination to the priesthood, is used today to anoint the walls of this building consecrating this building for sacred worship and praise of God through our Savior Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit and, also, this altar which will hold the Body and Blood of Christ to nourish and strengthen us.


Incense indicates the prayers of the people of God rising up to Heaven like a pleasing fragrant odor.

So, much happens today that reminds us of how special this place is. It is a place to enter to become one people and to encounter the presence of Christ our Savior in Word and Sacrament. It is a place where the priest or deacon gives us the charge to be “salt and light” to the world and go out on mission proclaiming the Good News of Christ. Let us not be timid and afraid of being Christ for others. Our lack of perfection is not an excuse; rather, it is a challenge and reminder that with God’s help, with the grace of Christ and the sacraments, we can become the dream of God today.

Good Shepherd Parish and her parishioners are blessed indeed. By chance, this also is the feast day of Ss. Simon and Jude. St. Jude Thaddeus is a very popular and common name for those being confirmed in the Hispanic community. He is often associated with impossible cases.  Maybe St. Jude did have a hand in making all of this happen – debt free. In a special way, we say, “Thank you!” to St. Jude, to Jesus the Good Shepherd, because today it is “through Him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Eph 2:22 – from Feast of Ss Simon and Jude)

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!” (Ps 118:24)