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Mahony Dedicates Church--Finally

Renovation: St. Paschal Baylon in Thousand Oaks, though 40 years old, hadn't been blessed for worship until Sunday's service.

January 14, 2002|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It would be wrong to call Sunday's special Mass at St. Paschal Baylon Catholic Church a rededication ceremony.

Sure, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony traveled from Los Angeles to bless the newly renovated Thousand Oaks church, anointing with oil and incense the walls, altar and baptismal font.

And hundreds of parishioners, many of whom reached deep into their wallets to help pay for the improvements, packed the 40-year-old sanctuary as it was formally dedicated for worship.

But in researching the history of St. Paschal's, church leaders discovered that the current building had never been dedicated to begin with.

Mahony took care of that oversight Sunday.

In a Mass that stretched for more than two hours, Mahony officially launched a new chapter for the fast-growing church, which has undergone an extensive face lift in recent years designed to break down barriers between parishioners and clergy and make for a more effective ministry.

"This is an active Catholic community and it continues to grow," Mahony told the congregation moments after following a procession of priests and altar boys into the church. "This [renovation] brings people closer together and closer to where the Scriptures are preached."

Renovations In Line With Vatican Reforms

The $2-million modernization project included spiffing up the parish hall and school. But the core of the remodeling centered on changing the configuration of the church building, to bring the rites of worship in line with Vatican reforms.

"So often, the configuration of our worship space has been in the form of a theater, so that people are out there being observers of what is taking place," said Msgr. Joseph George, spiritual leader at St. Paschal.

"Ever since Vatican II, the emphasis has been to draw them more into the celebration as participants," he said. "This is part of our master plan to provide resources and facilities that can help people help the parish in the work it has to do."

The idea, George said, was to move worship off a pedestal and bring it closer to the people.

Church leaders moved the altar 15 feet closer to parishioners and placed traditional wooden pews and cushioned folding chairs on three sides.

The baptismal font was moved to the front of the church to remind parishioners that they became members of the church through baptism.

Other improvements included adding a vestry and a multi-purpose room at the front of the church building and updating the lighting and sound systems.

Most of the renovation cost--about $1.8 million--was pledged by parishioners.

Church Officially Opened Christmas Eve

"We wanted to make our building reflect our faith," said Betty Reyes, a parishioner since 1989 and the church's director of worship.

"Everyone has been absolutely wonderful in coming together to make this happen," she said. "And now we have a home where God and his people can come together and worship."

The church officially reopened for worship to the parish's 4,200 families on Christmas Eve.

But George said Sunday's ceremony marked a new beginning.

"I really think it's a new chapter in the life of the people and of this specially consecrated worship space," he said. "Hopefully, the resources we have will encourage the spiritual growth of our people and will allow us to be more zealous in the mission we have."

Sister Suzanne Ensminger, director of adult education at the church, said that all of the remodeling had been a welcome change but that Sunday's visit by Mahony and his words were the most inspiring.

"The best was saved for last," she said.

*

Times staff writer Timothy Hughes contributed to this report.

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