Old and New Honored at Belvidere Church Dedication
Father Brian Geary, pastor (left), and Bishop David Malloy distribute Communion during the dedication Mass in the newly remodeled and expanded St. James Parish in Belvidere. (Observer photo by Amanda Hudson)
St. James Church now has a large balcony, which extends into the new addition from the north side of the original sanctuary. (Observer photo by Amanda Hudson)
Father Jeremy Trowbridge (right) assists Gary Bakkelund as he seals relics into the altar. Bakkelund, father of diocesan priest Father Jonathan Bakkelund, did the stone work on the church building. See more at TOO Rockford on You Tube. (Observer photo by Amanda Hudson)
Parishioners and guests attend a reception in the St. James School gymnasium after the dedication Mass. (Observer photo by Amanda Hudson)
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
January 9, 2015

BELVIDERE—In expressing his gratitude to all who had made the addition to St. James Church possible, Bishop David  Malloy offered “a particular word of thanks” to its pastor, Father Brian Geary,  calling the need for “a priestly heart ... no small thing ... in the midst of a project like this.”

The word “addition” does not do justice to the transformation that’s been accomplished at the church, which was dedicated during an evening Mass on Dec. 18.

The orientation of the building has been changed from northeast to northwest, and the main entrance moved from southwest to southeast.

That main entrance leads to a gathering space and then into the church, which now boasts a second floor balcony to hold around 200 additional people and choir. As promised at the groundbreaking, seating capacity was expanded from 325 to about 850.

Even so, it was standing room only as people poured in after work, shortly before the
Thursday dedication Mass began.

The dedication “is a big deal,” said Bishop David Malloy in his homily, as he stated his appreciation for everyone’s presence at the historic moment.

“It is more than simply ‘We finished a building project,’ ” he said, explaining that the symbolism of the steps of the church dedication is to remind those present of “who we are and what we are.”

The bishop spoke briefly of the four parts of the definition of “church,” including “to gather and hear God’s word.”

A church is also a place to pray together, and Bishop Malloy spoke of the rosaries, Stations of the Cross, novenas and the more simple prayers that will be prayed by people stopping by to pray when they have a moment to do so.

A third part of the definition is “to celebrate the sacraments, from baptisms to anointing of the sick,” he said. Sacraments “are the presence of Christ … continued today through the Church and through faith.”

Of the fourth part — to participate in the Eucharist — Bishop Malloy told parishioners that his “word as bishop” is: “Come to Mass … every Sunday … come with joy … He is here.”

Although it is proper to understand the parish as being composed of its parishioners, he said, “you are centered here (in this church) because He is here … Because He is here, this place is sacred … always keep the respect for this place.”

He called on those gathered, “day in and day out, to be a reflection of (God’s) beauty. He is in you, in your soul … we need to welcome Him in our hearts.”

Bishop Malloy also spoke of the symbols used in the dedication — the water, the Chrism oil, the incense, the litany of the saints.

Incorporating the old church — which was “built in love and sacrifice in 1886” — into the new structure was a “sign of continuance with what has gone before.” It could serve as a reminder that “part of our duty is to pray for those on whose shoulders you now (stand).”

“I come here with a heart full of gratitude,” Bishop Malloy said, thanking volunteers, donors and builders.

“May God and your patron, St. James, continue to guide you (as you enjoy) all the graces, faith and laughter (that) we receive in our parish.”