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In joyful ceremony, Cardinal Gregory blesses new stained glass windows and prayer room at St. Rose of Lima Church

Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory blesses the new Holy Family Prayer Room at St. Rose of Lima Church on Sept. 5, 2021. That morning, he also celebrated Mass at the parish and blessed new stained glass windows of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the four evangelists. (CS photo/Leslie Kossoff)

A delayed celebration turned out to be right on time at St. Rose of Lima Church in Gaithersburg on Sept. 5, 2021, as Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory celebrated a Mass and blessed new stained glass windows and a new prayer room there.

“We have been waiting for this day for more than a year,” said Father Agustin Mateo Ayala, St. Rose’s pastor, in explaining that the original blessing of those new features in the church’s expanded gathering space had been postponed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Welcoming Washington’s archbishop, the priest said, “Finally we have our pastor and our father here amongst us.”

Cardinal Gregory first blessed and sprinkled holy water on the new Holy Family Prayer Room at St. Rose of Lima Parish.

“May God, the Father of mercies, dwell in this house of prayer, and, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, cleanse us who are the temple where he dwells,” prayed the cardinal.

Cardinal Gregory blessed the new stained glass window depicting Our Lady of Guadalupe near the entranceway of St. Rose of Lima Church in Gaithersburg. Standing at right is Deacon Leo Schneider. (CS photo/Leslie Kossoff)

Then blessing a large dramatic stained glass window near the church’s front doors depicting Our Lady of Guadalupe, Cardinal Gregory said that the image of the patroness of the Americas “will remind us of the close ties of Mary to Christ and his Church. She is the image and the model of the Church.”

As he blessed stained glass windows depicting the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels, the cardinal praised Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as “the friends and coheirs of Christ. They are for us your witnesses to the life of the Gospel.”

Those windows depicted the Gospel writers symbolized by descriptions associated with them in the book of the prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, with St. Mark as a lion, St. Luke as an ox, St. Matthew as a divine man, and St. John as an eagle. St. Rose of Lima’s new stained glass windows of Our Lady of Guadalupe and of the four evangelists were designed by Martin Rambusch.

Cardinal Gregory processes to the altar at the beginning of Sept. 5 Mass at St. Rose of Lima Church in Gaithersburg. St. Rose parishioners had processed in carrying colorful streamers, a tradition that the parish does on special days, including its Fiesta celebration in the fall and its Pentecost Mass in the spring. (CS photo/Leslie Kossoff)

At the conclusion of the blessings for the new stained glass windows and prayer room, Deacon Leo Schneider said, “Let us now go rejoicing to the house of the Lord,” and St. Rose parishioners did just that, processing into church for the Mass, with some holding colorful streamers, a tradition at the parish for special events like the annual Fiesta celebration and Pentecost Mass there.

More than 450 people gathered for the bilingual Mass, with prayers, songs and readings done in English and Spanish. The refrain in the offertory song was “Make us one in your love. Unenos en tu amor.”

In his homily, Cardinal Gregory reflected on that day’s Gospel reading from St. Mark that described Jesus healing a deaf man with a speech impediment. The cardinal noted that the four Gospels have many accounts of Jesus healing people, but those are not just about other people’s illnesses.

“We who live in a world of vast medical achievements – even in spite of the pandemic – we too are people in need of healing… We all need the power of Jesus’s healing and saving mission,” said Cardinal Gregory, who explained that can be physical, spiritual or personal healing, or healing from sin.

Cardinal Gregory gives his homily at the Mass at St. Rose of Lima Church on Sept. 5, where he emphasized how Christ offers healing to all people. (CS photo/Leslie Kossoff)

The cardinal pointed out that when Christ encountered the man with a hearing and speech impairment, “Jesus saw not a problem, but a brother – and even more importantly, Jesus saw a possibility.”

Cardinal Gregory then asked, “What is more dreadful, the inability to hear or the deafness that comes from hardened hearts? What is worse, the inability of our ears to hear and understand sound, or the deafness of the human spirit to appreciate the needs of our sisters and brothers? What is more debilitating, a tongue that is inoperative or a tongue that is vicious and destructive?”

Noting how St. Mark in his Gospel quoted Jesus speaking the Aramaic word Ephphatha as he healed the man, the cardinal said that perhaps the evangelist “kept this word in Jesus’ own spoken language because today He pronounces it over all of us.”

Earlier, Cardinal Gregory had emphasized, “The Messiah comes, not simply to work miraculous cures for those with obvious maladies. He comes to heal those whose brokenness is not nearly so obvious, especially to them. In a word, Jesus comes to heal all of us – you and me!”

People attend the Sept. 5 Mass celebrated by Cardinal Gregory at St. Rose of Lima Church in Gaithersburg. (CS photo/Leslie Kossoff)

After the cardinal’s homily, Father Mateo reflected on the completion of the new St. Rose of Lima Church, saying, “The people of St. Rose in their generosity have made possible the existence of this very temple.”

The pastor noted that just a few months earlier, the parish had made the last payment for the mortgage of the new church, and then Luis Rolando Aguirre, a member of St. Rose’s Pastoral Council, presented the cardinal with a copy of the letter indicating that the mortgage had been paid off.

After giving his homily, Cardinal Gregory was presented with a letter that said the mortgage for the new church at St. Rose of Lima has been paid off. Presenting the letter to the cardinal is Luis Rolando Aguirre, a member of the Pastoral Council at St. Rose of Lima Parish. (CS photo/Leslie Kossoff)

Father Mateo said that when he became pastor of St. Rose of Lima seven years ago, he commended his ministry there, and the completion of the church’s gathering space, to the Blessed Mother.

After the homilies he preached at his Masses at St. Rose, Father Mateo started a tradition of standing before a statue of Mary and leading the congregation in praying the Hail Mary.

“I entrusted this effort to her… She interceded for us in fulfilling this dream. I asked for her blessing, her protection, her assistance,” the priest said. Then in thanksgiving, the congregation sang “Ave Maria.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory (center) celebrates Mass on Sept. 5, 2021 at St. Rose of Lima Church in Gaithersburg. From left to right are Father Agustin Mateo Ayala, St. Rose’s pastor; Deacon Leo Schneider; Cardinal Gregory; Father Charles Cortinovis, the cardinal’s priest secretary; and Father Emanuel Lucero, St. Rose’s parochial vicar. (CS photo/Leslie Kossoff)

In his closing remarks at the Mass, Cardinal Gregory said, “How privileged I feel to be able to bring this project to a happy conclusion. I know you worked very hard for the expansion of the atrium.”

The cardinal added, “The pandemic has touched all of our lives in so many ways, ways that we never would have envisioned two years ago. One of the things it did, was it kept us from being together in prayer as we would always like to do.”

Cardinal Gregory thanked those who planned the special Mass at St. Rose of Lima, “so we could pray with such joy.”

Cardinal Gregory blesses a baby, Wesley Nzi, after the Sept. 5 Mass at St. Rose of Lima Church in Gaithersburg. The baby’s mother is Diane Nzi. (CS photo/Leslie Kossoff)

Afterward, the cardinal greeted members of St. Rose, standing in front of a colorful quilt sewn with a pinwheel pattern by parishioners that is being raffled to raise funds for the parish. 

After the Mass at St. Rose of Lima, Cardinal Gregory blesses the rosary of Abigail Morais. They are standing in front of a quilt sewn by parishioners that is being raffled off to raise money for the parish. (CS photo/Leslie Kossoff)

The first St. Rose of Lima Church was built in 1835 on land in Gaithersburg donated by Francis Clopper, whose wife Anne was a devout Catholic. Clopper Road that runs beside the parish grounds is named for that family. That mission church was destroyed by fire in 1883. Then in 1884, the rebuilt St. Rose Church, now known as the parish’s Historic Chapel, was built. St. Rose of Lima became a parish in 1972, and its parish centre was built five years later and hosted parish Masses until the new church was completed in 2006.