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Homily by Bishop Mark O’Toole on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Dedication of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Brixham

I am delighted to be with you this morning for the 50th Anniversary. I was fascinated to read, not only the story of the building of the Church in 1966 – 67 but also the history of the Parish, and the beginnings of the Catholic life in this part of the diocese. We know that Mass began to be celebrated regularly in the parish in 1884. I know that you have prepared well for this important milestone, and I enjoyed reading the history and seeing some of the photos in the booklet. I thank Fr. Sunny Paul, and those who work with him for all that you have done to prepare for this Golden Jubilee.

On this day we feel a little like those Apostles; Peter, James and John with the Lord on that mount of the Transfiguration. With St. Peter, our cry of prayer and praise: “Lord, it is wonderful fro us to be here…”

What a joy it is to be in this house of prayer dedicated to the Lord, surrounded by one another’s faith and the prayer of those who have gone before us. Yet how do you measure success? How can you quantify grace? It’s true that a Church is a physical building made of stone and mortar, wood and tile. Think of the careful planning and measurement that went into producing this building. But thinking of those things you very quickly reflect on what this building has held these past 50 years. We think of the hundreds who were brought into family of the Church through baptisms, those who made their first Holy Communion or those who have come here week by week, day by day, to receive He who is the bread of life. We think of the many young people who have been Confirmed and those who were received into the communion of the Catholic Church. we thank God for those who started out a life together in marriage. And we remember poignantly those whose funerals were celebrated here and who were commended to the love of God on their final Journey. We are also aware of the silent witness of grace in those who received forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance. And of course, we give thanks for the ministry of the priests who served the parish these 50 years, grateful for their fidelity and their witness to help others grow in holiness.

This the life of grace we can name through the celebration of the Sacraments. But a Church building is not only for the celebration of the Sacraments. It is also a place where people come to name their sorrows and their joys. Where they visit with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament or simply light a candle before the image of Our Lady. So, this morning we think of the numerous people who have come to the Church seeking an oasis in the desert of life. What a testimony to prayer and to grace these walls could tell if they could speak. This life of grace cannot be captured on spread sheet. It cannot be tabulated in the parish annual account.

Yet all of this part of our celebration this morning. What a joy it is to be in this house of God, mindful of the rich graces of these past 50 years. What a wonderfully rich history is yours in this strong parish, with its close-knit, supportive community.

We know that it is in the community of the Catholic Church that we experience and encounter Jesus. We can listen to His voice and follow His way. From the Cloud of this Transfiguration Sunday, the Father says, “This is my Son, the beloved…..Listen to Him.”

Here at Mass, in the Eucharist, we can be with Jesus, be fed by Him to be able to bear witness to Him. At every Mass, it is our privilege to be at Calvary and to experience anew the sacrificial love of Jesus. Through His offering on Calvary, presented anew at Mass, Jesus creates the communion we have with the Father and with one another. This truth was taught to us as small boys by a very elderly aunt of ours. She used to say to us, “When the priest places the wine into the chalice, you each put your sufferings in there, too, and when he lifts the chalice up, it is Christ who is lifting Himself up to the Father and us with Him. He offers Himself and our sacrifices too.”

This can only be seen with the eyes of faith. This success you cannot quantify of measure, for measure being used in the measure of Love given for us – freely, and absolutely gratuitously. And only in Love can we respond and receive Him.

So, I congratulate you all on this important milestone. In giving thanks for the past 50 years, we ask God’s blessing on all that the future holds. May He continue to shower His graces upon everyone in the parish.

+Mark O’Toole, Bishop of Plymouth

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