On Sunday, August 28, 2011, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge dedicated a new church for the parish now called St. Mary of the Angels in Mt. Olive, NC. The parish, formerly known as St. Mary, was founded in 1916 as a mission of St. Mary in Goldsboro. Over time, St. Mary was made the responsibility of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Newton Grove. Then on July 1, 1998, in recognition of the growing immigrant population in the area, Bishop F. Joseph Gossman constituted the mission a parish.
The original St. Mary Church had been partially destroyed by fire in 1947, remodeled over the next year and then remodeled again in 2000. But its 85 seats had long been inadequate for the rapidly growing parish membership. By late 2006, under the leadership of Pastor Fr. James F. Garneau, a site plan was created for a new parish church.
On November 20, 2010, Bishop Burbidge and members of St. Mary Parish broke ground for the new building. The 275-seat church is the first building funded, in part, by the Diocesan Home Mission Society, which Bishop Burbidge established in 2007 to support the construction and furnishing of mission churches and chapels in the mission areas of the Diocese of Raleigh.
The Home Mission Society places special emphasis on building churches and chapels in areas where the parishioners, because of economic circumstance, are not able to fund the construction of sacred worship space in the traditional manner of capital campaigns, bank loans, and parish savings. The Society funded 25 percent of the total cost of the new church.
As construction of the new church got underway, Fr. Garneau invited the parish council to consider modifying the name of the parish. Recalling the story of St. Francis of Assisi, called by Christ to “Repair My Church,” Father Garneau suggested that the new name might be the same as that of the church re-built by the hands of St. Francis and his first companions, “St. Mary of the Angels.” The parish council unanimously endorsed the proposal, which was forwarded to the Bishop, who, in keeping with Canon Law, declared on June 8, 2011, that the name of the parish be so amended. At the dedication, relics of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Maria Goretti were sealed in the new altar.
In his homily at the bilingual Mass and Rite of Dedication, Bishop Burbidge expressed his deep gratitude to Fr. Garneau and to the parishioners of St. Mary. Then he explained the significance of the different prayers and actions of the Rite: the blessing of the water, the singing of the Litany of the Saints, the anointing and blessing of the altar and the walls of the church, and the incensation of the new altar.
“The words we pray in this ceremony,” he said, “help us to understand how to know, love and serve the Lord our God and strengthen the Body of Christ.”
“As we dedicate this church,” the Bishop concluded, “may we also rededicate our lives and this parish to our Heavenly Father. As beautiful as this church is, we know that we cannot stay here. Through the intercession of Saint Mary of the Angels, we must go forth as faithful disciples.”
Following the Mass, Bishop Burbidge blessed ground designated on the property for the parish cemetery.
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Above: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and Fr. James F. Garneau, Pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church, gather with parishioners for the Presentation of the Building and the Procession into the Church.
Above: Parishioners attending the dedication Mass of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Mt. Olive.
Above: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge depositing the Relics of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Maria Goretti beneath the altar.
Above: Bishop Burbidge during Inauguration of the Tabernacle, following Communion.