Precious religious items in concrete in church

19 Gielen blessing

It seemed fitting somehow that precious religious items were placed throughout much of the future floor space of the under-construction St Luke’s church in Flat Bush on the feast of St Anthony of Padua. 

Auckland auxiliary Bishop Michael Gielen made that point as he blessed people at the conclusion of a ceremony at the church on June 13. 

During a ceremony, Bishop Michael Gielen and Fr Craig Dunford are next to the items to be placed in the church.

He said the items placed were being deliberately “lost” to help make the building holy and that people should remember that the items were placed on that saint’s feast. He suggested people also “lose” themselves into St Anthony’s care and seek his intercession. 

The religious items had been placed in gaps between pods made of a synthetic-type material. A few days later, concrete was poured over the space where the items were placed to make the floor of the church.  

The items were placed by parishioners and representatives from Sancta Maria College and Sancta Maria Catholic Primary School, which are on the same broad site as the new church. Other guests helped place the items too. 

The items included holy cards, rosaries, plastic crosses, medals and other objects of religious significance. Every class at Sancta Maria primary made a set of rosary beads to be placed in the church. Every child in those classes made at least one bead. 

St Luke’s parish priest Fr Craig Dunford said the items were collected “over a few months now, prior to the lockdown experience. Some of these rosary beads and prayer cards are very, very old. They have come from different parts of the world. . . . a lot of prayer has been said with these items”. 

He noted that most of the items placed had already been blessed at some time in the past.  

“Central to the idea is to remind us and the community that this is sacred space,” Fr Dunford said. 

“And so, as a way of giving it mana, giving it some dignity, we place these items which have been pre-loved and are a little bit broken, some of them, but that is because they have been well-used.” 

He also noted that although the building was made of concrete and steel, “at the end of the day, we are holy stones, we are [the] living stones of this building we call St Luke’s parish”. 

Bishop Gielen blessed the items and acknowledged those who had had the items that were blessed previously, as well as those who had carried out previous blessings and all the wider histories connected with the items. 

“Lord, you give us sacred items as reminders of your presence among us. We pray that you bless these items, especially these rosaries made by the children, that they will remind us of your presence and love amongst us and that they will form the foundation of your holy church,” he prayed. 

The interior of the church under construction.

After the blessing, Fr Dunford invited people to walk around the church placing the items and, when they did so, to “think of the people that may have used them and think of your family members”.  

The parish is continuing to fund-raise for the $10.8 million building project, which includes a community lounge, kitchen, large public courtyard, memorial garden and 125-space car park.   

Currently, the parish rents the Sancta Maria College auditorium for Sunday Masses. This parish worship has been based at the college since 2006, with Sunday Mass attendance now at 1400. 

In a statement before the ceremony, Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn said that the diocese is delighted with progress at the site.   

“We have been aware of the growing need for a church and gathering space to meet the demographic demands of this rapidly growing part of Auckland for some years,” he said, “and we are now very close to making this ideal a reality.” 

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Michael Otto

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