Shine like stars in the world

Published 10:41 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

By Chris Quilpa

“‘Shine like stars in the world’ as you hold fast to the word of life.” That’s the jubilee theme of the year-long bicentennial celebration (1820-2020) of the founding of the Diocese of Richmond. That above statement was taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:15-16.

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond, composed of three vicariates (Eastern, Central and Western), started celebrating its 200th anniversary with a Bicentennial Regional Mass on Jan. 18, at Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk.

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The church event commemorated the Catholic presence in the Eastern Vicariate and the arrival of the diocese’s first bishop, Patrick Kelly, from Ireland.

Two more regional masses will be held on July 11, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond (Central Vicariate) to commemorate the founding of the Richmond Diocese (July 11, 1820), and on Sept. 27, at St. Andrew in Roanoke (Western Vicariate) to celebrate the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, the diocese’s patron saint.

Attended by more than 600 members of parishes throughout the Eastern Vicariate, the special bicentennial regional mass in Norfolk was concelebrated by Richmond Bishop Barry C. Knestout, with 42 priests and 20 deacons from the Hampton Roads region.

In his homily, Bishop Knestout said the prophets of the Old Testament were like stars who guided the people toward God and pointed them to His son, Jesus Christ, the greater light to come.

“So, it was the Catholic faith in this diocese, beginning small with a few shining stars, and soon gathering into greater constellations of communities, bringing the light of the Catholic faith into our Commonwealth and the people we encountered,” he said.

“Given the smallness of the Catholic community in Virginia, how few Catholics there were and still are in comparison to the rest of the population,” he said, “I have seen how ‘holding fast to the word’ results in a devotion and generous engagement of the faithful in parish life, where works of charity and justice grow and thrive.”

To grace the special occasion, church choir members from different parishes in Norfolk and Virginia Beach performed. The Knights of Columbus and Knights of Peter Claver, and the Dames of the Holy Sepulchre were present to provide the honor guard and lead the procession into the Mass, respectively.

Likewise, special Bible readings and prayer intercessions were read in different languages (Spanish, Pilipino and English) by representatives of different parishes in Hampton Roads region.

Since the celebration coincides with the observance of National Catholic Schools Week, students from different Catholic schools in the Hampton Roads participated in the event by presenting offertory gifts to Bishop Knestout.

Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, our communities and our nation.

The Jan. 18 regional mass in Norfolk ended with the singing of the diocese’s bicentennial hymn, “We Shine Like Stars in the World.”

Bishop Knestout noted the diocesan bicentennial is more than a time for looking back; it is a new beginning for the entire Catholic community — a time for renewing and growing in our faith, continuing to build and improve upon what we have inherited, engaging and evangelizing all we encounter.

It is a year of opportunities for us, as missionary disciples, to respond to the word of Jesus: Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).

For the year-long diocesan bicentennial celebration in the commonwealth, other significant events will be held to include a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, Md., on May 9, to seek the continued intercession of our Blessed Mother for help in drawing us closer to her son, Jesus Christ, and the Eucharistic Congress on Nov. 6 and 7, which includes two keynote talks, Eucharistic procession and Mass.

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at