On 3rd September, the feast of St Gregory the Great, Cardinal Vincent officially re-opened and consecrated the new altar of the Church of Mary Immaculate and St Gregory the Great in High Barnet. The afternoon began with a short procession, led by the Cardinal, Fr John McKenna and Deacon Anthony Curran, from the United Reform Church across the road, where the parish had been hosted for Mass during the building work, bearing the relic of
St Pontian for the altar. At the front door of the new church John Ainslie made a short speech about the work that had been completed, and the importance of it to their community. Fr John then unlocked the door and invited everyone in to begin the Mass.
The Cardinal began the homily to a packed church by remarking that the extension was not big enough! He thanked the vibrant community for coming out to celebrate this occasion and for their ‘witness of faith’ while the building work was going on. He explained that the ceremony of consecration speaks for itself. It is ‘vivid and dramatic’ and that we should keep our senses open to all that is happening.
Referring to the Readings of the Mass, beginning with the Gospel, the Cardinal spoke about the importance of welcoming, even when we are afraid. ‘We must always open our door’. Jesus and Zachariah both did the ‘wrong’ thing. Zachariah was a tax collector and Jesus went to stay with him. The welcome they gave to each other, both spiritual and physical is embodied in this new church, which will welcome people off the high street.
The Cardinal then alluded to the first reading, and the importance of people gathering to hear the word of God and to share food. This reading, he said, is especially important in light of the second reading. The second reading asks us to say ‘yes’ as Mary did and to ‘open ourselves to something beyond’ to come into the church and ‘be changed by the word and sacrifice of the Lord’.
The relic placed in the altar was one of St Pontian, whose feast is on 12th August, following which the altar stone was inserted and two parishioners dressed the altar. It was a beautiful sight to witness the Cardinal raise the Eucharist toward the new crucifix in front of parishioners who had worked and prayed so hard for the new church.
At the end of Mass Fr John gave a short speech thanking everyone involved with the build. He mentioned especially the neighbouring United Reform Church and the Hope Corner Community Centre which had hosted them for Mass during the building works. Fr John thanked in particular two parishioners who had put an extraordinary amount of work into the parish: John Ainslie and Rose Isaac were presented with a gift by the Cardinal.