A few minutes before noon March 3, church sexton Bill Muzzi began pulling the long tower rope, bells pealing out to Wilmington for the start of an historic milestone.
“We still do it the old-fashioned way,” Muzzi said.
Moments later, Bishop W. Francis Malooly capped the introductory procession as dozens of priests from the Diocese of Wilmington began its sesquicentennial by concelebrating Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter.
“Looking back and looking ahead in joy, realizing that we are chosen by the church to be the Diocese of Wilmington … the Lord is in your midst,” he told the gathering.
The bishop reminded congregants that there was great enthusiasm 150 years ago when the diocese was established by Pope Pius IX.
“Over the years, the church and its leaders have left a real mark on so many areas that began with (our diocese). We are connected. We all are connected to the early church and the passing of the faith from one generation to another.
“When our first bishop came here in 1868, he would have found a very faith-filled diocese. He would have found a people who were very much connected to their faith and to their God. And the challenge for us is to continue to follow the marching orders that Jesus gave the apostles – to witness our faith, to proclaim our faith and to do that with enthusiasm.”
The Cathedral of St. Peter is among nine historic churches that are part of an historic churches pilgrimage to celebrate the sesquicentennial. These churches have been designated by the diocese “either for the building or for the community that’s been there the entire time,” said Father Joseph McQuaide, chancellor of the diocese and co-chair of the sesquicentennial committee.
Events are planned throughout the next year to celebrate the sesquicentennial, including “Convocation 150” at the Ocean City (Md.) Convention Center on Nov. 3.
The sesquicentennial comes to a close on March 3, 2019, with Mass at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington.