OAK ORCHARD — Mary, Mother of Peace Church, located near Millsboro, received a much-needed makeover just in time for a special dedication Mass.
Mary Mother of Peace was built in 1986 as a mission church for St. Michael the Archangel in Georgetown. Since that time there has been little improvement to the worship space.
“When I looked at it, I thought Mary, Mother of Peace needed a new set of clothes,” said the pastor, Father Robert Coine.
St. Jude Liturgical Arts Studio was contacted several months ago to develop plans for a transformation of the church. The studio has recently completed renovations at St. Jude the Apostle in Lewes, St. Christopher in Kent Island, Md., and St. Mary of the Assumption in Hockessin.
In the last few months, there has been a major overhaul of the church interior. It includes a new altar, tabernacle, stations of the cross and baptismal font. There’s new ceiling work, paint, woodwork and a new sanctuary floor.
The project began Oct. 22, and was completed ahead of schedule Dec. 14. That was just in time for Bishop Malooly to celebrate the dedication Mass on Dec. 15. Also celebrating the Mass were Father Coine, Father John Olson, associate pastor; and Father James Kirk Jr., pastor of St. Mary Magdalen Church in Wilmington. Deacons Barry Taylor and Kenny Hall assisted.
The bishop blessed the tabernacle and the altar, which now contains a relic of St. John Neumann, the first American bishop to be canonized. The relic belonged to Father Coine, and he agreed to include it in the new altar.
“It is very special,” he said.
Father Coine said he sat in the back of church before the dedication, and parishioners seemed very pleased.
“Thank God, you gave us a church,” he quoted one as saying.
Father Coine said parishioners were very supportive. “Compared to what it was, it is a very big jump … We started inch by inch. You can’t do anything like this unless you have good people around you. It’s nice and the people are very pleased.”
During the renovation, daily Mass was held at St. Michael in Georgetown, but workers cleaned up every Friday so that weekend Masses could still be held at Mary Mother of Peace.
He noted that the parish did not have to have a capital campaign to raise funds. He said the parish carefully managed its money and took advantage of right-of-way purchase money from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) at the Route 24 location as well as the proceeds from the sale of four lots to help pay for the cost.
Although he made it clear that they were already paid for, he said supporters and parishioners generously spent $56,500 in memorial donations to purchase statues and other parts of the renovation.
One second collection for the renovation also collected about $3,000, he said. “It’s a huge success and we’re very pleased with that, but we don’t stop with that.”
He noted that there is still much work which needs to be done at St. Michael. Much has already been done, such as relocating and centralizing parish offices into the old rectory, purchasing a nearby building for a new rectory, improving the sound system, removing mold and improving heating and air conditioning, renovating bathrooms and installing a new kitchen cafe.
More, however, is needed at St Michael’s, which is packed for virtually every Mass. “We can’t keep adding Masses because we don’t have priests,” he said.
Father Coine said they still need to move a bathroom and the confessional since they conflict with the area priests and altar servers use to be vested. Upgrading the sacristy and sanctuary, painting, carpeting and perhaps an expanded parking lot may all still need to be done. He doesn’t expect major work immediately, saying larger potential changes will still have to be evaluated and planned.
“St. Michael’s is in front of us,” he said. “We’re not just talking about bricks, but also souls,” he said.