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Bishop Malooly, Father Lentini celebrate Mass at Holy Cross in Dover for 150th anniversary of parish

Father James Lentini presents Bishop Malooly with a book Sept. 13 chronicling the 150-year history of Holy Cross Church in Dover. Dialog photo/Michael Short

DOVER — Holy Cross Catholic Church in Dover is 150-years-old.

That doesn’t make it the oldest church in the diocese, but it is very close. The normally festive activities for such an anniversary were tempered by the current pandemic, although Bishop Malooly did celebrate Mass at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 13.

He said it was his first visit south of the C&D Canal in about six months. There will be more festivities planned when health concerns become less worrisome, but Sunday was simply the celebration of Mass and the presentation of a new 74-page book to the bishop which details the history of the church, founded in 1870. Three parishes in the diocese were founded in 1867, making them the oldest.

“I’m sorry we’re not having more right now, but we will have that in due time,” Bishop Malooly said.

The bishop spoke briefly in front of the large stained-glass window depicting the crucifixion. The window is a prominent fixture in Dover and has been called “the statement on State Street.”

“This is the core message of our faith — the cross,” he said.

Sunday’s sermon was given one day before the Monday, Sept. 14 observance of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The book is not yet available to the public, but orders are being taken on the Holy Cross website. It is filled with pictures and history of the church and area. A sneak peek on that website shows the book contains sections on: Major Events, Shepherds of the Holy Cross, Living, Nourishing and Celebrating Our Faith and A Trip Down Memory Lane.

There are segments on Hispanic Ministry, Music Ministry, a History of early Catholicism on Delmarva, Religious Education, Picnics and Bazaars and Holy Cross Cemetery.

The book is available in three versions, costing $9, $18 or $25.

The early history section notes that Catholicism was sometimes banned and sometimes celebrated openly. An anti-Popery law in Maryland in 1704 threatened priests with imprisonment if they held Mass publicly. Queen Anne soon intervened and allowed Catholicism to be practiced, but only in private.

Such hardships, however, did not prevent the faithful from growing in number. In fact, the town of Canterbury, some seven miles from Dover was once known as Irish Hill. The history says that is due to the large number of Irish Catholics living in that area.

Father Lentini preached Sunday’s homily and focused on the reading that God’s people had grown weary and lost patience with God as they wandered. He wondered if today’s people have lost patience and looked for answers in technology, science or elsewhere, instead of theology.

He lamented that “faith becomes dismissed” and “moral certitudes crumble.”

He said that answers to life had been given gradually “over centuries” and not immediately over WiFi. “Our world today can be a spiritual wilderness.”

While it may appear “that God is silent and doing nothing … God is doing everything. He brings us everything from nothing. We need not feel lost,” he said.