The Diocese of Wilmington will begin a yearlong celebration of its 150th anniversary beginning March 3 with a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter, and ending with Mass March 3, 2019, at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington. The 365 days in between will be filled with various events to commemorate the sesquicentennial.
A 150th anniversary committee co-chaired by Father Joseph McQuaide, chancellor of the diocese, has been busy researching various aspects of diocesan history and making plans for the next 12 months.
“The Lord has been with us through many joys and challenges,” Bishop Malooly said, “and we pray with confidence that God will continue to be with our diocese in the years ahead. Our 150th anniversary is the perfect time to give thanks for the past and recommit ourselves to the work of the Gospel now and in the future.”
So much has changed since 1868, when Blessed Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Wilmington and Bishop Thomas Becker arrived from Baltimore.
“What hasn’t changed is the counties of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore – we initially had some of the Virginia peninsula – it’s been that same land that our grandparents and great-grandparents have lived on, have worshiped on, and for these past 150 years, good things have been happening,” Father McQuaide said.
The bells at St. Peter Cathedral will ring on March 3, just as they did when Bishop Becker arrived in late 1868. On the first Saturday of the next 11 months, certain churches will be open as pilgrimage sites. These churches have been designated by the diocese “either for the building or for the community that’s been there the entire time,” Father McQuaide said.
In addition to the cathedral, those churches include St. Francis Xavier near Warwick, Md.; St. Joseph, Cordoba, Md.; St. Peter Mission, Queenstown, Md.; St. Mary Star of the Sea, Golden Hill, Md.; St. Peter the Apostle, New Castle; St. Patrick, Pilottown, Md.; St. Joseph on the Brandywine, Greenville; St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Wilmington; and Sacred Heart Oratory, Wilmington. There will be tours, and Mass will be celebrated.
People who attend one of these first Saturday open houses can get a “passport” that will be stamped at each location. At the end of the year, those with all churches stamped will get a certificate signed by Bishop Malooly designating them a diocesan pilgrim.
A nonlocal pilgrimage is the visit by a delegation from the diocese to Annecy, France; Rome; and Assisi in April. One hundred fifty-five are scheduled to attend.
“We’re billing this as the trip of the Francises,” Father McQuaide said. “We have Francis de Sales (the patron of the diocese who is buried in Annecy). We’re being led by Bishop Francis Malooly, we’ll meet Pope Francis, and we’ll also go to St. Francis of Assisi and visit his basilica there.”
The diocese takes over the Ocean City (Md.) Convention Center on Nov. 3. More than 1,000 people are expected for “Convocation 150,” which will include a keynote presentation, breakout sessions, roundtable discussions, prayer and Mass.
“For us to gather together as a diocese. It will be a way for us to concentrate on being missionary disciples. Pope Francis has issued this call to the church,” Father McQuaide said.
Next January the universal church will observe the week of prayer for Christian unity. That event has its origins in the Diocese of Wilmington through Father Paul Watson. The Millington, Md., native, an Episcopal priest who converted to Catholicism, began this event.
On Jan. 25, 2019, at Holy Cross Church in Dover, an ecumenical service will be held “for us to pray together remembering the great witness of Father Paul Watson and praying together with our ecumenical partners in our diocese,” Father McQuaide said.
Two publications are being produced for the sesquicentennial. One is a coffee-table book featuring diocesan history and photographs and the other is a graphic novel of the diocese presented in illustrative form.
A keepsake rosary has been commissioned and should be available around Easter. It will have red beads and a gold chain, using the diocesan colors. The center medallion will feature Our Lady Queen of Peace on one side and St. Francis de Sales on the other. The Our Father beads will feature the diocesan coat of arms on one side and a map of the diocese on the other.
At the request of Bishop Malooly, the Vatican has granted a plenary indulgence for those who participate in specified observances.
“By participating in our activities, not only are you learning about our great history, but you’re enriching your spiritual life and growing closer to the Lord,” Father McQuaide said.
The sesquicentennial comes to a close on March 3, 2019, with Mass at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington, which is much larger than the cathedral.
Information about the 150th anniversary is available on the diocesan website at www.cdow.org/150th and at www.facebook.com/cdow150th. There also will be a presence on Twitter and Instagram, both found at @CDOW150th.