SALEM — On Sept. 27, the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, Archbishop John Vlazny consecrated a new altar at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Salem and delivered a positive view of the relationship with God.

The former head of the Archdiocese of Portland celebrated Mass in English and Spanish with Father Manuel Becerra, pastor.

The parish in North Salem celebrated its first Mass on Sept. 27, 1925. The current church building was built and consecrated in 1960, and few changes have been made since, said Father Becerra.

With physical distancing and face masks, about 100 parishioners attended the Mass, with the Eucharist taking place on the altar which had been installed by parish volunteers.

In his homily, Archbishop Vlazny reminded listeners that God sent Jesus not to scare us into conversion but to show us the way to glory.

“Out of love God created us and out of love he continues to take care of us. By love God has redeemed us, ” he said.

The archbishop told the story of a grandfather and his grandson who asks what will happen after the grandfather dies. Who will play with me? Who will fly the kite with me? Who will go fishing with me? The grandfather responds that when that time comes, it will be the grandson who is of the age to do all those things for another child.

"God speaks to us as grandfather,” Archbishop Vlazny said. “He invites us to give to others as he has given to us,” he said. “That was also the spirit of St. Vincent de Pau.”

The archbishop explained that Jesus sent his disciples to proclaim God's love to the sick, the weak and needy, the defenseless, immigrants and refugees, the rejected and the abused.

“Today God sends us for the same reasons, respecting the dignity of all, with humility and compassion,” he said. “Those are the ways of God and such are the ways of us, his missionary disciples.”

The archbishop consecrated the altar with holy oils.

Father Becerra explained that a year ago parish leaders began to analyze the recommendations of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Handbook and so implemented them in the design of the new altar. The setup now offers better visibility for the tabernacle and, Father Becerra said, gives a more spiritual character to the sacred place.

More pews were added to the church.

Father Becerra expressed gratitude for the community effort, including major help from the Knights of Columbus. The priest stressed the importance of contributing, giving the best of himself and leaving a mark as a purpose of spiritual life for future generations.

patriciam@ocp.org