St. Philip the Apostle Church in Franklin has flourished for more than 150 years because of the determination, courage, faithfulness, and love of its parishioners through the decades, Bishop J. Mark Spalding told parishioners who gathered for the closing Mass of the 150th anniversary year of the dedication of the original church.
“This whole past year you’ve been celebrating here at St. Philip the Apostle 150-plus years now of those generations before us, who never had it easy,” Bishop Spalding said in his homily for the Mass on Saturday, Nov. 5. Catholics in Middle Tennessee have “always been a minority that has been determined and courageous about loving the faith, loving the Church, and passing it on to our children.”
Following the Mass, the bishop blessed a time capsule that will be buried on the church campus to be opened again in 50 years, when the church celebrates its 200th anniversary.
The capsule will include: a list of all currently registered parishioners; a necrology of all those who have been buried from St. Philip; a list of all the parishioners in leadership positions, such as the Pastoral Council, Finance Council and Ministries Council members; and copies of histories of the City of Franklin, including one by St. Philip parishioner Margie Thessin, “Ghosts of Franklin: Tennessee’s Most Haunted Town,” Father Steiner said.
Thessin inscribed the copy of her book with the message: “I don’t know about ghosts, but the Spirit is alive at St. Philip.”
Inside the capsule will also be letters from parishioners to themselves, their children, their grandchildren, and future parishioners who will read them when the capsule is reopened for the 200th anniversary of the dedication of the original church.
“May the contents of this capsule be a testimony to the faith of your people and a witness to your love,” Bishop Spalding prayed as he blessed the capsule and its contents. “May you, Lord, be able to use the history contained in this capsule to show your continual presence throughout the ages. May our future selves always remember the joy of our celebration as a consequence of your grace and love.”
In his homily, Bishop Spalding reminded the congregation, “Roman Catholics are two table people. We gather around this table of word and sacrament, and we also gather in our own homes. … It’s part of our understanding of who we are.”
In the wake of the pandemic, our communities were separated, Bishop Spalding said. “Now we look to the future. We look to the future of gathering here.”
By gathering at the altar for the Eucharist, Bishop Spalding said, “we all transform ourselves more and more in the ways of Jesus Christ. We learn to say yes to what we should be doing and no to what we shouldn’t.”
“Tell your family, your friends you were here this morning. Tell your family, your friends every time you’re here,” Bishop Spalding said.
“This wonderful miracle is given to us, but it’s not to be kept just for us,” he added. “It’s to be given to the world. We must evangelize and make people know of the miracle that happens here day in and day out. That is what our ancestors did.
“We need to pass it on. To share, to invite, to welcome,” he said.
Bishop Spalding talked about the Gospel passage of the Transfiguration, when Jesus is transfigured and appears to Peter, James and John with Moses and Elijah.
Peter “sees this wonderful manifestation of Christ between Moses and Elijah. It’s really an insight into the resurrection and all that’s coming in Jesus Christ,” the bishop said. “It’s wonderful to behold and he wants to hold it so near and dear.
“But you know what Jesus does right after that?” Bishop Spalding asked. “‘Let’s go, off to the next town.’ We’ve got something and we’ve got a moment called our lifetimes to share this good news that’s most manifest in the presence of Christ that we receive and that we show and give to the world.”
“Give thanks to those who’ve come before us, who passed on the faith,” Bishop Spalding said. “Now, we have a responsibility to pass it on.”
Plans to bury the time capsule next to the statue of St. Philip on the church grounds had to be delayed because of rain the day of the closing Mass.
On Sunday, Nov. 6, the celebration came to an end with a variety show at the Franklin Theatre called “The 150th Anniversary Curtain Call,” which featured musicians of varying ages who are members of the parish.