On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the people of Sacred Heart parish in Monroe were thankful for the presence of their archbishop, the presence of the tabernacle in the sanctuary, and the presence of Sean Mende, 17, the youth whose Eagle Scout project was to transfer the 780-pound marble tabernacle from the side of the church to the sanctuary.
Cardinal Dolan celebrated Mass that evening, Nov. 24, for the Feast of Christ the King, and in recognition of the tabernacle transfer project.
“We wanted to show everyone that we were enthroning Jesus the King at the center of our church,” Father David Rider, the parish administrator, said in an interview with Catholic New York. “I chose that date months ago for that symbolism, transferring the tabernacle to the center of the church, into the sanctuary at the center. Before that, it was at the side to the right of the sanctuary.”
Cardinal Dolan, in his homily, spoke about that gesture, “the importance of having the tabernacle at the center…about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist,” and about the significance of that Church teaching despite too many Catholics not fully embracing the belief, Father Rider said.
“When we put Jesus at the center, and the tabernacle is the first thing you see when you walk in, it sends a message about how important He is to us,” said Father Rider paraphrasing the cardinal. The heavy, three-piece tabernacle has been in the church since the building was constructed in 1991, replacing an older, smaller church. Father Rider said the tabernacle and other religious items came from St. Mary’s Church in Gloversville, Diocese of Albany, when that church closed.
In early August, Sean Mende, the aspiring Eagle Scout, mentioned he was looking to build a shed and gazebo behind Sacred Heart School for his Eagle Scout project. Father Rider asked if Sean instead would be interested in making the tabernacle transfer his project, and the teen agreed.
Sean and Father Rider began planning right away and the project was finished in time for the Mass offered by the cardinal. Helping Sean were his parents, Brian and Genevieve Mende, family friend Tom Ollie, who is an engineer, and fellow parishioner Lou Della-Peruta, who works in construction. Workers also were contracted. A woman who is a Sacred Heart parishioner wrote a check to cover the project labor and gear.
Sean, the youngest of four children, and his parents told CNY that they were grateful to Father Rider for the idea of the tabernacle transfer serving as the teen’s Eagle Scout project, and for working with Sean in the planning process; and they were grateful to Cardinal Dolan for celebrating the Mass, and the parishioner who covered the project expenses.
“It was all very helpful. It was a blessing,” said Sean, a junior at Monroe-Woodbury High School who is a member of Troop 213 in Saddle Brook, N.J.
Mrs. Mende added, “We are so happy and feel so blessed that this would come along for our son. It’s an honor. The Mass was beautiful, it was very joyful.”
Her husband noted, “I couldn’t be more proud of him and the effort that he put in on the project. It was all phenomenal. I can’t even describe how proud I was being a part of this whole thing.”