The church of St Joseph the Worker in Banbury, south Oxfordshire, was belatedly consecrated on May 15.
Although built, blessed, and opened over 40 years ago in 1968, the octagonal church, which seats 200, had never been formally consecrated.
Following some frenetic saving up and redecorating over the last three years, as well as much prayer under the direction of the parish priest Fr David Gnosill, assisted by deacons Henry Allen and Bob Hughes, St Joseph the Worker has at last been consecrated.
Following the anointing of all eight walls of the church, relics of St Maria Goretti were placed and sealed inside the church’s new stone altar by Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham.
Among the civic dignitaries to attend the consecration ceremony was Tony Baldry, the long-standing Conservative MP for Banbury, Cllr Alistair Milne-Home and Gill Coles – Banbury’s new mayor and mayoress – and the architect of St Joseph the Worker’s, Peter Lucas.
The consecration homily emphasised Christ as the cornerstone of the Church, and His own earlier tutelage under St Joseph the Worker during His youth to become Tekton, a master builder and constructor – a profession He had perfected.
St Joseph’s choir then robustly sang “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord”, followed by Ecce Panis Angelorum at Communion.
The church’s new altar relic was donated by St Maria Goretti, who was born in 1890, the third of six children, into a tiny village south of Rome. Unfortunately, when Maria was nine her father Luigi died from malaria, which had been endemic in the low-lying countryside for centuries.
Suddenly, on the July 6 1902, the then 11-year-old Maria, a devout Catholic, was assaulted in her home and stabbed 14 times by a 20-year-old local farm labourer named Alessandro Serenelli.
Maria died some 20 hours later, after naming her attacker and also publicly forgiving him. Serenelli was captured shortly afterwards and received a sentence of 30 years hard labour in prison, of which he served 27 years.
Following his release, Serenelli also obtained forgiveness from Assunta Goretti, Maria’s mother, and received Holy Communion with her on Christmas Day 1937. Maria Goretti was canonised by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
Serenelli spent the last 33 years of his life working as a lay-brother and gardener in a Capuchin Monastery at Macerata (near Ancona) on Italy’s Adriatic Coast.