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Two years after breaking ground, St. Frances of Rome Parish in Wildomar celebrated the grand opening and dedication of its new church on November 11 with Bishop Alberto Rojas as the chief celebrant.

“Sisters and brothers of Christ, today is a day of rejoicing,” Bishop Rojas said at the steps of the new church location. “We have come together to dedicate this new church by offering within it the sacrifice of Christ.”

The evening began with the parish’s pastor, Father James F. Oropel, leading a procession from the old church building to the new location, which is steps away from the old church on Lemon St. When the procession arrived at the new church building, which spans 18,500 square feet and seats 1,200 people, they were met by Bishop Rojas and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Rutilio J. del Riego, and other diocesan priests and deacons for the ribbon cutting. Bishop Rojas and Fr. Oropel cut the ribbon together, signifying the opening of the church.

Bishop Rojas was then presented with the construction blueprints from Charles Brown, the architect, and the master key to the church from David Meier, Diocesan Director of Construction and Real Estate. In addition, Wildomar Mayor Pro Tem Bridgette Moore presented Bishop Rojas with a letter of recognition.

“On behalf of the City of Wildomar, we are so honored to be here today for this grand event of your new church,” Moore said. “I know how hard you all worked to raise the funds for this and to get this built today. We’re so proud that you’re here in the City of Wildomar.”

After the presentations, it was time to open the doors to the community. With his crozier, or bishop’s staff, Bishop Rojas knocked on the main doors of the new church, and both large wooden doors opened to the community.

“We invite you to enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving, His courts with songs of praise,” Bishop Rojas said after the doors of St. Frances of Rome were opened.

Once the parishioners were inside, Bishop Rojas and Bishop del Riego took a few steps inside the church and stopped at the baptismal font for the blessing and sprinkling of Holy water.

“Dear brothers and sisters, as we solemnly dedicate this house,” Bishop del Riego said. “Let us call before the Lord our God to bless this water he has created, with which we are to sprinkle as a sign of repentance and a remembrance of Baptism and by which the new walls and altar will be purified.”

After the blessing of the holy water, some priests, deacons and Bishop Rojas sprinkled the parishioners, main doors, the walls of the church, the ambo, the presider chair and the altar.

A lector of the parish then presented Bishop Rojas with the new Lectionary. Bishop Rojas took the Lectionary in his hands, raised it and said, “May the word of God resound always in this building, to open for you the mystery of Christ and to bring about your salvation in the Church.”

The Mass proceeded as usual and when the time came for Bishop Rojas to give his homily, he first only spoke two words, “So, finally,” to which the community responded with a loud applause and cheers.

“This church is not a museum to keep pieces of art, sisters and brothers, or just a simple dining room for a special meal,” Bishop Rojas said. “As Pope Francis would say, ‘this church is not a museum for sayings but a hospital for sinners.’ This is a sacred space, a temple which represents all of us as the Body of Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Rojas then spoke about how everyone is like a temple, just like the new church they were dedicating. From time to time, like any building or temple, we will all need maintenance and repairs, and we must go to church for those repairs, Bishop Rojas said. He concluded his homily by saying that we are all temples of the Holy Spirit.

“As we witness this consecration, let us consecrate ourselves, too, because we are also temples of the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Rojas said. “Let us allow the Holy Spirit to renew our bodies as his temple, as his house, as his dwelling place, so just like this church building is dedicated for divine service, our very lives, sisters and brothers, may also become dignified liturgical spaces of celebration for the greater glory of God.”

After his homily, Bishop Rojas performed the anointing of the altar and walls, which he announced was his favorite part of the dedication because it reminds him of anointing a priest. During the anointing of the altar, Bishop Rojas spreads the chrism, or holy anointing oil, on the altar. After the anointing of the altar and the walls of the church, Bishop Rojas performed the incensation of the altar and walls, which includes spreading incense, and the lighting of the altar, which includes cleaning of the chrism, placing the linens, placing the flowers, and lighting the two candles that sit beside the altar.

During the announcements at the end of the Mass, Fr. Oropel recalled when he was first assigned to St. Frances of Rome and received the message of wanting to build a new church.
“St. Francis of Rome, congratulations,” Fr. Oropel said. “Our journey began in 2015, when Bishop [Gerald] Barnes assigned me here, September 21, to be exact… the Feast of St. Matthew… When the Bishop assigned me here on the Feast of St. Matthew, I said ‘what does this mean?’ Because, remember, St. Matthew was a tax collector. I understood when I connected the dots after our two town hall meetings, you said you want to build a church. So, I collected pledges, not taxes, after that.”

After Fr. Oropel thanked the many diocesan offices, parish ministries, parish staff, and volunteers that helped build the new church, the parish’s Finance Council Chair, Rene Bautista, who has been a parishioner of St. Frances of Rome for 13 years, spoke of the journey to build a new church.
“Many, many, years ago, we have been raising funds to build a new church, this church, but we did not really go too far,” Bautista said. “For a long time, we have been like a baseball team, but could only go to second base, that’s about it. Until a new coach, a new manager came in, all of a sudden, the team was revitalized all of a sudden, we were hitting longer balls, then we moved to third base and finally we hit home “safe.” That is the story of St. Frances of Rome, we got stopped at second base for the longest time until Father James came, and gave us the winning run, which is this beautiful church.”
After the speeches of thanking everyone who helped build the new church, Bishop Rojas concluded the nearly four-hour celebration thanking all who tirelessly helped build the church, and thanking everyone for staying for the long dedication as it includes many beautiful parts that normally do not take place in a typical Mass.
“I know this was a long celebration, but I’m sorry to say, this wasn’t a Sunday Mass,” Bishop Rojas said, using his two hands to cover his huge smile, “so come back tomorrow,” Bishop Rojas said with a chuckle after the community burst into laughter.