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In Altadena: A new altar for Sacred Heart

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It wasn’t planned that way, but the weekend when parishioners at Sacred Heart Church in Altadena celebrated the blessing and consecration of their new altar was full of coincidences that couldn’t be overlooked.

First, the June 27 evening on which the community gathered and welcomed Archbishop José Gomez for the official blessing and consecration was, appropriately, the Feast Day of the Sacred Heart. And the ensuing Sunday was the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, two images featured prominently on the luminescent altar.

The happenstance was “such a noble blessing” said Sacred Heart pastor Father Jose Vaugh Banal. “It seems that God chose that date for us. We had three days of fiesta here.”

The journey toward the new altar began when Father Banal became Sacred Heart's pastor in 2012. Renewing and restoring the church building became a priority for him as he worked with parishioners and parish committees. The project included repairing the church’s roof and exterior (which suffered from a nearby 2009 wildfire), and painting inside and outside.

Creating a new altar was next because the old altar didn’t fit the space properly and Father Banal wanted the Blessed Sacrament more centrally located for worshippers. The project involved many members and parish committees. 

“This really was teamwork with all the groups at our church,” he says, noting that Sacred Heart's diverse population encompasses Latinos, Vietnamese, Filipinos, African Americans and Anglos.

“Our parish is growing and people are proud of our church building,” said Father Banal, who hopes the church becomes a beacon of light in a neighborhood that has seen its share of violence. “Here is a place where all can come and feel safe and welcomed.”

Designed by local artist Milton Ogdoc and carved from wood by artist Christopher Go in the Philippines, the altar is reminiscent of grand altars one would see in Rome and Europe. During the consecration, a relic from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was placed into the altar.

“Human hands may have made this altar, but this is God’s altar,” commented Archbishop Gomez in his homily.

Added Father Banal: “Tonight we are celebrating not just a table but a table of sacrifice of Jesus. We hope that the beauty of this church, especially the altar may help us all to find consolation in him.”

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