Yesterday was a full day, celebrating new beginnings! I am mindful of the words from the Book of Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.” (21:5)
I left Cheyenne early Sunday morning, driving to Lander to celebrate a 1:00 Mass at Holy Rosary for the opening of the new academic year for the Wyoming Catholic College. Traditionally, during this Mass each year, the faculty renew their Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity. The College is celebrating 50 new students this year, with the largest number of this group coming from the great state of Montana! I noticed there were also a few from Wyoming, including two from the college’s home town, Lander.
The incoming freshman have been in Wyoming for nearly a month already, and are freshly returned from the mandatory beginning for all students, a 21-day backpacking trip in the mountains. Outdoor leadership and experiencing the beauty of God’s creation are central elements to the overall curriculum at Wyoming Catholic College. Perhaps the most interesting story out of this year’s excursion into the mountains was the bear who tore into the chaplain’s tent one night. Even though the groups meticulously follow all bear protocols, including food safety, this bear still sniffed out the unconsecrated hosts in the priest’s tent, and tore things up getting to them. I’m sure that is one story that priest will tell for the rest of his days!
Shortly following Mass there was a 3:00 matriculation ceremony for the new students. The ceremony this year also included the inaugural address of the College’s new and 3rd President, Dr. Glenn Arbery. Dr. Arbery and his wife Virginia are no strangers to the Wyoming Catholic College. They have been teaching at the college for several years. Dr. Arbery also served in the capacity of Academic Dean prior to assuming the role of President.
At the conclusion of yesterday’s ceremony, I leaned over and told Dr. Arbery that he is the ‘humble servant’ spoken of in this Sunday’s readings. Glenn is a true ‘man of the South;’ soft-spoken, words laced with wisdom, humorous wit, and a gentleman in every respect. Please pray for him as he assumes his new duties. I have every confidence that he will do well leading the College.
It was nice this year to also see representatives from Thomas Aquinas College in California, including their President, Dr. Michael F. McLean.
As the Matriculation and Induction ceremony concluded, I slipped out the side door to make my way to nearby St. Stephens Indian Mission. During a 5:00 Mass, we installed their new pastor, Fr. Jim Heiser. Since the Jesuits left St. Stephens in 2010, we have struggled to find a good fit to meet the pastoral needs of this three-parish community of Northern Arapaho Tribe and Eastern Shoshone Tribe. From what I witnessed yesterday, I think Fr. Heiser and his young associate, Fr. Andrew Kinstetter are going to be just the ticket! The church was packed, including the traditional drummers, and I believe everyone brought their smile! The event concluded with a large gathering for dinner following Mass. Another first for me included a taste of a local favorite, choke cherry gravy with homemade bread. It had a very distinctive flavor, and was very good!
Typically, I have allowed the deans to preside at installation ceremonies of new pastors. But, this summer, I decided I wanted to do a few myself. I’m glad I chose to be present at St. Stephens, as it was a great celebration of faith and hope. To view all of the photos from the installation event at St. Stephens, look here.
In each event of the day, Christ was the true center and star. Just about every family, including the faith-family has its ups and downs, but Christ is faithful. He truly does make all things new, as long as we keep seeking and serving him, and doing our best to remain faithful and hopeful in the midst of the struggles. God the Father has a dream for us all. The Holy Spirit gives us the inspiration to live the dream, and Christ grants us the grace to bring it to life!
Keep living the faith! Keep living God’s dreams in the midst of your own!