Dedication Mass & Homily: Holy Family Church
June 25, 2012; The Most Reverend Paul D. Etienne, Bishop of Cheyenne
As we consecrate this beautiful church dedicated to the Holy Family, I greet all of you as members of the One Family of God. I wish to begin my comments tonight with a few significant recognitions, though I am sure I cannot recognize everyone who has had some hand in this accomplishment. First of all, I wish to thank the people of Holy Family for your faith and perseverance. If a new church is anything, it is a symbol of the faith of its members.
Honorable Mentions go to Monsignor Taylor, a Lincoln County resident, who started the first regularly scheduled Masses by a diocesan priest. Monsignor Gene Sullivan was the Pastor at Our Lady of the Mountains when HFCC became a mission of OLM. Fr.s Sam Hayes, Carl Beavers, James Krah, Joe Geders, Florante Marcelo, & Randy Oswald have provided the vision & leadership that made this possible. Thank you, Fathers, for your ministry and dedication to the faithful of Star Valley.
This new church would not be possible without the extended family in the Valley. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and its members have been tremendously generous in their support of this endeavor. Our immediate neighbors, the Emmanuel Bible Church, extending to every congregation in the Valley, have offered outstanding support. Dan Dockstader (State Senator), publisher of Star Valley Independent has kept the project in the public eye. Peter Stewart-Stewart Construction used local craftsmen to keep this a “Valley” project. Neal Zeren designed the Church. Much of the costs of this dedication were donated. The fund-raising to build this church has come from the Valley, the diocese, and all over the United States. A particular acknowledgement and expression of gratitude goes to the Catholic Extension Society, who opened the door for additional financial support with their challenge grant. To all of you, and I’m sure to many others, know that your kindness and generosity are greatly appreciated by the Catholic Community.
To all of the parish leaders that helped over the years to bring us to this wonderful culmination of the realization of a new church for the Holy Family Community, thank you. Finally, I’m sure everyone knows who the real driving force for this project in recent years has been. Deacon Bill Hill. Deacon Bill, what can I say? “Thank you.” Your love for the Church, for the Faith, and for the people of this Valley and Holy Family Community is outstanding. We are forever grateful for your ministry, passion, and tireless efforts.
Through the Scriptures and preaching that take place at every Eucharist, the Church seeks to announce the values that give true meaning to life. So, too, the family, is to be a place where our children learn the values that are at the heart of a meaningful life and existence. In the recent gathering of families in Milan, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI said that “without the family humanity has no future.”
As the Church through the worshipping community and the celebration of the sacraments builds a community built upon the life that flows from our Savior, Jesus Christ, so, too, each family is to be a community of life built on love.
Tonight we consecrate this building, which means, we set it aside for sacred use. Please, God, many Baptisms will be celebrated in this church. Through Baptism, we are consecrated, set aside for sacred use to accomplish God’s will, God’s plan and purpose. The Christian is called to go beyond the ‘natural love’ that is inherent to every human person. The Christian is called to a greater, indeed, an extraordinary expression of love. That is why Christ instructs us to love God – love our neighbor – indeed, even to love our enemies. Through Baptism, Christ takes up His dwelling within us, and further strengthens His presence within us, and that is why He instructs us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.
This is the extraordinary life that this sacred space will support, nourish and strengthen for this Holy Family of faith. The life of love that each family is called to live in the home is possible through the life of the Church. That is why it is critical for every member of the faith, for every family of the Church, to regularly come to Mass, every Sunday. The life of perfection that Christ calls us to is only possible by God’s grace, by what we celebrate and receive here in the Sacraments of the Church. That is why our Diocesan Pastoral Plan is asking us to renew our sacramental life, as well as to strengthen the life of the family.
We need God! God does not need us, but thankfully, God desires us, and desires our faithful communion with Him. It is important that we regularly celebrate the sacraments, regularly receive Reconciliation. To ensure our children grow up with the values of the Gospel, it is important that young couples celebrate their love for one another in the Church by celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. How can families be ‘holy families’ if they are not built upon the life and love of Christ?
As we dedicate this church tonight to the Holy Family, let us recall that the family is built upon the foundation of marriage. Marriage was the first sacrament given by God. In fact, marriage is so foundational to society that it was established even before the Church, indeed, even before Original Sin. Let us recognize that marriage is a gift from God, a relationship defined by God, and that definition cannot be changed by any one or any government.
Every Eucharist is meant to strengthen our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our celebrations within these sacred walls are to build a strong community of faith. Community necessarily means lives that are intertwined, lives that do not stand alone, but rely upon one another. Our worship within these sacred walls is an explicit profession in our belief that Jesus Christ in His Person is the true Temple, and the faith that we profess here and the sacraments we celebrate here nourish and strengthen our unity with Christ, and through Christ, our unity with one another.
As the church community gathers around the table of the Lord for Eucharist, so the family gathers around the kitchen table. These moments of gathering as family are essential moments in the life of the family, to share their journey, their ups and downs. The family meal is as central to the family as the Eucharist is to the Church.
The community lived in every family demonstrates that the human person is neither isolated nor alone. The family is a strong and clear statement that the human person is meant for relationship – for communion – not isolation and selfish pursuits. Such unity is what the human heart longs for, and the family is the first place where such communion and love are experienced.
As the parish family is nourished and strengthened in God’s love through common prayer, sacrament and worship, so the family is to be a domestic church that is continually built up in love. As each member grows in the confidence that they are loved and accepted, he or she has the confidence to love his or her self as the unique individual God has created for his plan and purpose.
Within these two complimentary communities of love, that of the parish and of the family, each individual comes to know and embrace their own vocation in life. The family is the seedbed of all vocations. Within the context of God’s family, even celibacy – Religious life & Priesthood – is seen as a sign of God’s love and a sign of what lies at the heart of every Christian vocation, namely, that we are all called to make a full gift of self in love to God, to His Church, and to others.
Using the family as the starting point, we learn that every family relies upon the active participation of each of its members. So, too, the church, the parish relies upon the active participation and contribution of each member of the Family of God, the Body of Christ. This very building, this place of worship is a statement of what can be accomplished by a vibrant, active faith community.
My reflections have already asked much of your patience, but please allow just a few more references to the life that is lived in this space, that is to be mirrored in our families. Through Mary, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God’s chosen dwelling place in the world was a family. In this church is a tabernacle, where the Word made flesh continues to dwell among us. Do not leave this space empty. Come often to pray. Come as individuals; come as families, that the Lord may dwell fully with you and your homes.
This, as every church, is a house of prayer. Here people will come to encounter God. Here, we come to bring our cares to the Lord. Here we sit in silence to ponder God’s eternal Word that He may be the Light that guides our path and journey through life. Listen to His Word, and give the Word a prominent place in your family and homes.
Christ is the Way. He is the Truth. He is the Life. May this church, dedicated to the Holy Family, be a source of grace and strength so that the families of this valley may grow in holiness. May the worship offered here, through the intercession of the Holy Family, lead many others to the Life and Truth of Christ, that they may walk always in His Way that leads to Eternal Life.
Jesus, Mary & Joseph, Pray For Us!0