This evening a good crowd gathered to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of St. Paul’s parish in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. The first church was dedicated October 5, 1913, even though Masses were offered in the area regularly starting in 1912, and even sporadically prior to the turn of the century. For a complete history, click here and here.
Pine Bluffs is in the Southeast corner of Wyoming, very near the Nebraska border. As the history reports, one of the first priests serving the Catholics in Pine Bluffs was made the first bishop of Grand Island, Nebraska. The parish is made up largely of farm and ranching families. As is the case in so many rural communities today, the number of such families is declining as are the size of families, and the size of ranches and farms continue to grow in size. More and more of the parish families work in Cheyenne, and live somewhere in between Cheyenne and Pine Bluffs. But the parish continues, and celebrated their 100 years of faith with hope for the future.
Most of the recent pastors of St. Paul were present for tonight’s celebration, along with a good representation of other priests. I know the pastor, Fr. Kevin Koch was well pleased with the turn out.
Such parish anniversaries are a great opportunity to reflect upon the role of a parish and the mission of the Church.
The Church exists for mission; the mission of Jesus Christ to preach the Good News and build the Kingdom of God. The three pillars of the Church are to preach the Word of God, celebrate the Sacraments, and exercise charity. For generations, the families of St. Paul have been professing and transmitting the Faith.
As Pope Francis instructs us in his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, Faith accepts the Word as a solid rock upon which we can build, a straight highway on which we can travel. The man of faith gains strength by putting himself in the hands of the God who is faithful. (#10) Faith is conversion – turning away from idols to God – constantly renewed and transformed by God’s call. (#13) In the love of God revealed in Jesus, faith perceives the foundation on which all reality and its final destiny rest. (#15)
A parish is where the People of God profess their Faith in God and celebrates His abiding presence in their lives. The community of Faith seeks Christ, much as did Zacchaeus in Luke’s Gospel. A parish is a place where Jesus dwells with His people, redeeming them and leading them to deeper and deeper life. Just as Jesus brought salvation to the house of Zaccaeus, so He brings salvation to those who believe in Him and bring Him to others.
Congratulations, to all the people of St. Paul’s on their 100th Anniversary!