This summer, I am making my way around the state to a group of Catholics who make up the smaller faith communities which are known as ‘missions.’ These faith communities are served by the larger communities (parishes.)
Though mostly small in numbers, the faith is often found to be quite vibrant. There is somethings about these smaller faith communities that is very conducive to living and passing on the faith. That is why so many large parishes today are developing ‘small faith communities’ to help build a stronger sense of community.
This past Saturday, I traveled to the NW part of the state to Cody. Fr. Vernon Clark is pastor of St. Anthony in Cody. Serving with him is a priest from India, Fr. Dennis D’Souza. One of our retired priests, Fr. Joe Daley who lives in Cody, has been providing the sacraments to the people in Meeteese for nearly 20 years. St. Anthony’s parish also retains a priest each summer in order to provide the sacraments to the tourist community in Yellowstone National Park. Three Masses are offered in various places in the Park each weekend through the summer season.
Sunday morning, I made the 40 minute drive from Cody to Meeteese for the 9:0o Mass at St. Theresa. I was warmly greeted by the long-time ‘care taker’ and parishioner, Dean Collier. One of the other ‘first arrivals’ for Mass was Grace Carlson along with her daughter, Helen Turney. Grace quickly informed me that she has the distinguished honor of being the ‘oldest member of the community’ at the age of 104. I often find it interesting that it is not ‘polite’ to speak of a woman’s age until they reach the magic age of 90+ (or so.)
St. Theresa is the oldest Catholic church building in the area. It was the first church of St. Anthony in Cody, when Cody was a mission served out of (I believe) Powell. When St. Anthony later built their present church, this church was sold to the county, where is provided office space. Then, in 1986, the church re-purchased the building, and moved it to its present site in Meeteese.
As the people arrived for Mass, they carried in plate after plate of homemade goodies for the gathering that would follow Mass. In time, a nice crowd had gathered, and Mass began. Very often this time of year, a tourist or two shows up, but this weekend, it was all people from Meeteese and Cody. The people are clearly grateful for Fr. Daley, and pleased that he continues to make the great effort to ‘keep them going.’ Typically, in communities this size, it is difficult to provide for liturgical music, but one of the parishioners picked some hymns and intoned them, which was a great enhancement for our celebration.
After Mass, the vast majority of those present remained to enjoy a fine brunch and fellowship. I was quite surprised and impressed with the lovely parish hall attached to the back of the church. Fr. Daley accomplished this addition during his time in Meeteese. He said it irritated him that the only place to gather for socializing (and eating) was in the church itself.
These people as is often the case, take great pride in their facilities, history, and faith. Following are a few more pics from Sunday morning in Meeteese.