Last Monday at 9 AM, my prayer with those gathered in our parking lot ended with this phrase, “Let’s do this!” It was not a statement of arrogance or something to revel in, but one of decisiveness amidst what I expected to be a very difficult event, the demolition of our old church. While I have been very excited about the prospects of a beautiful new church, I have also been keenly aware of the suffering that many have been going through up to this day. It was a day for some of our community where memories were dislodged from a physical space they had come to know and love. In some ways, the past was being demolished along with the building. But, as Catholic Christians, this cannot be the last word. Suffering does not have the final word.
We believe in God who suffered too. We know he suffered and died in the person of Jesus Christ who was nailed to the cross for our sins, though personally innocent. What can we learn from this example by our Lord? Not just that suffering is part of life, but that suffering leads to resurrection, to new life, to joy. Between suffering and joy, however, is death. We all experienced the death of our old church on Monday. It was both dramatic and traumatic.
I was personally moved when the excavator first pushed several times against the facade and doors of our church, breaking the stained glass and caving in the cinder block. The I-beam that held the balcony refused to be moved despite many tries by the excavator, almost as if fighting against its own demise. But, it soon would give in like the rest of the building. In a sense, this is sentimentalizing an inanimate object. Yet, welling up within me was a sadness at the scene taking place before my eyes. One parishioner reminded me, “Even though we are demolishing this church building, the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church,” referencing Matthew 16:18. Great words! A great reminder, for God has plans in which we can place our hope. The Church is not built with brick and mortar alone, but more so upon the hearts of the faithful where Christ himself resides.
For the next two months, our hallowed ground will lay dormant while we quietly prepare for the next phase. Beginning in the first part of August, we will go out for bids for subcontractors for the new church. We already have our mechanical, plumbing, and electrical contractors lined up. These are the most important and foundational groups needed. On September 17th, Bishop Peter Smith will be here and offer our 11 AM Sunday Mass followed by an official groundbreaking ceremony. There may already be some work done on the new foundation by that point, but it is important to be reminded that this is not just a human endeavor. Ultimately, it is for the praise and greater glory of God.
May glory of God shine through us as we bury, so to speak, our former church, and begin to witness the rising of a new church building.
Fr. William Holtzinger
Drone photos courtesy of Vernon Snyder