This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it! This scriptural phrase captures the mood, the tone, the spirit, I believe, of the parishioners who gathered together last Sunday, September 29th to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Big Church. 261 parishioners, with family members, adult sons and daughters, children and grandchildren, neighbors and friends came together to celebrate. It was a celebration with voices forming a combined choir from the 8:30, 10:30 AM Masses and the 5:30 PM Mass. We had members of the children’s choir, people of all ages who led us in song prayer from the prelude music featuring each choir and the uplifting music of the Mass itself. Having a nearly full church provided a sense of fullness increasing participation in all the dialogue parts of the Mass and contributing to a sense of community, being of one voice as the Body of Christ. The quilts created for the dedication Mass were displayed on their banner rods for all to see who constituted the parish twenty-five years, an historical snapshot of who we were. For a whole host of reasons, many people moved on probably because of new job assignments, some people died and went to God, and others are unknown to me except as a name and possibly a picture in the early parish photo directories.
It was Bishop Oscar Cantú’s first visit to Saint Anthony parish to get a feel for this vibrant, hospitable, small parish community feel and the last parish out of the 54 parishes he visited since he arrived one year ago. He spoke to us about the importance of a culture of encounter. That we take time to listen to others, especially the migrant and the stranger, understand their stories and hear them. He let us know that he is open to visit again in the future and we will certainly extend an invitation when it is appropriate.
And last Wednesday Morning, October 2nd, on the Memorial of the Guardian Angels it is the official anniversary date of the dedication of the church. As Bishop said, “Now we are twenty-five years old.” Maybe some of us would like to have a few years shaved off our years or maybe not.
Afterwards, some people asked: “Could we do this again?” Could we have a single Mass with combined choirs again? We will certainly reflect on those questions and discern an answer. In the meantime, I am exceedingly grateful for all those parishioners who helped make Sunday’s celebration possible, from those who prepared the church environment, all the plants and flower arrangements, the reception tables center pieces, the food, cakes and beverages for all who stayed after the Mass for hospitality. To the members of the hospitality committee, social and events committees – thank you for all you did to prepare, setup, serve and take down and put everything away as if nothing had happened. I can always count on the parishioners to come through and make these events great celebrations.
Father Larry Hendel, Pastor