parish center in Hoisington
Catholics celebrate the history of the parish
through display of time capsule contents
HOISINGTON -- Moisture-filled clouds and a cool breeze welcomed the approximately 200 people gathered at a work site adjacent to St. John the Evangelist Church Sunday, June 7, as the land was blessed and the earth broken to give rise to a new parish center.
Children in yellow hard hats and holding shovels painted gold, stood off to the side of a small tented area, ready to deliver white hard hats and the shovels to the digging dignitaries.
Standing under the tent upon the moist dirt from a rain the previous night, Bishop Ronald M. Gilmore gratefully accepted a shovel from a young parishioner. Then the bishop blessed the site, and together with Father Dwight Birket, pastor, and Harland Rupp and Kathy Hoffman, co-chairs of the fund-raising campaign, broke ground for the new parish center.
For more than six years, the parishioners have been completing feasibility studies, raising funds, and designing the center. Following a successful fund-raising campaign last September, the parish had enough funds in savings and pledges to embark on the project.
The construction, which will be just to the east of the church and rectory, involved moving the parish offices from the former convent, which was raised. With the demolition of the offices came a discovery. Wanting to keep the engraved cornerstone of the structure from being damaged, workers carefully removed the stone only to discover a hidden time capsule.
The contents of the capsule would be kept secret until placed on display at the K of C hall during the dinner following the dedication. There, along two long tables, parishioners found a small treasure trove of prayer cards, photos, documents, newspaper clippings, and a few small statues.
Included was an article from the Feb. 27, 1926 Catholic Advance which, in detailing the history of the church, wrote of another historic gathering, in 1879 when people came from miles around after learning that a priest was to celebrate Mass at what was then just a smattering of homesteads: “The Catholic people were all there – from the high country north and east of Deception Creek, from the lonesome looking little homes scattered over the country they came as best they could, for the word had traveled fast during the night that ‘the priest had come’; that they who had left many of the consolations of religion behind them when they pushed westward again had an opportunity to attend the solemn services of the Church.”
There were photos, such as that of Mr. and Mrs. Mike Molleker, “Hoisingtonians now,” a note read, “refugees from Russia in World War I (1914-18).”
Nearly 130 years after that first gathering, St. John parishioners, many of whom work the same land as did those first people who came from far and wide to celebrate their first Mass in a new land, celebrated the history of their parish while looking ahead to the growth of the parish center.
The 8,640 square foot center will include a hall, kitchen, four offices for parish staff, six meeting rooms, a conference room, and rest rooms; it is scheduled for completion at the end of December.
A “special recognition award” was presented to Rupp, who shepherded the project from its inception by serving on or as chairman of the pastoral council, finance committee, building committee, and the campaign committee.
Since the day of the ground-breaking also coincided with the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, a large card signed by the parishioners was presented to the bishop who gratefully accepted it, saying the great joy of his ministry had been the parishioners he had served.