The Hispanic parishioners of Wellington who strived to keep and grow in their faith for nearly 60 years were honored last month, at a Mass celebrated to unify the two parishes. In his homily, Bishop Michael O. Jackels noted that there were mixed feelings about merging the parishes.
“The sadness of St. Rose parishioners is real and should be reverenced,” Bishop said. “I would be hard-hearted if I did not feel their pain and acknowledge their sadness.”
Considering the closing of a parish is very difficult, Bishop said, adding that he may have appeared to be indecisive as St. Paul was in that day’s second reading. “With regard to St. Rose Parish, after learning the circumstances that led to its creation, I have to confess that I never felt indecisive.”
Bishop Jackels explained that there is evidence St. Rose was established “to provide a tension-free spiritual home for the Spanish-speaking people in Wellington” at a time when there was some discrimination against Mexicans who were being recruited by the railroad in a response to a labor shortage.
Efforts to consolidate both parishes have been made since St. Rose was established, Bishop Jackels said.
“There should never have been two parishes in the first place,” he said. “Parishes are normally divided by a geographical boundary. That was never the case here; the parishes were instead divided by discrimination. For this reason, I think it is right and good that the two parishes be merged.
“The sadness of St. Rose parishioners is real and should be reverenced,” Bishop Jackels added. “We must remember and honor the families of 1950 and afterwards who found a spiritual home at St. Rose, and the priests and sisters who served them, and the parishioners who sacrificed and worked to purchase land, build a church, a rectory, and a hall, and all those who gathered there for worship, who learned Christ there, and who served the parish and wider community in so many ways.”
Bishop Jackels closed his homily asking the parish to focus on the future and what God might be doing now to blend the two communities and the parish, which will now be called St. Anthony-St. Rose Parish.
Fr. Andrew Heiman, pastor of the parish, said one parishioner told him that when the Mass started there was sadness like at a funeral but at the end he felt a sense of unity to move forward together as one parish.
“The procession we had from one church to the other church, and then the whole little fiesta we had that evening, really kind of brought everything together,” Fr. Heiman said.
“It was a good step toward truly becoming one parish. As nervous as I was and as stressed out as I was, it really came together well, and I thank God for that.”
He said the Mass was a tribute to those who held on to their faith. “We gave out roses to those (St. Rose) charter members who are still alive, as a way of saying thank you for your sacrifices and that your faith meant so much to you that you wanted to keep growing in your faith even though at times it wasn’t the easiest thing to do.”
Father Heiman said he is looking forward to growing as one parish. “Our hearts have changed, our minds have changed. Now we are all one, the way it was meant to be from the beginning.”
Printed with permission from the Catholic Advance, newspaper from the Diocese of Wichita.