By Ginny Revel
Joy and excitement were palpable at the dedication of the new Sacred Heart Church in Fruita, on the sunlit afternoon of September 17. There was also a strong sense of community and homecoming, evident in the comments of the parishioners as they described their emotions about this event.
Lance Stewart, the building project’s landscape coordinator, greeted the attendees as they arrived for the Dedication Mass. He shared his thoughts on the celebration and the impact of this years-long journey by remarking: “The most rewarding element for me is all the fabulous friendships I have made with other Catholics, and the community we have forged together. I will never forget this experience.”
The official journey began in 2007 when Sacred Heart’s new church building committee, with an eye to the next 100 years, set the dream in motion by exploring the economic feasibility of a new church. From that beginning, the land was purchased, funds were raised and construction begun. The miracle gained momentum and as Fr. Chrysogonus shared, “Much to the surprise of many, a new church building did emerge from the shared vision of a people that came together to study, reflect and pray for the creative guidance of the Spirit.”
The intervening years were marked by planning and hard work by many individuals who dedicated their time, treasure and talent to completing this monumental undertaking. With the blessings and encouragement of Bishops Tafoya, Isern and Berg, and with the prayers of parishioners, family, friends and strangers, the new Sacred Heart church rose in splendor amid the fields of rural Fruita.
A week before the dedication, on Sunday, September 11, after the 10:30 a.m. Mass, the parishioners made a pilgrimage from the old church building to the new edifice, transporting the sacred vessels. All was then ready for Jesus to take up residence in His new “home.”
The following Saturday, Bishop Berg was in attendance, as were other clergy and parishioners from the Grand Valley. The mood was jubilant as everyone waited outside for the presentation to the Bishop of the keys to the building and the certificate of occupancy. Afterward, all processed inside to begin the Mass of Dedication.
Sign and symbol were apparent in all aspects of this ceremony, reflecting the sacred mysteries of the Catholic faith. Especially moving was the anointing of the altar with holy oil, followed by Bishop Berg walking around the inside of the church, anointing the crosses on the four walls. Many parishioners expressed how moved they felt by the sacred rituals. Joe Warner remarked, “In the early days of this venture, I would oftentimes close my eyes and picture what the Mass of Dedication would be like. Today’s impressive ceremony far surpassed my most vivid imaginings.” The idea of Church as “home” was a golden thread woven throughout the readings of the Mass. It was also highlighted in Bishop Berg’s homily and in reflections by two of Sacred Heart’s pastors, Fr. Chrysogonus Nwele and Fr. Michael N. Smith, S.J.
Bishop Berg explained that Jesus is calling all, as his brothers and sisters, into a holy communion with him, in his Sacred Heart. He is building the people into his family and into his Church. Jesus is inviting all peoples to remember who they are and who they belong to, and to return home.
“We can only begin to comprehend the great realities to come by being built into Jesus together, as brothers and sisters of him, and of each other,” Bishop Berg commented.
Fr. Chrysogonus’ echoed this plea in his written remarks welcoming everyone to this beautiful, new Sacred Heart church. He wrote: “People of God, come home and worship with your family of faith. Everything is ready. Do not be the absent one.”
Fr. Mike Smith, S.J., when asked about temporarily forsaking his retirement to attend the dedication of the new church, said simply, “Yes, I’m coming home!”
According to Fr. Chrysogonus, the entire project was the result of a community effort and the generosity of innumerable people. It would not have been accomplished without God’s grace and the people’s intention to make it happen.
In addition to the exquisite Sacred Heart church, the completed building includes offices, classrooms and a parish hall. The structure was designed in such a way as to easily allow expansion as future needs of the parish may require.
As Fr. Chrysogonus stated, “The people of God built this Sacred Heart church, giving glory to God and as a blessing to his people.”