Dear Followers of Jesus,
This passage, Luke 10:1-12,17-20, commissions the disciples to go forth, to work for the Kingdom of God, clinging lightly to possessions and trusting in the power of God’s commitment toward them.
This Sunday and next are my last Sundays to preach in the parish. So, I thought I would reflect here in the bulletin on one aspect of my nine years as pastor, and add my appreciation to the history of our parish. Please bear with me as I sort through some memories of the restoration of the church building as I honor the commitment of so many people in our parish.
When I arrived at Sacred Heart on July 12, 2013, I viewed the outside of the buildings and not much had changed since June 1987 when I had left the parish as an associate pastor. I had left many stories here, many ways in which the new Diocese of Colorado Springs had formed me as a young priest. When Fr. LeRoy Clementich, CSC and I served here beginning in 1984, everything was new. A new religious community at Sacred Heart, a new diocese, and new possibilities for becoming church. I had packed up all those memories before coming back here in 2013. I carried many stories and hopes with me to become pastor of a place I had once really loved.
It wasn’t long until somehow, I realized the expectation to restore the church building. I don’t remember the exact moment, but so many people suggested to me that my task here was to look at our block and sort through the options of renewing the community and the house of prayer that the parish called home. I do remember the first calls to three different architects. They all viewed the project with varying expertise and interests. One architect never called me back. Zach Taylor offered sensible and specific ways in which to think about the project. So, we gathered his insights.
The restoration of Sacred Heart Church was one of the greatest moments of providence I have ever experienced. I am not exaggerating when I say that everything we needed for the project, every expertise, came around the corner just at the correct timing. The incredible work of Bill Carter, Tony Cichello, Mike Rolla, Ray Walkowski, Chris Cipoletti, and Julie Pliant began the project. Zach was a delight to work with. Many days of conversations, insights, and concerns were brought to the table. I remember the meeting of our committee with Zach Taylor about looking at all the options for the church. We were all insistent that if we were going to do this project, we needed all the information possible. We examined all the issues, including raising the church, building a new one, and even using the old church building as an entry into a new facility. I remember very well the moment when I said, “I don’t want to be the guy to tear down Sacred Heart Church!” So, the decision was made. We would restore the building for the upcoming centennial of the parish. Indeed, how beautiful the experience.
Then, another great moment of providence was when Geoffrey Keating came to meet with the committee. He gave a presentation to offer his talents to build new pews and all the altar furniture. We accepted his proposal and witnessed such incredible insights and work from his studio. This was his first large project of its kind. I remember he pondered the scale of the altar furniture for six months before committing to the design. He gathered around him many local artists and craftsmen. He and Zach Taylor worked well together for the best interests of the parish community. Geoffrey’s work will stand for hundreds of years on this block. I am forever grateful for his skill, interest, and faith to undergo such intense work.
Another aspect of providence was hiring Nunn Construction. We could not have chosen a more committed group of people to work on Sacred Heart Church. The subcontractors, painters, electricians, and restorers, all treated the building with reverence and respect. The leadership of Nunn Construction offered their best for this project.
Chris Cipoletti’s task was fundraising. He was also our consultant for the staff and reforming many areas of the parish at that time. His work was incredible. Another gift of providence as I look back on that project.
I am very grateful to members of the parish staff during the year of construction and worshipping in the gym from July 2017 until May 2018. I will never forget the day of dedication for the newly restored church. The staff worked hard to pull off the event. We gathered on May 23, 2018, after the dedication had been postponed two different times prior. We gathered on the sidewalk outside the front door and at 5:30 pm, I blessed the new front doors. We opened the doors and people streamed into the newly restored church for the first time. There were no dry eyes at that moment. I witnessed with my own eyes the miracle of such providence. All the work was worth it. People would enjoy this place of worship for years to come. Bishop Sheridan presided at the Eucharist in which the new altar was consecrated. Katherine Cristelli designed and sewed the new altar linens. She and Susan Madjar dressed the altar that evening at the dedication.
I believe the project of the church was meant to be. I am so grateful that I was able to be part of such an incredible task. I am not saying it wasn’t difficult! The real beauty, of course, is not the building, but the people who made it all possible.
I write these words as a window into my nine years here. This is simply one story, one moment in which I want to say how grateful I am to have been here as pastor. Please keep the home fires burning. Please witness with your talents and hopes and prayers to the power of the Holy Spirit that blows through this sacred place. For in this place, we know that the very Providence of God resides.
He said to them, “The harvest is abundant, but the labors are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out labors for his harvest. Go on your way.
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor