Dear Followers of Jesus,
This week, on July 16, 2021, we celebrate the 99th Anniversary of Sacred Heart Church. This building represents the many generations that have been baptized, educated, married, and buried, in faith. Mark your calendar for next year, July 16, 2022, for our 100th Anniversary! So, as we begin our hundredth year, I am so grateful of our life here, creating and sustaining faith, purpose, mission, and service in Christ Jesus.
In Mark 6:7-13, today’s gospel, Jesus summons the Twelve and sends them out into the world, two by two. He is very specific about what not to take on this amazing journey— no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They should wear sandals, however. This commission has certainly changed through the generations. Yet, the core of Christ’s life travels in our lives as people baptized to bring Good News to the world.
I remember very well when my religious community, the Congregation of Holy Cross, sent Fr. LeRoy Clementich, CSC, Kevin O’Connell (deacon), and myself to Sacred Heart Parish in 1984. Fr. Clem arrived from Saint Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. I traveled from Saint Joseph Parish in South Bend, Indiana. This was Fr. Clem’s first assignment in a parish. I had only been ordained one year.
I arrived first at Sacred Heart in the first week of June 1984. Later in June, all Holy Cross religious had to attend an assembly at Notre Dame. So, I went back to Notre Dame after only a week in Colorado. Then after our province meeting, Fr. Clem, Kevin, and I came to the parish. At that time, Lea Zorn was the only parish employee. Ed Zorn, owned Cy’s restaurant. He provided maintenance work at Sacred Heart on a part-time basis, mostly as a volunteer. I remember Lea saying to me that she always had her work completed and her desk completely cleaned off at the end of a day. Then after we began our ministry, her work was never finished, and her desk was always full. We shared many laughs and good times with the Zorn family. Also, the very first meal Fr. Clem, Kevin and I had together was at Cy’s Drive-In.
Fr. Clem and I have spoken often of how green we were to parish life. Yet, we both possessed a similar vision that people mattered, that life was important, that faith and community were wild experiments that needed to be tried every single day. Fr. Clem came with an unbelievable energy. He climbed mountains and flew airplanes. He was certainly a breath of fresh air. He opened the doors for many people; he listened to people’s pain; and he preached with a deep hope for this community, and always with a great sense of humor. I learned a great deal from Fr. Clem and still laugh at our antics as we implemented many changes from Vatican II.
I didn’t exactly travel empty handed to Sacred Heart. We were a new religious community to Sacred Heart, replacing the Oblates of Mary Immaculate based in San Antonio, Texas. The furniture and accessories in the rectory had all belonged to the Oblates. There was very little furniture in the rectory when we arrived. At that same time, my parents were moving out of our family home in Edwardsburg, Michigan. So, we drove a U-Haul of furniture out here to the parish to set up the rectory. I left Sacred Heart in 1987, taking some of the furniture with me. I was so surprised when I arrived back to the parish in 2013, some of the furniture I left behind was still here. In my room now, I have the dresser I had when I was a teenager.
The Diocese of Colorado Springs was established in January 1984. Bishop Hanifen asked the Congregation of Holy Cross to staff Sacred Heart Parish, including Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Manitou Springs and Holy Rosary Chapel in Cascade. Originally, Bishop Hanifen wanted Holy Cross to staff Saint Mary’s Cathedral. We desired to help in the parishes closest to our Holy Cross Novitiate in Cascade. We then began in the parishes of Ute Pass in June 1984.
One of the great gifts I remember from those years was the joy of belonging to a new diocese. Everyone was struggling to find their way in organizing parish life in a new diocese. Bishop Hanifen struggled with shortages of priests and lay ministers. However, there was a sense of belonging to something beautiful. I met and became friends with many of the people who served in other parishes. We all began to rely on one another for advice in implementing pastoral life in a new, missionary diocese. I felt invigorated with the Holy Spirit. I felt I belonged to something greater than myself and greater than our local parish. The diocese had energy and vitality. We moved together in solving many issues and obstacles. Ministering here in those beginning years was inviting and creative.
I remember the very first priest meeting in autumn of 1984. The small group of priests serving the diocese gathered in Buena Vista. On the first afternoon, we casually gathered in a meeting room. Bishop Hanifen, wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, and running shoes, entered the room where his clergy had gathered. He looked around the room at all of us in attendance and asked, “Okay, guys, now what do we do?” His humility and sense of humor roused joy and hope within us in those tender beginning days of the diocese.
I look forward to July 16, 2022, when our parish will celebrate a milestone. We carry the mystery of Christ within our hearts and into the world. My hope is that we will look ahead and not just to the past, that we will celebrate our story so far, and yet anticipate our future. God has amazing plans for this community. The Sacred Heart of Jesus invites us continually to hold the hand of the lost, to welcome the stranger, and to befriend the weary as we rest fully in his love for us and the world.
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor