Parishioners give handshakes during the Sign of Peace at the July 22 Mass for the celebration of the merger of Holy Family Parish at St. Joseph Church, Waterloo. (Catholic Herald photos/Kat Wagner)
To view or purchase photos from this event go to: madisoncatholicherald.smugmug.com
WATERLOO -- The “newborn” parish of Holy Family held a Mass on July 22 in honor of the completed merger of St. Joseph Parish, Waterloo, and St. Mary of the Nativity Parish, Marshall. Bishop Robert C. Morlino celebrated what he praised as a “beautiful” liturgy, with pastor Fr. Michael Radowicz concelebrating.
The merger, which had progressed from the directives of Trusting in the Spirit, was made effective on July 1 after years of effort by the two parishes. The Trusting in the Spirit diocesan strategic planning effort began in 2005 under the name “Guided by the Spirit,” and has through each cluster and parish around the diocese involved over a thousand people, including priests, parish staff, and other parishioners.
“It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work,” said Lori Lauth, who in her position as the administrative assistant at the parish has seen the inner workings of the merger from the beginning. “It’ll really be a wonderful thing for these two parishes to be one parish. For a lot of people it’s hard to accept that we’re one parish, but it’s really going to be a good thing.”
But while the work of merging the two parishes may have reached its climax, there will still be more to do.
“I think it’s still going to be a work in progress,” said Jenny Spoke, a member of the parish merger committee. “It was two parishes coming together as one — and someone explained it to us in the beginning as kinda like a marriage: we’re going to have to learn to work together. It’s an exciting beginning, but we see it as that: a beginning.”
Two become one
The Sunday readings for the day were appropriate to the tone of the merger celebration: the first reading, psalm, and Gospel spoke of Christ as a shepherd, and of him who made things one:
“For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it” (Eph 14-16).
“You are witnesses to that,” the bishop said, calling the parish a “newborn.” “What you are doing gives the world a very splendid example of what we need to be about — which is peace and reconciliation and healing.”
Holy Family Parish is named after the holy family of Christ with Mary and Joseph, and the bishop said that by this example of unity the parish can be an example of that to the Church and to “a world so divided.”
He spoke of the tragedy in Aurora, Colo., where a gunman at a movie theater caused at least 13 deaths and wounded more than 50 others, and the reaction by many to bring politics such as gun law reform into the picture.
The politics between gun control and the freedom to bear arms, he said, has already begun to take over what should be a story of human tragedy that needs healing and reconciliation. God permits suffering in order to bring out the best of people so that they look for peace and healing, and that should be a story of faith — but this is an example of the nose of the camel being inserted under the tent of faith. Another example is the government’s attempt to redefine marriage from the natural law of one man and one woman for a lifetime with openness to children.
“The nose of that camel of politics, stuck under the tent of faith, must be cut off — and, in fact, cut off the whole head, because there’s a lot of rottenness at its core,” the bishop said.
A mission to build unity
“These are tough subjects to bring up on a happy Sunday,” he said, “but your mission involves these topics. I can’t help what happened yesterday, and I can’t help what the government is trying to do — that’s what the world presents us with. Your mission as Holy Family Parish is to respond to that world.”
In politics, we are so often told we cannot talk about our principles: “Keep faith out of politics.”
“Just keep smiling and say, ‘You keep politics out of the faith,’” the bishop said. “Let us say ‘yes’ to the peace and unity and reconciliation to which you’re called as a parish. There are no divisions in the Holy Family, and it’s your mission to bring that unity to the world.”
At the end of Mass, the bishop thanked the parish for its beautiful and faithful liturgy. The choir provided music accompanied by organ, flute, and violin; three young people served as altar servers; a sizable contingent from the local Knights of Columbus council served as honor guard at the Mass; and several young men from the local Columbian Squires circle were present.