Monday, April 10, 2017

Progress Versus Compassion

Once, about three or four years ago, I visited a small church tucked away in a poor looking section of Adams County.  At that time I heard rumors that the "little church" would be closed because it wasn't bringing in enough money. I did not know whether that was true or not and was surprised when a few years later the church was still in operation.

Yesterday, I heard the church would close on May 1, 2017. I listened to what many were saying, I read articles, watched a television show and became confused. When I had attended mass at Our Lady of Visitation, the pews were filled, the choir sang their hearts out, the priest from a larger parish of Holy Trinity celebrated mass, and it seemed as if after mass the parish center filled with people who knew each other. In the past, coffee and donuts were served but yesterday we were treated along with the donuts to Panocha, (grain pudding), bread pudding and Biscochitos (cookies) and it appeared to me, to be one, big happy family.

It saddened me to think that the church would be closed. Reasons floating around were that the shortage of priests was causing the closing of the small church. Then I was told that parishioners from the church had found retired priests that would be willing to celebrate mass at the little church.
It seemed to me that the problem was solved.

Yet it wasn't. Another rumor was that the Archdiocese of Denver wanted the property because of the value of the land. I hoped that was not the reason. The Native Americans fighting to keep their sacred burial grounds in North Dakota came to mind. Is that what was happening here? Progress vs. Heart?

The "little church" is predominately Hispanic and many generations attend mass every Sunday. Children are baptized, make their first communion, and get married in the little church that is loved by so many. In reading the articles, it appears as if the church is self-sufficient yet it is considered a mission of Holy Trinity and the little church functions under Holy Trinity's rules and regulations. I have been to the annual Bazaar, the largest fund-raiser for Our Lady of Visitation and run into people from different parishes in the Archdiocese.  I learned that cooking classes on Hispanic food are given, that Adams County Welfare Department and the Salvation Army have programs at the church. Sounds to me it serves a vital need in the county.

I do not know what will happen to the church but the headline of La Voz refers to this topic as a David and Goliath moment. I wonder if  David will win the battle!

Another thought that puzzles me is that in New Mexico, small churches are kept open and become tourist attractions. San Miguel Church in New Mexico is known as the oldest church in the United States, and it continues to have mass on Sundays.  Our Lady of Visitation also has an interesting history as it began serving the people around 1949 in a trolley boxcar.

 Good luck to the "little church" and the hard working members of the church.

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