April 6, 2012

New St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Church pays tribute to the glory of God

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, pours chrism oil on the new altar at St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Church as Father Patrick Beidelman, left, master of ceremonies and director of liturgy for the archdiocesan Office of Worship, and altar server Trenton Law of Georgetown, right, assist him. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, pours chrism oil on the new altar at St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Church as Father Patrick Beidelman, left, master of ceremonies and director of liturgy for the archdiocesan Office of Worship, and altar server Trenton Law of Georgetown, right, assist him. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber) Click for a larger version.

By Mary Ann Garber

FLOYD COUNTY—“Generations of Faith” came together for prayer and celebration on March 25, a beautiful early spring day, as St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in scenic southern Indiana marked the dedication of its new church.

Prayer cards featuring that theme and a photograph of the large crucifix in the new St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Church serve as reminders that the magnificent worship space is God’s house and that Catholics have celebrated Mass on this hill in Floyd County since 1823.

St. Mary-of-the-Knobs School second-grader Sydney Williams of Floyds Knobs and her classmates welcomed parishioners and guests outside the main entrance of the church before the Mass of Dedication. (See a photo gallery from the event)

As she handed out prayer cards with the other students, Sydney thought about what she likes best in the new church.

“It’s open,” she said, smiling.

Classmate Garrett Huber of Floyds Knobs said he liked watching the construction workers build the church and Geis Activities Center when he looked out the windows of the nearby school.

“It’s pretty,” Garrett said. “It’s for everyone. I would tell people that our new church has opened, and invite them to come to Mass.”

Members of the historic, 1,011-household parish can expect an influx of new parishioners based on a recent demographic study by Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business students that predicts as much as a 10 percent growth in population in Floyd County by 2050 as more people move to the northern part of the Louisville, Ky., metropolitan area.

That growth was anticipated by Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein six years ago when he gave Father John Geis, the pastor from 1993 until his retirement in 2010, and the parishioners permission to begin fundraising and plans for a new church.

They responded generously by contributing funds for a worship space with octagonal-shaped design elements that seats 1,174 people. A huge, stained-glass reredos screen is covered with images of the Tree of Life that symbolize the parish’s roots planted deeply in the Word of God and the rich soil of faith. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel and tabernacle are behind the altar and reredos wall.

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator and principal celebrant of the Mass of Dedication, said in his homily that, “As God has dwelt here in Floyd’s Knobs since 1823, God will now dwell in this holy place. Indeed, how lovely is your dwelling place.”

A church is “a space in which heaven and Earth are joined,” he said, “a space in which we process toward the Divine and the Divine moves toward us.”

Yet, a church is also a “very human space, … a place where we participate in the ceremonies and liturgies that touch the deepest edges of our lives,” Bishop Coyne said, “… all of these at the hands of God in the sacraments and life of the Church. … This church is now a holy gift for God’s holy people, a light upon the hill that shines forth to all who pass by.”

Before the liturgy, Father Geis compared the parish’s new church, the activities center named for him and two athletic fields to a tree whose branches continue to grow larger in praise for God.

“I see this parish as like a big tree that the Lord has planted here,” Father Geis said, “and the roots go back to 1823 to the very first people who came here. They’re still with us. They’re really a part of this, too. We just give thanks to God for all the wonderful fruit that he has brought forth from this tree. And it’s going to continue. There are a lot of blossoms on it, and it’s going to bloom again and again.”

Father Michael Hilderbrand, the pastor since 2010, welcomed the parishioners, guests and concelebrating priests before the Mass.

“It’s a joyful time,” he said. “It’s a time of celebration. It’s a time of prayer.”

After Bishop Coyne blessed the church and altar with holy water and incense, he rubbed chrism oil on the stone altar and the walls of the church. Then the altar was prepared for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

At the conclusion of the Mass, the bishop placed the Eucharist in the new tabernacle, which transformed the church into God’s holy dwelling place.

“It’s been a great delight and a joy to see the completion of the project that was begun so many, many years ago,” Father Hilderbrand told the assembly. “Our hopes and dreams have come to fruition. The hopes and dreams of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, still linger in us as we go forth.”

In a letter for the liturgy guide, Father Hilderbrand wrote that, “We have crossed the threshold—our own threshold of hope. We are here in our fourth new church structure. … Yet, it is only a beginning for our faith community, standing on the shoulders of generations of the faith.”

Msgr. Paul Koetter, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis, grew up in the parish and received his sacraments of initiation at the old church, which is now a chapel.

“I went to school here,” Msgr. Koetter said before the liturgy. “This is my childhood home. I celebrated my first Mass here [at the old church]. It’s good to be here today. It’s a happy day to see them celebrating their parish, their growth, from the young ones to the old ones.”

After the Mass, Eric Atkins, an architect and director of the archdiocesan Office of Management Services, praised the dedication and generosity of parishioners for the gifts of their time, talent and treasure which resulted in the beautiful church after six years of preparations.

“This project began with the generosity of a parishioner who donated the money to purchase 33 acres that this church sits on,” Atkins said. “The church was a $4 million project, the Geis Activities Center was $1.93 million, the site work was $1 million and the interior of the connecting building that is partially under construction will be another $400,000 to $500,000.

“Two athletic fields were built in addition to the site work, which involved using dynamite to remove nine feet of rock so they could build part of the Geis Center in the hill,” Atkins said. “… The campaign theme was ‘Upon This Rock,’ and that truly fits. From the baptismal font with the large rock to the rock of the steps leading to the sanctuary, ‘Upon this Rock’ has truly come to fruition here.”

Parishioner and hospitality committee member Mickie Opalecky of Floyds Knobs joined the faith community seven years ago because she found a welcoming parish family there.

As people left the Geis Activities Center after the reception, Opalecky gave them commemorative brochures featuring a Scripture passage from Psalm 100, which reads in part, “Give thanks to God, bless His name; … His faithfulness lasts through generations” (Ps 100:4-5).

The brochure also included a prayer that, “May Our Lord, Mary the Mother of God and all the saints bless us, those before us, and the generations to come on our journey of faith.”

Opalecky looked at the brick church with its twin steeples adjacent to the activity center as she reflected on the emotional Mass of Dedication.

“It was magnificent,” she said. “I was glad that I had a Kleenex in my purse because it brought tears to my eyes so many times throughout the service. It was very memorable, and I will never forget it. We are really blessed.” †

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