$50,000 match offered for seminarian education

Salina — The Diocese of Salina is one of nine dioceses in the country selected for the Seminarian Endowment Challenge sponsored by Catholic Extension.

The diocese seeks to raise $100,000 for the challenge, with Catholic Extension matching up to $50,000. Donations will be endowed to help pay for future seminarian education costs.

Syndi Larez, director of stewardship and development for the Salina Diocese, said the Catholic Extension challenge is in its third year. The diocese applied for the challenge in October and learned of its acceptance in mid-January. There were 55 dioceses that applied.

The Salina Diocese has until Dec. 31 to raise funds for the challenge.

The endowment challenge is designed to support mission dioceses — those who have difficulties ministering to Catholics because of a lack of finances, shortage of priests and physical distances.

To qualify for the matching funds from Catholic Extension, individual donations must be $1,000 or more.

Kansas bishops agree to increase Mass stipends

For a great many years the customary Mass stipend in the Province of Kansas City in Kansas (the four dioceses within the state of Kansas) has been $5. The bishops of each province determine the amount of the Mass stipend. On Jan. 17, 2014, during our provincial meeting, we, the bishops of Kansas, decided to designate the customary Mass stipend within Kansas to be $10 as of May 1, 2014. This brings the ordinary stipend amount into conformity with many dioceses around us.

While this is not a critical matter, we believe that this is a good time for some appropriate catechesis on the topic of Mass stipends.

We must begin by noting that the Sacraments of the Church are not bought and sold. Any semblance of trafficking in sacred matters is not only distasteful but sinful. It likewise must be noted that priests are to celebrate the Mass intentions of the faithful who approach them in good faith regardless of whether or not a stipend is offered. Moreover, in every Mass the priest celebrates, the prayers also benefit the whole Church. Each Sunday the local pastor celebrates at least one Mass intention for the people he serves. Building upon these essential points, it may be helpful to understand the history of how Mass stipends evolved and how the Church views them today.

The ancient custom of offering a stipend to a priest in response for his offering Mass began when the Church was quite poor. The money that a priest received for celebrating his daily Mass for a specific intention was oftentimes his sole source of income. In many poor countries today, a priest’s Mass stipend remains a primary source of his support. While Mass stipends in developed nations do not serve the same purpose today, the Church’s laws surrounding the teaching on Mass stipends remains essentially the same.

Canon 946 of the Code of Canon Law notes that when members of the faithful offer a Mass stipend, they are contributing to the good of the Church, for they are sharing in the Church’s concern for the support of her ministers. But the Mass stipend is not only about the priest. From the perspective of the faithful, by offering to help with the priest’s essential support, the one offering the stipend also enters into the Sacrifice of the Mass in a sacrificial way. This has been found to be spiritually meaningful for Catholics around the world.

There are laws (canons) that govern how priests must treat Mass stipends. For instance, it is worth noting that the Mass stipend is a gift to the individual priest, not to the parish. Moreover, Mass intentions are not required to be published, although many priests do, and if a priest chooses only to concelebrate Mass on a given day, instead of serving as the main celebrant of the Mass, he may still accept a stipend for his intention. Priests may accept only one stipend per Mass. When a priest celebrates several Masses on a particular day, he may keep only one stipend per day for himself, the exception being at Christmas. Any additional stipends must be forwarded to a charitable cause determined by the bishop of the diocese.

Priests may only accept as many Mass stipends as they can fulfill in one year’s time. For this reason, a priest sometimes will send excess Mass stipends to the local Chancery to be distributed to needy priests or to be shared with parishes in mission countries. In all these ways the Church struggles to remain faithful to the ancient custom of Mass stipends without giving any indication of trafficking in financial gain for something as sacred as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Vatican designates Victoria church as a minor basilica

Victoria — Capuchin Father Jeff Ernst’s voice leapt with emotion when he heard the news: St. Fidelis Church would be named a minor basilica.

“It’s exciting,” he said from his office at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Lawrence. “The state of Kansas doesn’t have any.”

Bishop Edward Weisenburger received the news from the Vatican last week that the diocese’s application to name St. Fidelis a minor basilica had been granted. He will dedicate the church as a minor basilica beginning at 10:30 a.m. June 7.

“This is a great day for the people of Victoria but an equally great day for the people of the Diocese of Salina,” the bishop said. “St. Fidelis Church has long been a place of pilgrimage and prayer. Indeed, many have been drawn to the mystery and love of God by spending time in this inspiring church.”

Father Ernst thought much the same when he was walking through the front doors one day.

“This could become a minor basilica,” Father Ernst said to himself.

“I thought about it for a few days and then ran it by the bishop, and he really liked the idea,” Father Ernst said.

After receiving permission from his Capuchin provincial to proceed, he contacted people at the most recently named minor basilica in the United States, the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Canton, Ohio, to inquire about how to do it.

Bishop Weisenburger had just been named bishop of Salina, and when he traveled to Rome with other bishops from the region to meet with Pope Benedict XVI, he told Father Ernst he would check with Vatican officials about the process.

“He found out they were discouraging applications,” Father Ernst said, but when the bishop sometime later met with other U.S. bishops, they encouraged him to proceed.

“He said, ‘Let’s do this,’ ” Father Ernst said.

The Capuchin priest had only been at the Victoria parish since August 2011, and with his parish council’s support, he began assembling the information he needed.

The application asks for specific information about the structure of the church, the participation of the parishioners and the art and architecture.

“One thing people at Canton said was send lots of pictures, so we did,” Father Ernst said.

It took him about six months to complete the application, which then was sent to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for its approval. By September 2013, it was on its way to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican.

Dedicated parishioners complete a landmark church in 1911

Victoria — Anyone traveling Interstate 70 in western Kansas has seen the twin towers of St. Fidelis Church standing out against the relatively flat plains.

Those who exit the highway, their curiosity piqued, learn an amazing history of what is known as the Cathedral of the Plains. The church towers, which rise 141 feet into the sky, are a stark difference from the first church: a humble wooden structure.

Victoria was founded in 1873 by English farmers. German Catholics from the Volga River region of Russia began arriving in 1876. Their ancestors had left Germany at the invitation of Catherine the Great. A century later, when guarantees of autonomy, religious freedom and exemption from military service were revoked, thousands came to America, and many settled north of Victoria in a village they named Herzog. The two towns eventually merged and used the name of the older settlement.

The first Catholic church was a 40-by-20-foot addition built onto a settler’s home. Later, parishioners quarried and hauled stone for a new church, completed in 1878. Capuchin Franciscan priests have served the parish since.

In just a few years, the second church proved too small. The new church, completed in 1884, held 600.

By the turn of the century, even that larger church wasn’t big enough, and plans were announced in 1904 for an imposing new structure.

To build it, each communicant 12 years of age or older was assessed $45 annually and asked to deliver six wagon loads of stone to the building site. Many large families were responsible for 70 to 80 wagon loads of stone. The limestone was quarried about seven miles south of town. Parishioners also learned to dress the stone. The old church was dismantled and the stone set aside for the new inner walls.

The resulting Romanesque structure is 220 feet long, 110 feet wide at the transepts, 75 feet tall and seats 1,100. At the time of its dedication in 1911, it was considered the largest church in the state. Builders used 125,000 cubic feet of rock, 150,000 board feet of lumber, 4,000 cubic yards of sand and more than 400 tons of concrete.

The 14 solid granite pillars, each weighing 8,500 pounds, were transported to the site from railroad cars using a wagon placed on the reinforced axles of a threshing machine. Four horses pulled the wagon to the church, and horse-powered block and tackle and hand winches were used to erect the pillars in place.

Colored-glass windows made in Munich were installed in 1916, and stations of the cross were imported from Austria in 1917.

The cost to build the church and furnish it totaled more than $95,000.

William Jennings Bryan, a Democratic presidential candidate, dubbed it the Cathedral of the Plains when he visited in 1912.

The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. In 2008, it was named one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas. Since 1994, the parish has spent nearly $1 million on restoration, repairs and mechanical and physical updates.

Victoria church becomes nation’s 78th minor basilica

Salina — What is a basilica?

Beginning in the 18th century, a church only could be named a minor basilica by the pope. Before then, some churches that were designed in a particular style were generally called basilicas although never granted that title by the pontiff.

There are only four major (“greater”) basilicas: St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and Basilica of St. Mary Major, all in Rome.

There are more than 1,600 minor basilicas worldwide, but only 78 in the United States, including the newest in Victoria. In the last several years, anywhere from two to four churches in the United States have been designated a minor basilica.

The others closest to the Diocese of Salina are the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception at Conception Abbey in Conception, Mo., which was designated a minor basilica in 1940, and the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, designated in 1979. The first named basilica in the United States was the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, Minn., in 1926.

The title of minor basilica is granted to churches that have been found to have particular importance for liturgical and pastoral life, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The diocese’s bishop must initiate the request through the U.S. bishop’s conference, which, if approved, is forwarded to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican.

The cathedral holds first place and the greatest dignity in a diocese, but a minor basilica stands out as a center of active and pastoral liturgy and typically has historic, architectural and artistic importance.

Lent a time for change, bishop says

Salina — Lent is a season of change, Bishop Edward Weisenburger said at an Ash Wednesday Mass that primarily was made up of students from Sacred Heart Junior-Senior High School.

That change, he said, is about our faith.

“Is our faith a hobby that we dabble in on the side, or is it a lifeline leading us into everlasting life? It’s got to be one or the other,” he said at the Mass at St. Mary, Queen of the Universe Church.

“Lent is a season of change. For some of us, it may mean a change from our faith being a hobby,” he added.

The ashes that are placed on our foreheads are a visual image of change.

“Ten months ago these were palm branches,” he said. “Now they’ve been touched by fire. Their essence hasn’t changed, but they sure have changed in appearance and perspective. That’s a wonderful image for us.”

For youth, 40 days of Lent might seem a long time, but it isn’t when we know what we’re asked to do.

“This kind of change — conversion — takes time. Forty days really isn’t too long,” he said.

He urged them to focus on Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

“Those are critical methods for us to grow,” he said. “Let us grow in these 40 days and become a little more Christ-like. It’s not a hobby but a way of life that leads us into life.”

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