Church wants input before fall's synod on families
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This is the last of three columns on the diocesan pastoral plan, “Stewards of Hope.”
To encounter Christ is to be made new (c.f. 2 Cor 5:17; Rev 21:1-5). I wonder if there is anyone whose heart does not long for something about their life that needs to be made right in the eyes of God? And the longing is even deepened by the way that, despite our best efforts, we find ourselves, time and again, “stuck” in some undesirable condition. This is more than just wanting to lose weight or win the lottery. These are the things that we desire in order to be a better disciple and more authentic believer. Moreover, these are the parts of ourselves that can only be transformed by the encounter with Christ. And it is not by magic but by mystery that this transformation happens.
Sometimes known as “the domestic church,” the family is one place where we are invited to such an encounter. In the family, like no other place, we are prompted to take a long, honest look at ourselves. In this familial honesty, we are sometimes humbled as we realize (and sometimes are inconveniently confronted with) our faults and sins. In the family we also experience the joy of faithfulness despite our failings. We experience not only truthful confrontation, but also we are invited to see ourselves through the eyes of those who love us and who see more to us than our sins — more than even we can see in ourselves. And thus, it is precisely here, in the faith-filled family, that we are empowered to be people of courage, hope, passion, creativity, curiosity and forgiveness.
Pope Francis is coming to Philadelphia in September to participate in the World Meeting of Families. This builds on the discussions between the pope and Catholic world leaders last October at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome. The official title to that meeting was III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: “Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”
The well-publicized Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family that took place last October at the Vatican was just the start of a process looking at the Church’s role and mission of the family today.
The world’s bishops meet again this fall to resume discussions on the topic, but in the meantime, Pope Francis wants to hear from Catholics themselves.
Because the Holy See, U.S. Conference of Bishops and the Diocese of Salina each need time to process the information, local Catholics will have a very brief opportunity to provide the requested feedback.
Each diocese in the United States has been asked to summarize their local people’s responses and return them to the U.S. bishops conference by March 20.
To meet that deadline, Bishop Edward Weisenburger asks that any responses from people within the Salina Diocese be returned to the Chancery by Feb. 20.
Responses to those questions must be made in writing, not via the website, and be sent to the Bishop’s Office, P.O. Box 980, Salina KS 67402.
At the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis made public their document, Relatio Synodi, and a total of 46 questions have been posed based on that work. The document, along with the questions to be answered, are available at this link: 2015 Synod on the Family Document and Questions.
The Relatio Synodi reads: “These proposed reflections, the fruit of the synodal work that took place in great freedom and with a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate points of view that will later be developed and clarified through reflection in the local churches in the intervening year leading to the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.”
The questions, it said, are aimed at knowing how the document is received and to generate an in-depth examination of the work initiated during the extraordinary synod.
It is a matter of re-thinking “with renewed freshness and enthusiasm, what revelation, transmitted in the Church’s faith, tells us about the beauty, the role and the dignity of the family,” the Relatio Synodi reads.
Do Catholic schools matter? It is a question that has been asked for decades. It is a major question I often hear from parents, teachers and pastors.
Yet in many conversations, the main focus of Catholic education becomes centered on the economics of Catholic schools. Whenever funding becomes an issue, people begin to make cost and benefit decisions. Yet, Catholic schools mean a lot more to many, and sometimes that reality becomes overshadowed by the finances.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington recently acknowledged this issue when he stated, that Catholic schools “are entitled in justice to a share of educational dollars because we provide excellent educational opportunities for young people and we offer that blessing to many who seek the benefit from success of Catholic schools.”
John Convey, a sociologist, points out that “a Catholic school is a faith community that integrates religious instruction, value formation and faith development of the overall mission of the Catholic Church.”
In a recent study conducted for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, parents were surveyed on the top reasons to enroll children in a Catholic school. The results showed a “quality religious education” and a “safe environment.”
Thus, if someone would try to define “benefits,” perhaps the center of discussion should be on how well Catholic schools provide religious formation of students as they become active adults.
It is interesting to look at some recent national surveys. Of the pre-Second Vatican Council generation (born before 1943) and Vatican II generation (born 1943-1960), 51 percent attended a Catholic school. In the generations that followed, many fewer reported enrollment. Only 37 percent of the post-Vatican II generation (born 1961-1982) attended a Catholic school. Twenty-three percent of the current Millennial generation (born after 1982) have gone to Catholic school.
A frequent question is the effect of Catholic schooling on Mass attendance. Figures generally show that in each generation, those who attended a Catholic school attend Mass more frequently than those who did not attend a Catholic school. However, differences become more pronounced among younger Catholics. Still, attending a Catholic school has an impact on Mass attendance.
Salina — Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas is gearing up to help people apply for immigration relief under new rules announced Nov. 20 by President Barack Obama.
But Catholic Charities has a few words of advice: It’s too soon to apply, and beware of scams.
It likely will be February before some of the federal applications will be available, said Maria Triana-Jones, an immigration specialist at Catholic Charities in Salina.
“Anyone who says you can apply now or that you can pay to reserve a spot is fraudulent,” stressed Michelle Martin, the agency’s executive director. “We’ve heard rumor of several already making such claims.”
Because the application process is complex, nearly everyone who can apply under the new guidelines will need some assistance, Triana-Jones said.
Catholic Charities is certified by the Board of Immigration Appeals under the U.S. Department of Justice to assist people in the application process. Martin stressed people should use only BIA-certified organizations or a knowledgeable attorney.
Salina – Caridades Católicas de Norte Kansas se prepara para ayudar a la gente solicitar para la orden ejecutiva que anunció el presidente Barack Obama anuncio el 20 de noviembre, 2014.
Pero Caridades Católicas tiene unas palabras de consejo: Es mue temprano para aplicar, no hay ninguna forma de aplicar todavía, y que tengan cuidado con las estafas.
“Probablemente será antes de febrero cuando algunas de las aplicaciones serán disponible” dijo Maria Triana-Jones una de las consultantes de inmigración en Caridades Católicas.
“Las personas que dicen que se puede aplicar ahora o que se puede pagar para reservar su lugar en la línea es fraudulento” subrayo Michelle Martin la directora ejecutiva de la agencia. “Hemos escuchado rumores de varios ya haciendo tales afirmaciones.”
This is the second of three columns on the diocesan pastoral plan, “Stewards of Hope.”
By Bishop Edward Weisenburger
In the last issue of The Register, I wrote to acknowledge the efforts our diocese has made over the last four years to implement our pastoral plan, “Stewards of Hope.” While recalling that history is significant, we can ask: Where do we go from here?
We are not unlike the disciples who found themselves searching for the next steps after they had been impacted by their own encounter with Jesus. The direction Jesus gives them boils down to simply: Go. Go Baptize. Go preach. Go serve. Go, do this in memory of me. My love in you cannot and will not remain contained in your hearts alone. It must be shared. Indeed, it is the power of love that seeks to make a difference.
That is the basic understanding of the Church’s ministry of evangelization.
Salina — Two new seminarians are joining the 13 currently studying for the priesthood for the Diocese of Salina.
Nic Eilert of Beloit and Brian McCaffrey, formerly of Manhattan, were accepted into the program shortly before Christmas.
Eilert, 20, was a sophomore at Kansas State University in Manhattan and has enrolled for the current semester at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo.
McCaffrey, 23, will graduate in May from the University of Kansas and will begin pre-theology studies in August at Conception.
Both of the new seminarians are known to many in the diocese because of their involvement in two programs. Eilert was an instructor for the 2014 Totus Tuus summer catechism sessions sponsored by the diocese, and McCaffrey was a staff member for the summer Prayer and Action mission project.
Salina — The Diocese of Salina’s four-year pastoral plan, “Stewards of Hope,” ends this year, but Father Steve Heina hopes that the seeds that were planted will flourish and continue to be tended.
Father Heina, moderator of the “Stewards of Hope” implementation committee, said he and Bishop Edward Weisenburger envision the plan continuing as part of the overall ministry of the Office of the New Evangelization, which Father Heina heads.
“Stewards of Hope,” launched by Bishop Paul Coakley in 2011, mapped out a four-year plan to enhance parish life in various ways, including focusing on the way we worship, how we reach out to others, how we encourage vocations, the importance of life and family and ministering to the Hispanic community.
“By definition, a lot of what the plan talked about was what ‘church’ is supposed to be about — Catholic life in the parish and in the family,” Father Heina said.
“It was a way of helping us to articulate some of the very basic precepts of our faith, precepts that we sometimes take for granted,” he said.
This is the first of three columns on the diocesan pastoral plan, “Stewards of Hope.”
You’ve probably seen the poster hanging in churches, parish halls, schools and other Catholic facilities around our diocese. It features a picture of the façade on the front of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina depicting bishop, priests, sisters and a wide array of laity as a pilgrim people of faith. The poster announces “We’re all in this together!” and is a reference to our diocesan pastoral plan, “Stewards of Hope.”
Allow me briefly to review and, with you, to remember. Under the leadership of Bishop Paul Coakley, the Diocese of Salina began implementation of “Stewards of Hope” in 2011 after extended study and discussion by Bishop Coakley, other diocesan leaders and parish leaders from across our diocese.
A special challenge to the plan’s implementation was presented when Bishop Coakley was unexpectedly transferred to Oklahoma City in 2012. Honestly, the implementation of the plan has had its ups and downs since that time but the core of the plan — that we could continue to build on the incredible legacy of faith established by our ancestors — remains intact.
This building process involved a focus of attention and energy for each year. The four phases of the plan’s implementation were: The Spirituality of Parish Life; Formation for Ministry; Life and Family; and To the Whole World.
Washington — During the second year of his pontificate, Pope Francis was still feeling the love, and not just from Catholics or those from his homeland of Argentina.
A Pew Research Center study released Dec. 11 showed that the pope has broad support across much of the world. Sixty percent of the 43 nations polled had a positive view of the pontiff.
And Americans, in particular, have shown their fondness for Pope Francis, often extolling his simplistic style. According to the Pew study, 78 percent of Americans view the pope favorably.
People who want to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia next September — or attend the World Meeting of Families, or both — can join travel groups from Wichita or Omaha, Neb.
Pope Francis announced Nov. 17 that he would attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which is Sept. 22-25, then celebrate Mass for as many as 2 million people on Sept. 27.
No other dates or cities have been announced for the papal visit, although he has been invited to Washington, D.C., and New York.
Travel agencies have put together packages for the Diocese of Wichita and the Archdiocese of Omaha, and they have invited people in the Salina Diocese to join them.
• The Wichita package flies participants to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families and the papal Mass for a total cost of $2,600, double hotel room occupancy. It departs Sept. 21 and returns Sept. 28. The price includes the $325 full package registration cost of the World Meeting of Families, as well as airfare, local transportation, hotel rooms, some meals and other activities.
The deadline to register for the Wichita trip is Dec. 15. A non-refundable $250 deposit is required. Reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no reservation without a deposit.
To register, go to catholicdioceseofwichita.org/mfl/events/world-meeting-of-families-2015. The registration form and deposit are payable to Grand View Tours in Aston, Pa.
Click here for a flyer on the Omaha trip.
• The Omaha package takes participants by bus but does not include the World Meeting of Families. It will take people to the papal Mass, as well as provide two days of tours of sites in the Philadelphia area. The tour leaves Omaha on Sept. 23 and returns Sept. 28. The cost is $999 for an adult, double hotel room occupancy, or $799 for children 11 and younger. The cost includes transportation, some meals, hotel rooms and the tourist sites.
To register, call Legacy Tour and Travel in Fort Dodge, Iowa, at (877) 776-1700 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. A $200 deposit is required.
Legacy Tour also is planning a longer bus trip taking in both the World Meeting of Families and the papal Mass, as well as a shorter bus trip for youth wanting to attend only the papal Mass. Details have not been released.
Salina — A year ago, the Salina Diocese announced a substantial change in the way its newspaper, The Register, is made available to parishioners.
For 76 years, the weekly newspaper was delivered to subscribers, but in 2013, that number had dwindled to only about one-third of all registered parishioners.
Plans were made to send the newspaper to every Catholic household, beginning in January 2014.
To accommodate the increased printing and mailing costs — from about 5,500 to nearly 18,000 copies — the decision was made to reduce publication from weekly to twice monthly — on the second and fourth Fridays.
And instead of selling subscriptions, The Register would seek a $20 donation from each family to underwrite the additional costs.
Parishioners responded, donating more than $105,000. More than 4,100 donors gave an average of just over $25.
The same distribution system will continue for 2015. A donation envelope is included in this issue.
The changes have been positive, said Father Steve Heina, who is moderator of the diocesan Office of the New Evangelization.
Washington — In an effort to help lay Catholics gain a deeper understanding of religious life, priests, brothers and women religious intend to open their convents, monasteries, abbeys and religious houses to the public one day next February.
“If you’ve ever wondered what a brother or religious sister does all day, you will find out,” said Dominican Sister Marie Bernadette Thompson in announcing the open house scheduled for Feb. 8, 2015.
The open house is just one of the events for the upcoming Year of Consecrated Life, which begins the weekend of Nov. 29-30 — the first Sunday of Advent is Nov. 30. It will end Feb. 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated life.
The special year dedicated to consecrated life was announced by Pope Francis and is similar to previous themed years announced by popes such as Year of the Priest (2009-10) or Year of St. Paul. (2008-09).
The year also marks the 50th anniversary of Perfectae Caritatis, a decree on religious life, and Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The purpose of the yearlong celebration, according to a Vatican statement, is to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past” while embracing “the future with hope.”
Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, N.C., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, announced the Year of Consecrated Life events at an Oct. 1 news conference at the USCCB headquarters in Washington.
He said the scheduled events will provide an opportunity, especially for young people, to see how men and women religious live. He also urged heads of religious orders to let his committee know of activities they are planning so they can be publicized.
Sister Marie Bernadette, council coordinator of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, said the purpose of the open house gatherings will be to provide people with an encounter with men and women religious and also an encounter with Christ.
Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia and president-elect of Leadership Conference of Women Religious, said another initiative for the upcoming year is called “Days with Religious,” during which laypeople will have opportunities to join men and women religious in works of service throughout the summer of 2015.
Salina — Predatory lending has emerged as a concern of the Catholic Church in Kansas.
In one of four election-year videos issued this week by the bishops in Kansas, Salina Bishop Edward Weisenburger asks Catholics to urge their state lawmakers to consider stricter regulations to protect vulnerable citizens. (To see all four videos, go to http://salinadiocese.org/home/religious-liberty.)
Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas has been working to help victims of predatory lending since 2007. It launched a new program last year, the Kansas Loan Pool Project, that offers a structured loan to qualified participants to help them escape extreme high-interest borrowing known as “payday” or “paycheck advance” loans.
Those lenders have moved aggressively into Salina, Hays, Manhattan, Junction City and Concordia. Online lenders can reach anyone with access to the Internet.
Catholic social teaching doesn’t prohibit the charging of reasonable interest on loans. However, it does consider exorbitant interest — usury — as wrong.
In the video, Bishop Weisenburger says usury is one of the practices “that are plainly harmful to the poor and simply contrary to the teachings of Christ.”
“It’s always been a Church teaching, but we never talk about it anymore,” added Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the four Kansas bishops.
“Charging an unjust interest rate as being wrong was universal,” he said, but that has changed.
Even Pope Francis weighed in on the topic earlier this year, calling usury “a dramatic social ill.”
“When a family has nothing to eat, because it has to make payments to usurers, this is not Christian, it is not human,” the pope said. “This dramatic scourge in our society harms the inviolable dignity of the human person.”
Kansas is among 35 states that have few or no regulations on payday lending.
Salina — Préstamos depredadores ha emergido como una preocupación de la iglesia católica en Kansas.
En uno de cuatro videos del año electoral que se publicará este semana por los obispos de Kansas, el Obispo Edward Weisenburger pide a los católicos a exhortar a los legisladores del estado que consideren regulaciones más estrictas para proteger a los ciudadanos vulnerables.
Caridades Católicas del noreste de Kansas han estado trabajando para ayudar a las víctimas de préstamos depredadores desde el año 2007. Lanzo un nuevo programa el año pasado, el Proyecto Asociación de Préstamos en Kansas, que ofrece un préstamo estructurado a los participantes que califican, para ayudarlos a escapar los préstamos con extremamente altos intereses, conocido como “pago de sueldo adelantado”.
La enseñanza social católica no prohíbe el cobro de interés razonable en préstamos. Sin embargo, sí considera como malo, interés exorbitante — llamado usura.
En el video, el Obispo Weisenburger digo que el usura es una de las practicas “que claramente perjudican al pobre y el sencillo, contario a las enseñanzas de Cristo.”
Incluso, el Papa Francisco hablo de este tema llamando usura “un mal social trágico.”
Cuando una familia no tiene nada que comer porque tiene que hacer pagos a los usureros, esto no es cristiano y no es humano,” dijo el Papa. “Este flagelo en nuestra sociedad daña la inviolable dignidad de la persona humana.”
El estado de Kansas está entre 35 estados con poca o nada de regulaciones sobre el pago de préstamos adelantados.
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.
Por muchos años el donativo para una misa, en la Provincia de Kansas City, Kansas (los cuatro diócesis entre el estado de Kansas) ha sido $5. Los obispos de cada provincia determinan la cantidad del donativo por la misa. El 17 de enero de 2014, durante nuestra reunión provincial, nosotros, los obispos de Kansas, decidimos designar el donativo usual de misa dentro de Kansas a $10 a partir del 1 de mayo, 2014. Esto lleva la cantidad de la remuneración ordinaria en conformidad con muchas diócesis alrededor de nosotros.
Mientras esto no es asunto critico, creemos que este es un buen momento para una adecuada catequesis sobre los donativos por la misa.
Debemos comenzar señalando que los sacramentos de la Iglesia no se compran ni si venden. Toda semblanza de tráfico en materia sagrado no solo es desagradable sino un pecado. Además debe ser observado que los sacerdotes son para celebrar las intenciones de la misa de los fieles que se acerquen a ellos de buena fe, independiente de si se ofrecen donaciones. Además, en cada misa el sacerdote celebra, las oraciones que también beneficiarán a toda la iglesia. Cada domingo el sacerdote celebra por lo menos una intención de misa para la gente que él atiende. Basándose en estos puntos esenciales, puede ser útil entender la historia de cómo los donativos por la misa evolucionaron y como la iglesia los ve hoy en día.
El costumbre antiguo de ofrecer donativos al sacerdote fue en respuesta a su ofrenda de misa cuando la iglesia era muy pobre. El dinero que el sacerdote recibió era, muchas veces, su única fuente de ingresos. Hoy, en muchos países pobres la donativa por la misa sigue siendo una fuente primaria de su apoyo. Mientas que los donativos por la misa en las naciones desarrolladas hoy en día no tienen el mismo propósito, las leyes de la iglesia que rodean la enseñanza sobre estos donativos sigue siendo esencialmente el mismo.
El Canon 946 del código de derecho canónico señala que cuando fieles de la iglesia ofrecen un donativo por la misa, ellos están contribuyendo al bien de la Iglesia, ya que comparten la preocupación de la iglesia y el apoyo de sus ministros. Pero el donativo por la misa no es sólo sobre el sacerdote. Del punto de vista de los fieles, ofreciendo a ayudar con el soporte esencial del sacerdote, el que ofrece el donativo también entra en el sacrificio de la misa en una manera espiritual. Esto se ha encontrado ser espiritualmente significativo para los católicos alrededor del mundo.
Hay leyes canonícas que gobiernan como los sacerdotes pueden tratar los donativos por la misa. Por ejemplo, cabe destacar que el donativo por la misa es un regalo al sacerdote y no a la parroquia. Además, las intenciones no están requeridas que se publiquen, aunque muchos sacerdotes lo hacen y si un sacerdote elige solamente concelebrar la misa en un día determinado, en vez de servir como el celebrante principal de la misa, él siempre puede aceptar el donativo por su intención. Los sacerdotes pueden aceptar solamente un donativo por misa. Cuando un sacerdote celebra varias misas en un día particular, él puede quedarse con solo un donativo por misa. La excepción es en la Navidad. Cualquier donativo adicional debe enviarse a una causa de caridad determinada por el obispo de la diócesis.
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.
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.
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.