By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
SMITHVILLE — If there were any hint of a notion that the new 600-seat Good Shepherd Church was too big for Smithville, it died quickly moments into the Oct. 30 dedication ceremony.
The Catholics of this rapidly growing and changing city by the lake quickly took every pew, then lined the walls and filled the narthex for the two-hour liturgy, celebrated by Bishop Robert W. Finn, that opened their new $5.2 million home.
“It is really exciting to see it come together,” said Wayne Krueger, who chaired the parish’s building committee during the six-year process that brought the new church from needed to reality.
And it was needed. Since 1980, the Good Shepherd community had been worshipping in a 200-seat church on the south edge of Smithville that was fit for a very small Catholic community in a very small town.
The new Good Shepherd is exactly what the people wanted — a church, said Krueger.
And they spared no sacrifice to get it.
“Folks here are hardworking folks,” he said. “They made a commitment to finance this, and we’ve done an excellent job. This place will create opportunities for Good Shephed to grow for a good time to come.”
As the pastor, Father Greg Haskamp, looked over his congregation at the end of the dedication Mass, his voice cracked as he recalled the “journey of faith” that brought the parish to that point, but a journey in which the Good Shepherd himself was with the community every step.
“It is a faith tested and challenged. It is a faith strengthened and deepened,” he said. “It is faith in ourselves, faith in our bishop, faith in our diocese.”
Father Haskamp thanked Bishop Finn and diocesan leadership “for your faith in us and for your leadership which pushed us beyond ourselves into a new place, high on a hill overlooking a beautiful countryside.”
The new church, overlooking U.S. 169 north of Smithville and near the roads leading to Smithville Lake, was designed with the words of Psalm 23 — “The Lord is my shepherd” — in mind, according to architect Chris Castrop, from the “green pastures” of green and brown ceramic floor tiles to the “safe waters” of the baptismal font.
“It is the hope of Father Greg, the interior committee and the design team that our people of Good Shepherd parish will understand the significance of how Psalm 23 so interestingly relates to the image of the Good Shepherd,” Castrop wrote in program notes.
In his homily, Bishop Finn also spoke of the “pilgrimage of faith” that brought the Good Shepherd community to that day.
“Together, friends, we rejoice as we call down God’s blessing not only in consecration of this church, but in the new start it represents for your parish,” Bishop Finn said.
“I urge you to use the occasion of this church’s dedication to renew your own dedication to Jesus Christ, to the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church, and to the life of this parish on this memorable day,” he said.
Noting that the dedication was taking place two days before All Saints’ Day and three days before All Souls’ Day, the bishop reminded the congregation that “we are joined in a very special way with the faithful souls, our predecessors, who have prayed and given generously as members of this parish.”
“The focus of these sacred rites is to consecrate the work of your hands, this brick and glass and wood that you have worked so hard and have made so many sacrifices to see established on this holy ground,” Bishop Finn said.
“Here we today invite Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, confident that he hears and accepts our invitation to dwell among us in his real presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament, in his word, in the universal church gathered around the successor of St. Peter, in the living stones, his faithful people, the Mystical Body of Christ,” Bishop Finn said.
“The parish church is a holy place, marked out and set aside for the celebration of the most extraordinary of realities,” the bishop said.
“The holiness of the church building and its sacred furnishings will be verified through the ritual of consecration and dedication,” he said.
“But in a way similar to that in which a house becomes a home, the holiness of this place will also be verified and intensified by the acts which will continue to be celebrated here, we hope for many generations — the encounter with Christ in the church’s sacramental life,” Bishop Finn said.
“Here you will bring your babies for Baptism, and adults will similarly profess their newfound faith on Holy Saturday night,” he said. “Here you will be reconciled in Confession, and couples will be joined in Holy Matrimony.
“Families will gather for First Communion and Confirmation. On occasion, the sick will be anointed here, and from this gate of heaven, your beloved dead will be commended to God’s Mercy,” Bishop Finn said.
“The life and prayer of the parish will reach its crescendo in the Mass, where united in that heavenly cloud of witnesses, our eyes and heart will be lifted to remind us of the eternal destiny to which we are called, and in hope of which we will lay down our life in union with the saving sacrifice of Christ,” he said.
“We consecrate this church today under the title of the Good Shepherd, and pray that it will always be a place alive in God’s love,” Bishop Finn said.