By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
PLATTE CITY — Bishop John J. Hogan must have been inspired when he named the parish in the government seat of Platte County to honor the XII Apostles.
The apostles witnessed the Resurrection. So did the people of XII Apostles Parish on May 25, as they dedicated a new church.
The ceremony, led by Bishop Robert W. Finn and concelebrated by pastor Father Charles Rowe, was the culmination of a decade-long series of events that happens rarely — the resurrection of a parish from the dead after more than 70 years.
The parish that Bishop Hogan established in 1871 never really thrived, Father Rowe reminded the congregation that packed the 400-seat, $3 million church that now sits on perhaps the most picturesque setting of any parish church in the diocese.
Yes, there was a Church of the XII Apostles in Platte City, but it served a tiny congregation until the Great Depression when it was “closed, demolished and forgotten, save for a few faint traces in the ecclesial chronicles,” Father Rowe said.
“Now the once dead church lives again,” he said. “It has risen and risen in far greater glory than was granted in its previous manifestation.”
Indeed, the church designed by Vince LaTona of LaTona Architects and Chris Castrop of Castrop Design Group is unmistakably Catholic as it sits high on 20 acres of pastoral hillside, the gift of Charles and Marge Johnston, just a few miles southwest of rapidly growing Platte City.
It is still a work in progress. Its clear windows are temporary, one day soon to be replaced by stained glass. Its unfinished basement will soon be converted into a parish hall.
From 1935 until 2002, no Mass was offered in Platte City. Catholics in the area mostly attended Holy Trinity Parish in nearby Weston, or perhaps they drove south to St. Therese Parish in Parkville.
Then pastor of Holy Trinity, Father Thomas Hawkins celebrated one weekly Mass at various sites in Platte City, beginning on Sept. 21, 2002.
Within two years, attendance at the Mass had grown to the point that Bishop Raymond J. Boland established the parish first as a mission of Holy Trinity, digging into history to retain the name XII Apostles.
Within a few months, the Catholics of Platte City acquired a storefront and converted it into a chapel as they began planning for a proper church.
And that day finally arrived, nine years later, on May 25, 2013.
But while the parishioners should be proud, Father Rowe reminded them of who really did the work.
“The resurrection is God’s handiwork; it’s not man’s doing,” Father Rowe said.
“The path that led here is a marvelously convoluted itinerary that none could have predicted, that only the Holy Spirit could have directed, that solely the power of God could have achieved,” he said.
Father Rowe noted that there were but 170 families registered at XII Apostles when Bishop Finn established it as a full-fledged parish and the newly reborn parish began its drive to raise the money for the first Catholic church in Platte City in 70 years.
The rule of thumb, Father Rowe said, is that such an ambitious project could be undertaken by parishes of no fewer than 300 registered families.
“To make matters worse, the economy plunged into the Great Recession (in 2008) right before the campaign started,” he said.
“A wise man surveying our parish predicament would likely have predicted that the enterprise was doomed,” Father Rowe said.
“But somehow through this long, messy march, the Lord brought us to where we stand today,” he said.
“The fact that it was so messy may be God’s way of reminding us that this church belongs to him,” Father Rowe said.
The history of the parish that struggled, died and was reborn to greater glory also offers “a window to the future,” Father Rowe said.
“The resurrection is not just the past event of Jesus rising from the dead,” he said. “It’s also the promise given every Christian in Baptism.
“When sorrow weighs us down, when confusion clouds our minds, when the good news doesn’t quite resonate in our hearts, may the sight of this beautiful temple lift our spirits heavenward and renew our hope,” Father Rowe said.
In his homily, Bishop Finn noted that his faith in both God and the Catholic community of XII Apostles was not misplaced when he re-erected the parish in a decree dated April 4, 2008.
“With trust in God and generosity, you have now completed a beautiful church, stepping up to carry forward the church’s mission,” the bishop said. “From this hill, the cross of Christ will signal your commitment to proclaim the truth and charity of the Lord.”
But the consecration of a new church is not an end result of a long process, but a beginning, Bishop Finn said.
“The holiness of the church building and its sacred furnishings will be verified through a ritual of consecration and dedication,” he said.
“But in a way similar to that 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,” the bishop said.
“Here, you will bring your babies for Baptism,” Bishop Finn 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, our beloved dead will be commended to God’s mercy.
“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 hearts 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 lives in union with the saving grace of Christ.”