KANAB — St. Christopher parishioners 18-month wait came to an end June 26 as Bishop Oscar A. Solis rededicated their church, which had undergone an interior renovation that was completed in December 2015.
The improvements were the first since the church was built in 1957, said Msgr. Robert Bussen, pastor of Christ the King Church in Cedar City, which ministers to St. Christopher Parish. The repairs, which “basically gutted” the church, he said, brought the building in compliance with liturgical standards and made it ADA accessible. Included were upgrades to the lighting, electrical and HVAC systems, replacing the hazardous steps on the altar, putting in new flooring and pews, and installing windows on either side of the altar.
With the renovations, “there’s a real feel of active participation of the people in the Mass that was absent before, when it was so dark and gloomy and the acoustics were so non-existent,” Msgr. Bussen said.
A grant from Catholic Extension Society and a contribution from the diocese helped pay for the renovation, “but the people have sacrificed mightily to make this possible,” Msgr. Bussen said. “That kind of ongoing sense of pride and dignity is just heart-warming.”
The renovated church “is more full of light,” said parishioner Cathy McCormick. “We’re always talking about God is life and light, and the light is in the [new] church, but it’s in the people of the church.”
For example, the hospitality ministry hosts a meal after the weekly Sunday service, and many people fill various parish ministries, she said, so “the spiritual level is deeper than I’ve ever seen it. … It’s bloomed since this renovation.”
The first Mass in the renovated church was celebrated on Dec. 6, 2015. However, the rededication had to wait, because the diocese had no bishop at the time; the Most Rev. John C. Wester, ninth Bishop of Salt Lake City, had been reassigned to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in April of that year, and the Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis wasn’t installed as Bishop of Salt Lake City until March of this year, and “without a bishop, it couldn’t be rededicated,” Msgr. Bussen said.
The June 26 rededication marked Bishop Solis’ first visit to southwestern Utah, and “the very first place he comes is to Kanab, so that means a great deal to the people,” particularly because the Kanab parish is so small that traditionally the diocese’s prelate doesn’t travel there each year to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation, as is typical at most other parishes, Msgr. Bussen said.
In honor of Bishop Solis’ visit, St. Christopher Parish hosted a dinner so its members could meet him. Afterward, the bishop concelebrated the rededication Mass with Msgr. Bussen; Father Martin Picos, pastor of St. George Parish, who will take over ministry of St. Christopher’s later this summer; and Father John Hart, who served as the pastor from 2002 to 2003 and is now retired.
Deacons Dennis Davies, Dale Dillon and Lynn Johnson assisted at the Mass.
Joining the celebration were members of the greater Kanab community, including local representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and several Protestant churches; Kane County Commissioner Lamont Smith; and Matt Brown, the county’s special project manager.
During his introductory remarks at the Mass, Bishop Solis said he was honored to be a part of such an historical event in the life of the parish.
“What a beautiful way for all of us to be gathered as a faith family, united in faith, in one Lord, as one church,” he said
He continued this theme at his homily. “Today is a moment of gratitude and a moment of joy,” Bishop Solis said. “Share this joy with others. As part of this community, you’re not only given the special gift of holy grace, you’re given a holy mission to share the love of God and the blessings that God has shared with you in this place.”
Having the bishop celebrate the rededication Mass “puts the whole thing together,” said parishioner George Reese. “A lot of hard work and sacrifice went into it, and to have our new leader come down and recognize that, it’s worth everything.”