MONTICELLO — “What a joyful moment in the life of this faith community as we gather around the altar of the Lord in order to celebrate our identity as God’s family. Today is a special moment as we dedicate your new church. A church is a symbol of God’s presence in our midst. … It is a living reminder that God is with us,” said Bishop Oscar A. Solis as he gave his homily during the Sept. 27 Mass at which St. Joseph Catholic Church in Monticello was dedicated.
Concelebrating the Mass were the pastor, Father Rowland Nwokocha; a former pastor, Father Richard Sherman, who is now at St. John the Baptist Parish; Father Donald Hope, a retired priest who for many years was pastor of Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish in Price; and Father Patrick Valdez, CR, VF, from the neighboring Diocese of Pueblo.
The Monticello church began in 1933, when Mass was first celebrated in a private home in the community; the first church was built in 1935, Bishop Solis said. When construction of the new church and social hall was begun in 2014, the old church was demolished. While an open house was held for the new church in January 2016, the dedication was delayed until after Bishop Solis was installed as Bishop of Salt Lake City on March 7, 2017.
“Today is a sacred day. We should give thanks, joy, honor and praise to our loving God for the tremendous blessing he has given to this community,” Bishop Solis said during the dedication.
The dedication is a new chapter in the life of the faith community, he added. For 118 years, the parish “has been a source of life-giving grace” through the sacraments of the Church that are celebrated there, he said. “Imagine the tremendous blessings that you have received over the past 118 years as part of the Church and the faith community of Monticello. This is what we celebrate today.”
He called on those present to see the dedication as an invitation “to begin a new chapter in your relationship with our loving God. Let it build a renewed fervor and a new confidence of hope and trust that the God who has been faithful through the years will continue to be faithful to you.”
During his remarks at the end of the Mass, Fr. Nwokocha said he saw joy in the faces of those in the church. He added that he has never forgotten the experience of entering the building for the first time on May 15 with the former pastor, Fr. Bill Wheaton.
“I said to him, ‘the Lord is good.’ … Whenever I enter this place, that is the very thing that keeps coming to my mind. So I am so happy today, because this church, for me, is the manifestation of God’s goodness and the love of God here in Monticello,” Fr. Nwokocha said.
Alan Lund, a parishioner whose significant financial contribution built the church, referred in his remarks to the Scriptural passage in which Christ calls Peter the rock on whom he will build the church, and added, “In our little way in Monticello here, let this be our rock, a place to build our faith, a place to love our church, a place to know each other better, and a place that will be here for many years.”
In her remarks, Kathie Lund acknowledged the parish prayer group that prayed for the new church. “I think it was all in God’s plan” that the church was built, she said, adding, “I really feel that our faith is the best gift we give to our children,” and she asked those present to attend church every Sunday with their family and to make faith an important part of their life.
Deacon Tom Corrao, who is assigned to the parish, said the contractor had made the final repairs the week before the dedication, and now the church “is ours and it feels like it’s ours.” The new building has air-conditioning and central heat, “some of the luxuries that we never knew we’d have. And we’ve got space, and it just feels warm and inviting,” he said.
Parishioner Monica Alvarado agreed. “It means we can have more people and people can feel more part of the Mass,” she said.
Teresfora Chacon, one of the oldest parishioners, said she appreciates that the new church is accessible to people in wheelchairs; the old church’s stairs were difficult for people with disabilities to navigate. “It feels great. I think it’s because the size and more people,” she added.
The new church is a great addition to the Monticello community, said Kurt Lewis, president of the Monticello Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who attended the dedication. “It’s beautiful,” he said. “I’m glad I was here.”