NORTH PLATTE (SNR) - After 17 years of planning, praying and fundraising, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in North Platte finally has a beautiful church in which to celebrate Mass, receive the Sacraments, pray, and adore the Lord.
On Sunday, Oct. 2, the church will be dedicated with a special Mass celebrated by Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz. He will be joined by the current pastor, Father Mark Seiker, former pastor Father Gary Brethour and others.
"It’s been a long process," said Betty Steffes, one of the parish founders and a member of the building committee. "It’s like a weight off our shoulders."
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish seems to have grown slowly out of an ordinary hay field on the southern side of North Platte. The late Bishop Glennon Flavin had the land scouted and purchased more than a quarter century ago.
In 1994, current Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz launched the parish, and Catholics from the area were happy to attend Mass at a junior college’s meeting room.
Still, they had a vision to create a real church with a hall and rectory. Parishioners sat down to create a master plan and started raising money in earnest.
Within a couple years, the parish hall was constructed, though it was more than a hall. It served as the sanctuary for Mass, classrooms for religious education and a reception room for parish dinners.
Ever resourceful, Father Brethour sought to outfit the building as well as possible with cast-off items from other churches. He retrieved some statues, a Crucifix and a beautiful tabernacle from a church in Osceola that was closing.
The pews came from a Baptist church – kneelers were added by one of the parishioners to make them suitable for Mass. The School Sisters of Christ the King donated a set of Stations of the Cross. Diocesan priest Msgr. James Reinert, who served in New York for years as a United Nations observer for the Holy See retrieved a statue of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton from a parish in New York that had suffered a fire.
In 2001, under the leadership of Father Thomas Brouillette, the parish built a rectory on the campus to replace the small house that had been pressed into service as residence and offices for the pastor about a mile away.
Now the church itself has been constructed.
"We’ve pretty much followed the master plan in terms of location," said Father Seiker.
The design of the church itself has evolved a bit over the years, but the one consistent feature is its traditional shape.
"It’s a cruciform church, which means it is in the shape of a cross," Father Seiker explained. "It shows a traditional style of church architecture, and it shows that this is a building set apart for the worship of God."
Various members of the building committee agree that the most striking feature of the new church is probably the stained glass windows.
The windows were salvaged from a chapel belonging to the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (Pink Sisters) in Austin, Texas. When the convent was closed due to structural problems, the windows were brought to Lincoln with some of the sisters who were moving here.
Made by Franz Mayer & Co of Munich, Germany, between 1958 and 1964, there were 18 windows in all, three of the archangels, and the rest dedicated to the Mysteries of the Rosary.
"They’re fairly substantial," said Paul Nordquist, another founding member who serves on the building committee. "We had them overhauled a little bit, reworked the leading."
The three archangel windows were installed in the parish hall, where they will remain. The Rosary windows became the defining feature in the architecture of the church.
Father Seiker said the windows are situated much like they were in the Pink Sister’s chapel.
"The third Glorious Mystery is over the front door in the choir loft, the other windows are on the two side walls," he said.
The other windows are arranged in order, with five spaces left for Luminous Mysteries for the day in the parish or some benefactor can pay for matching windows to be made.
Founding parishioner and building committee member Ed Rieker believes that the windows represent the parish’s devotion to the Rosary, which began even before the parish was started.
"A group of us had been praying [for a new parish] at least once a week before the Tabernacle at another parish in North Platte," he recalled. "All 15 decades of the Rosary."
The weekly Rosary has continued on Monday nights ever since. Also, the parish gathers to pray the Rosary before every Sunday Mass.
"I would say Our Lady has had some definite impact on our parish," Mr. Rieker speculated.
There is much excitement within the parish as finishing touches are put in place before the dedication. Everything from the installation of the Romanesque altar, the renovation of statues and fine-tuning the sound system is one step closer to completing this long awaited church.
"Wherever you look, you see expressions of our faith, images of our faith," said Father Seiker. "It’s an invitation to anybody to come and pray."
"It’s the handiwork of God and His benevolence and His fidelity and love for His people," said Mr. Rieker.
For more information about the dedication Mass and the banquet that will follow, please call the parish at 308-534-5461.