Habemus ecclesiam! We have the house of the Lord among us.
After 45 years of celebrating Mass in classrooms, a converted refectory, and an auditorium, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) priory of St. Mary’s Academy and College finally has its own church. Many Catholics living in and around Saint Marys, Kansas have waited decades for this day. Despite serving as the largest spiritual home for Catholics attending services offered by the SSPX in the United States, the Society has been without a proper church of its own in Saint Marys since its arrival in 1978.
The atmosphere was as jubilant as it was reverent. Both clergy and laity marveled at the magnificent church that had arisen in the Kansas hills. “Faith,” Bishop Bernard Fellay said in his sermon, “moved this magnificent mountain.”
“What an immense joy today to receive from God the new church,” he continued. “And what a church!...It is such a manifestation of the Faith.”
Bishop Fellay consecrated the church in front of 120 SSPX brothers, seminarians, and priests, and dozens of sisters. Nearly 3,000 people attended the consecration ceremony at the new Immaculata, some travelling from as far away as England and Australia. Thousands more watched online via live-stream. At one point in the ceremony, the stream had as many as 2,800 viewers. The importance of the Immaculata’s consecration was not only realized by the people of Saint Marys, but by Catholics around the world.
Why, it might be asked, is there such interest in a single church in the middle of Kansas? How can the Society afford such a magnificent church? “[Such churches],” Bishop Fellay answered, “do not come from so much money. They come from faithful who have the Faith. These are works of the Faith. And people are convinced—convinced of their faith, of this duty to glorify God. This faith will move mountains.”
Bishop Fellay acknowledged the immense joy that the people of Saint Marys and beyond must have in this new church. It exceeded the vision of Fr. Hector Bolduc, the first rector, who initially resolved to rebuild the Immaculata after the original church burned down shortly after the SSPX had acquired the property. Today’s consecration confirmed the hope of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who saw in Saint Marys a ray of hope for the future of the Catholic Church in America. The sorrow felt at the loss of the original Immaculata church has been turned into great joy. May 3, 2023 will be remembered as a day of wonder, happiness, and thanksgiving.
“But our happiness is much deeper,” said Bishop Fellay. “Once again, it is linked to the Faith. What are we doing right now? What is this ceremony making real? We sung it: this is nothing else but the gate of Heaven and the house of God literally.” The church, he observed, brings the laity to heaven. It is “opening a new window or a new gate into heaven.” In a similar way, Bishop Fellay added, through the church, “Heaven touches the earth here.”