By Marc and Julie Anderson
GARNETT — He might not enjoy the renown of Gabriel, but Holy Angels pastor Father Matt Schiffelbein was blowing that horn just the same at the 100th anniversary celebration of his Garnett parish’s founding June 25.
In a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, concelebrated by Father Schiffelbein, and attended by some 250 parishioners and visitors, the parish marked the anniversary with a Mass, barbecue, parish portrait and small concert in the nearby Knights of Columbus hall — courtesy of the pastor on his tenor sax.
Among those in attendance were lifelong parishioners Marilyn Bennett and Sue Hardman, whose ties to the parish run six generations deep. Not only were their great-grandparents, grandparents and parents members, but now they, their children and their grandchildren either belonged or currently belong. In fact, Bennett’s grandfather was the first baby boy baptized in the current church building.
The women’s shared great-grandfather, John Mader, donated the church’s stained-glass window in 1928. (The parish was dedicated by Bishop John Ward June 19, 1916.) The window is among Bennett’s favorite features of the church. For Hardman, the gift remains an expression of how much her great-grandfather valued his faith and appreciated the opportunities he had in Kansas.
“He came to the county on the flatbed of a train car with nothing in his hand,” said Hardman.
The parish missions and the Forty Hour devotions celebrated at the church at night, she said, provided her countless memories.
“It was always kind of special to see the stained-glass windows when the church was lit because we didn’t have Mass at night. . . . You never got to see the stained-glass windows and how pretty they were,” she said.
Although the church is physically beautiful, both Bennett and Hardman said the real strength of the parish is the generations of families — including their own — who have made it a true family of faith and love.
Through both good and hard times, said Bennett, you see in parishes like Holy Angels generations of the same families grow up, celebrate the sacraments together, get married and have families of their own — starting the cycle all over again.
“It’s a testament to the strength of the parish,” said Hardman.
In his homily, Archbishop Naumann discussed the importance of celebrating anniversaries.
“On this 100th anniversary of this church of Holy Angels, let us give thanks,” the archbishop said, “thanks for the ancestors of this parish community who built this church and sacrificed for it.
“Let us thank the Lord for all the miracles of grace that have happened in these walls during those years.
“Let us pray that we can always treasure the great gift of our Catholic faith, and particularly the gift of the Eucharist.”
On a lighter note, the archbishop said he is always careful about scheduling visits like this during the summer.
“It’s always risky for me to be in parishes where I just transferred the pastor,” he joked. (Father Schiffelbein was to start his new assignment as pastor of Christ the King Parish in Topeka on July 1.)
But he went on to add that he had nothing but sincere appreciation for Father Schiffelbein’s “exceptional service” and leadership over the past four years.