by Kara Hansen
BASEHOR — For members of Holy Angels Parish here, it was love at first sight.
Parishioners walked into their new church building for the first time on Feb. 14 for a dedication Mass — and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
“Many parishioners expressed appreciation, awe, and wonder upon seeing the new church for the first time,” said Father Al Rockers, pastor of Holy Angels.
Though the parish’s former church building was relatively young — only 48 years old — growth in the Basehor community over the years has meant that the parish had long since out-grown its space.
“The old building seated 225 people,” said Father Rockers. “For each weekend Mass we had people seated in folding chairs down the aisles and people standing in the vestibule.”
Four Masses were celebrated each weekend at the parish in attempt to accommodate everyone who attended, but the building was still bursting at the seams. The architectural style of the former church — an A-frame —made expansion nearly impossible, and the space was not as conducive to worship as it might have been.
“The old church did not have any kind of music space at all,” said Laura Beeves, music director at Holy Angels. “There was really not a space for even a cantor to stand.”
The decision to actually build was slow in coming. But finally, 17 months ago, fundraising was completed and construction on the new church building began.
And parishioners couldn’t have been happier.
“This is something we have been striving for and wanting for 20 years,” said Charlie Peterson, a parishioner at Holy Angels and a member of the building committee.
The new Holy Angels church building seats 1,000 people and has significantly more space than the former structure.
“It’s very open, light-filled, and has an uplifting ceiling,” said Father Rockers. “It seems very sacred and warm and has a welcoming flavor to it.”
The dedication Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, with Father Rockers and several other priests of the archdiocese concelebrating. A choir made up of 40 parishioners was put together specifically for the dedication. Beeves said she felt the experience would set the tone for music ministry at future Masses in the new building.
“We had been practicing for the past month, and the choir just sounded amazing. I had several people come up afterward who wanted to know who we had hired in to sing for the dedication,” said Beeves.
“Since this is the first time we have ever had any kind of music space at all,” she continued. “I would anticipate members are going to want to be more involved. People seem really enthused and interested, and really wanting to participate.”
A celebratory reception followed the dedication Mass. The new church will allow for the parish to go from offering four weekend Masses to three, which will still provide ample elbow room for those attending.
“It’s a great improvement over the old space,” said Peterson. “There’s plenty of room for us and anyone else who wants to come.”
Father Rockers agreed.
“I’m most looking forward to having more space, so people coming to Mass will not have to be crowded,” he said. “It’s a much more welcoming space for everybody. That’s a strong plus for the new building.”
The former church will still be utilized by the parish for daily Mass and as an adoration chapel.
Peterson said the process of building a new church was as meaningful to the parish members as the final result.
“We’re a close, friendly group and everyone did their share and part in getting this done,” he said. “If people had not done that, this new church would not have happened.”
“This was a real togetherness project that was successful, and everyone benefited from it,” said Beeves. “Everyone really came together to work with Father Al on this.”
“It’s been a great three-year project, and it’s been good for the parish working together and contributing together,” agreed Father Rockers. “Hopefully this event will be in the minds of this generation and the next for years to come.”