by Paula Glover
WAMEGO — For more than 100 years, the limestone Gothic-style St. Bernard Church here has stood as a landmark and a symbol of faith, its spire pointing finger-like to the heavens.
It was an eloquent statement of faith. But it was too small. That’s why parish- ioners began to plan for a new church 13 years ago.
All their hard work paid off on Aug. 22, when they gathered for the dedica- tion Mass of the new church. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was the main cele- brant and homilist.
“We want to give God our best and give God our first fruits,” the archbish- op said in his homily, explaining how buildings are symbols of what we value. The many beautiful churches built all over the archdiocese, even in rural com- munities during the Great Depression, are “eloquent expressions of the praise of God in brick and stone.”
The archbishop contrasted the new church in Wamego with another build- ing that he’d seen during a visit to St. Louis. There, the largest building was a casino.
“God does not need us, but we erect good buildings to honor God,” he said.
He encouraged all present to “honor God, open your hearts and be heroic witnesses to God as Christian men and women.”
More than 500 parishioners and community members were present at the Mass, which began with a proces- sion led by Archbishop Naumann into the church.
The dedication Mass included a blessing of the water, anointing of the altar with the oil of chrism, and a Litany of the Saints — with particular empha- sis on Sts. Pius X and John Vianney, whose relics were enclosed under the main altar and the altar of repose.
The archbishop praised Father John Pilcher, pastor of St. Bernard, for his leadership. Father Pilcher, in turn, praised the parishioners for their dedi- cation to the project.
Richard Weixelman said the church was “phenomenal . . . the way the par- ish came together to the final project.” The building committee started 13 years ago and, with the exception of one member who moved away and two who died, all the others continued the drive for a new church. Weixelman said many parishioners spent time helping with different aspects of the project.
An effort was made to utilize items from the old church, including the cru- cifix, the stained-glass windows (which were fully restored) and the Stations of the Cross.
Jim Meinhardt and his wife Barbara were both involved in the process. Jim Meinhardt said that the capital cam- paign started in earnest two years ago, with a meeting that included about 60 people. Last July, ground was broken for the building. Meinhardt said he’ll always remember when the beauti- ful ceiling was installed and, later on, when the final decorating was accom- plished.
Barbara Meinhardt credits Father Pilcher with much of the design, saying he had definite ideas on how the church
should be structured. He stipulated, for example, that the tabernacle be in the center behind the altar and all the pews face forward. The design also called for a large narthex, or gathering space, and a cry room.
The church seats 500 and is designed to be expanded. The sanctuary features a soaring ceiling.
“The church is amazing,” said pa- rishioner Cindy Diederich. “It took my
photo by dave peterson
breath away to see it finished. It was so much more than I anticipated. I just stood there in awe. This really is a once- in-a-lifetime event,” she said. “Father John is an amazing priest and our com- munity is blessed to have him.”
Father Pilcher, for his part, couldn’t be prouder of his parishioners.
“The people did this work,” he said simply. “I just happened to be their pas- tor.”