KOSSUTH — Bishop David Ricken joined about 100 parishioners at St. Augustine Church Dec. 10 for a final Mass in the small white worship site that was founded in 1862 by Bohemian settlers. The church is located on a grassy field, next to the parish cemetery in rural Manitowoc County.
Joining Bishop Ricken at the altar was Fr. John Becker, pastor. During his homily, Bishop Ricken said closing a church is an unfortunate event for everyone.
“In a way, we are having to grieve and to mourn and that’s never a pleasant thing to do,” he said. “But we do have to realize, too, that the church is more than just a building. The church is a people of God and that we come together as church to worship God in a building called ‘the church.’”
Over the years, he said, the community has created cherished memories as sacraments were celebrated at the church. “We have to thank God for those beautiful memories,” he said. “That’s very difficult, but the memories can stay alive and fresh and we have to recognize that God’s ways are not our ways and sometimes the road is filled with peaks and valleys.”
While demographic changes play a role in church closings, Bishop Ricken said, Catholics are called to be missionary disciples in order to build up the church.
“Some (churches) are not being used to the amount they should because we are not doing our work at evangelizing and touching the next generation. We need to reach out,” he said. “We are working hard on that in this diocese to begin to help facilitate all of you to reach out to people — in your own families, in your neighborhoods and your work places, to invite to come to church.”
He encouraged parishioners to find new places of worship in nearby parishes and to make new friends.
“We have to reengage in a new way, to find new brothers and sisters,” Bishop Ricken said. “We have to see this as a moment of renewal and refreshment. But first, we have to grieve, don’t we? That’s OK, that’s perfectly normal.”
Following Communion, Bishop Ricken led the parish in a prayer for the closing of a church.
“So as we thank God for all of the beautiful things that happened in this place, we know the church goes on. For all of you, maybe in a new location, but the church goes on.”