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Front Page » October 8, 2002 » Lifestyle » Mission San Rafael
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Mission San Rafael

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Catholics celebrate 25th anniversary of mission with a special mass

The Mission San Rafael near Huntington has been the place of worship for Catholics in the area for 25 years.

The Mission San Rafael celebrated their 25th anniversary on Sept. 29 with Bishop George Niederauer presiding over the event. Bishop Niederauer is the spiritual leader of all of the Catholics in the state of Utah. The special mass began with an entrance procession which symbolized the 25 year journey of the Mission San Rafael Community and looked toward its future. The processional hymn, "Table of Plenty," was sung by the congregation and the choir. Joanna Clawson and Nancy Justesen spread the altar cloth as the women have done from the beginning of the Mission.

A reading was given by Terri Bennett. Father Donald Hope, who is the new priest for Carbon and Emery counties presented the gospel reading. The homily was given by Bishop Niederauer. "I am delighted to be here for the silver anniversary of the Mission." He described God's mercy as being unending. It is never too late and God's mercy never runs out. He told the parable of the two sons one of which said "Yes, Father" and then did nothing and the other who said "No, Father" and then had a change of heart and did his Father's will. Bishop Niederauer said he is often told by nonchurch goers that they are good people and just as kind and generous as church goers. He said there is a danger in this. "What does the Father want when he sends us to the vineyard? He wants us to say yes and to not only say yes, but then do something about it. This is a challenge, our will and God's will are often in conflict. You can't just put your name down, you have to live it every day. Let God speak to you. Be filled with compassion. Bishop Niederauer remarked that he has been to the Mission several times and has always enjoyed sharing the spirit with the faithful members of the Mission. He stressed the need to develop an attitude which is Christlike. He said Christ is the source of light and forgiveness. "Jesus teaches us what is good for us. Say yes, and do it," he said.

Gen Force, long time Mission member, who recently moved to New Mexico was on hand to give the history of the Mission. "In the early 1970s, there were very few Catholic families in Emery County. The closest Catholic church was Notre Dame de Lourdes Catholic Church in Price. The pastor in Price was Father Lou Fischer and he had been asked to go to Moore once a month to celebrate Mass with those few families who would gather together to pray in their private homes, each family taking a turn to host the others. The home of Joanna Clawson, Wesley Reese, Dean Howell, Paul Witt, Dean Foote and Ann Wissler were sites for the first masses held in the county.

"The construction of the Huntington Power Plant and for other reasons, new families arrived into the area. It was soon realized that a larger, more permanent and centrally located place for worship was needed. Three acres of land was purchased from the Charles Force family to build a church. On Nov. 6, 1977 ground was broken for a multipurpose church building. Mike Schmitz was hired as the contractor.

"On Nov. 17, 1977 Bishop Joseph Lennox Federal dedicated the construction site. Construction of the building was done mostly by volunteers, from hand digging trenches to laying bricks. Finally, in March of 1978 the building was completed. The night before Easter Sunday of that year, the community prepared to have their first Mass. In Nov. 1978, the building was dedicated by Bishop Joseph Lennox Federal.

"The name Mission San Rafael was chosen for two reasons: because of the proximity of the community to the San Rafael River and in honor of the Archangel Raphael, the patron saint of travelers. His patronage was appropriate since most of the Mission's family had traveled to Utah from other states.

"In Nov. 1987, Bishop William K. Weigand celebrated a 10-year anniversary Mass as a ground breaking rather that an anniversary of completion or dedication. Realizing that because the Mission had grown to 40 families, Bishop Weigand gave permission to begin efforts for a new building. Construction began in Nov. 1990 to include "a holy place" for Mass to be celebrated. The chapel was constructed in 1991 and dedicated on Apr. 21 of that year by Bishop William K. Weigand.

"In the spring of 1991, the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity donated a bell for the Mission. Carrying on the long tradition of the Spanish Missions it was decided to build a bell tower. Three bells, donated by E. Charles Milano of Helper, hang in the niches of the tower built by Jay Forbush of Spanish Fork. The bell tower was blessed by Bishop George Niederauer on Feb. 22, 1998.

"In Apr. of 1999, construction was started on the pavilion. By the spring of 2000, a roof had been placed. In the fall of 2001 and spring of 2002, additional landscaping was done with a picket fence and flower boxes. Improvements to the Mission are a continual process done by the Mission family. More recently, a Mission Community Forum has been organized to include all members of the community working together as people of God.

"We are grateful for those who have preceded us, and for those who built the Mission. We are grateful for those who continue to give the time and effort needed to continue this faith community into the future," said Force.

The contractor, Mike Schmitz was on hand to recall working on the Mission. He said they had a good time working on the church. The ladies always brought food out to them and there was a core of volunteers who helped. Both those who belonged to the Catholic community as well as volunteers who didn't but just saw the need to volunteer on the project.

Susan Austin mentioned the challenge it was to bring the Catholic religion to the community. She said their success has come through the continued efforts of those early members as well as the Catholics in the community today. She mentioned the Spanish community and their support of the Mission as well. She said they now have a new priest Father Donald Hope who was formerly in Ogden and who traded places with Father Mike Sciumbato so Father Mike could be close to his mother. They welcomed Father Hope to the Mission.

Diane Simmons also honored Austin with a bouquet of flowers and a thank you. She said, "Susan makes sure things get done."

The recessional hymn was All Creatures of our God and King afterwhich the congregation had a luncheon and visited with friends.

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