Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily at Blessed Stanley Rother Mission in Decatur Sept. 24.
Today is a happy day for you, the Catholic community of Decatur, Arkansas. Today you will be established formally as a canonical entity — no longer merely a chapel — but now as a quasi-parish. I know that sounds strange, so instead we usually say that you will now be a “mission.” And we do so under the patronage of Blessed Stanley Rother, who was just beatified yesterday in Oklahoma City.
This will make you the first church anywhere to bear his name. Let’s take a moment to consider what all this means.
First of all, you becoming established formally as a mission is due in large measure to your commitment to Jesus Christ and the initiative you have taken to live your Catholic faith in a place where previously there had been very few Catholics. It is due also to the efforts of our priests, in particular to the dedication of Father Salvador Marquez-Muñoz, who has taken you and your needs especially to heart. And it is due also to your own efforts, for instance renting a church building and adapting it for Catholic use.
But please note, we are not dedicating a church building today. What we are doing is establishing you formally as a community. After all, the Church is the people, not the building, and it is you who are being established as a quasi-parish, not the building. This is why we are able to have our celebration here in this school auditorium, which is a good thing since your church building is too small for our purposes today.
As a formal mission, you will still be dependent on neighboring parishes for the services of a priest, but you will otherwise gradually become more independent and self-reliant. I know you still have a lot to do, but I’m very impressed by how much you have grown so far. I’ll bet some of you are already working on figuring out how to get a more adequate building, with more meeting space and more parking. And I’m confident that through your efforts, all things will fall into place in due time.
Secondly, you are the first church in the world named in honor of Blessed Stanley Rother, who like I said was beatified just yesterday. Earlier today many of you saw my PowerPoint presentation about his life and about his martyrdom in Guatemala, but one thing I didn’t mention was that in addition to the main church he served in Santiago Atitlán and the mission church in Cerro de Oro, Blessed Stanley also served many small, isolated communities in the villages and plantations in the area. Sort of like you here in Decatur, who are a long way from anywhere. And, of course, your community includes quite a few Guatemalans, which makes Blessed Stanley a doubly appropriate patron for your community.
He is not only the first beatified martyr of the United States, he was also the first beatified martyr of Guatemala. And everything I know about Blessed Stanley tells me that he would be delighted to have you as the first community in the world named after him.
In today’s Gospel we have Jesus’ famous parable of the vineyard workers who all receive the same pay despite varying lengths of time working in the vineyard. The most recent arrivals started later but worked just as hard once they got started.
Well, you are the most recently hired workers in the vineyard of the Lord here in Arkansas. We have parishes that are 175 years old, but in every sense the Lord has made you, the most recent arrivals, their equal. You’ve got some catching up to do in terms of buildings and programs and growth in membership, but that’s not what really matters.
What really matters is that you give yourselves fully to the Lord and he will make your efforts bear lasting fruit. After all, you’ve got Blessed Stanley Rother as your patron and he will intercede for you before the throne of God.
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