Holy Family in Keenesburg celebrates a century

After 100 years, the tight-knit, diverse community at Holy Family Catholic Church in Keenesburg is still going strong.

“It’s a sign for the Church,” said Father Carlos Bello-Ayala, pastor of the parish for the past six years. “It shows it’s alive — even though we have all these problems, all these difficulties, persecution.”

“I see that in a rural town, still people have the desire to find God in this small church,” he said. “For me, it’s a sign that with a few people that God has in this church, we can be a big sign for those who are far away from God.”

Holy Family celebrated its 100th anniversary on June 8 with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila followed by a reception.

The parish, located in a town of just over 1,200 people, has around 65 families. Although it gone through ups and downs, its parishioners, many with deep ties to the parish, have remained faithful and worked hard to keep the parish alive.

Anita Lutz, whose family helped found the parish, has been involved in both Sacred Heart in Roggen and Holy Family (both run by the same pastor) throughout her life.

“It’s a small, welcoming church,” she said about Holy Family. “It’s a strong, faithful community.”

Lutz, who has been a member of the Altar and Rosary women’s group, appreciates Father Bello-Ayala’s efforts to bring the diverse groups of the parish and has enjoyed getting to know the Hispanic community better.

“That really made an impact on me in the last couple years,” she said. “We’ve done a few projects together, and it’s worked out really well.”

Amy Veith, President of the Pastoral Council and a member of the parish’s Altar and Rosary society, has been at Holy Family around 11 years and has also been impacted by the rich diversity at the parish.

“I have especially enjoyed getting to know some of the families from our Spanish Mass, and I think we are pretty successful at bringing all of our parishioners together and embracing the wide diversity our little parish has,” she said.

Veith explained that the small rural community loves and takes care of each other.

“We are tiny but mighty,” she said.

Father Bello-Ayala remembers one particular instance when he experienced the concern of his parishioners.

“We had a very bad storm,” he said, and the meeting he was supposed to attend with parishioners was canceled.

“People were calling and texting me, saying, ‘Father, is everything ok?’

“People are always connected [here], taking care of each other,” he said.

Although Father Bello-Ayala’s six-year assignment at Holy Family recently ended, he was instrumental up until the end in bringing his own parish community together, as well as reaching out to the local community, particularly through the Neocatechumenal Way.

“We are visiting houses two by two every year in order to call people, those who are fallen away Catholics,” he said. “Our mission is to invite.”

He believes the parish’s 100th anniversary is a message to Keenesburg that “we are a Catholic Church that is alive, that is vibrant, and we are welcoming those who are in need of God.”

The turnout at the anniversary Mass also gives him hope for the parish’s future.

“To see almost 200 people in one Mass, that was amazing,” he said. “Everybody was happy sharing together and celebrating that 100th anniversary.”

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash