Acting on one of a number of invitations to visit Mat-Su Valley churches, I trekked out on March 7 with a friend to visit Sacred Heart Parish in Wasilla. Though not greeted, per se, I received a warm smile from the bulletin passer. Finding seats, I was soon involved in a warm, welcoming service with a caring congregation shepherded by a sensitive priest.
Meeting in an airy and light sanctuary, Sacred Heart proved to be everything and more than my inviter said it would be. The priest’s homily was a brief Lenten reflection, delivered in an articulate and extemporaneous manner. Unusually reverent and quiet for a Catholic church, I found this service very likeable. If you are of the Catholic persuasion, you would do well to go out of your way to visit this congregation.[img_assist|nid=151149|title=Sacred Heart – Wasilla|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=164]
Invited I Come
One of this blog’s readers invited me, some time ago, to come visit her church in the Mat-Su. I try to incorporate reader invitations and suggestions in my visit schedule, but I’m not always able to respond quickly. Then, there’s that thing about the drive. The Valley is a reasonable area to do church visits, providing I’ve covered the major churches in Anchorage. I’ve still got some major churches to cover in Anchorage but decided I’d delayed long enough: the time had come to visit the Valley.
I’ve come to associate most Catholic churches with being less than welcoming. Generally, if you come to a Catholic church, you’re coming for a reason. You’re not just shopping for a church. I’m a rare breed, one who actively visits churches to see what makes them tick. So looking for a warm welcome in a Catholic church is probably a false expectation. However there is that thing where scripture contains numerous admonitions for God’s people to extend hospitality. I did receive a smile from the bulletin passer which is more than I receive in many churches.
Passing through Sacred Heart’s lobby just before the celebrants entered, I observed them standing in a circle, in prayer to their God. This made a powerful impression upon me as I rarely witness such a scene in any of my church visitations.
Beautiful, Light & Airy
Sacred Heart’s sanctuary is square, providing seating on three sides. It’s high ceilings and twenty-three stained glass windows, take advantage of the plentiful light. It has a contemporary look and feel, accentuated by an old-world touch with the few images, and stations of the cross around the edges.[img_assist|nid=151150|title=Infant Baptism|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=177]
Early in the service, Father Bill conducted an infant baptism, inviting the parents forward. There were numerous people standing in the back that he kindly asked to take seats, promoting a more orderly feel to the service. The infant baptism was completed with further ceremony later in the service.
Father Bill’s lenten homily was brief, to the point, articulate, and extemporaneous. He talked about the gospel as providing a 2nd chance. Reflecting on Lent, he said it was a time to seek God’s forgiveness, and also a time to pledge to recommit to change their lives. He said more in his brief homily than many pastors say in their lengthy sermons. It was memorable.[img_assist|nid=151151|title=Father Bill Greeting a Parisioner|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=250|height=368]
Unusual Offering Plea
Fr. Bill noted there would be a 2nd offering that day to retire their mortgage. If accomplished, it would mean paying off the church in 11 years. That certainly is a notable achievement for this congregation!
The music of the church was provided by a small but effective choir.
During the mass, Fr. Bill demonstrated a great singing voice, one in tune and strong. I consider this to be a great asset for a priest!
I was left with a strong impression this congregation was happy to come to church, loved their priest, and was strongly committed to Catholic ideas and ideals. Despite hard floors in the church, their quietness and reverence gave me a new respect for their belief, because they walked their talk. I also saw a committment to their school. There was a celebration reception after church in the fellowship area. Although I did not stay for this period of breaking bread and mingling, I have no doubt it was a happy time for many. To my Valley reader, thanks for inviting me. If I were of the Catholic persuasion, I would return to this church for a 2nd visit as I left hungry for more.[img_assist|nid=151153|title=Sanctuary Interior|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=275|height=490]