Members of the Five Star Area Catholic Community gathered Aug. 21 to celebrate Mass together for the first time as an ACC.
Parishioners of St. Joseph in Clarissa, Christ the King in Browerville, St. John the Baptist in Swanville, St. Joseph in Grey Eagle and St. Mary of Mount Carmel in Long Prairie celebrated in a new outdoor Mass space on the grounds of Christ the King called “The King’s Court.” Bishop Donald Kettler presided.
The south lawn space was created to replace landscaping that had fallen into disrepair. Constructed with fieldstone and granite, the terrace-like space also incorporates large rocks from farms in the area.
“I wanted people to have the opportunity to get together and work side by side — especially after a year of separation [due to COVID-19],” said Father Mitchell Bechtold, pastor of Christ the King and St. Joseph in Clarissa. The project felt like it was being guided by the Holy Spirit, he said — “very providential from start to finish.”
In addition to celebrating the new space, the pastors of the Five Star Area Catholic Community wanted to thank Bishop Kettler for his leadership of the diocese during the last eight years.
“It was more than important, it was imperative [to include the whole ACC in this celebration], because we are one Church,” said Deacon Jim Schulzetenberg. “To have the pastors all come together shows their solidarity and sets an example for the rest of the community.”
Father Omar Guanchez, pastor of St. Mary of Mount Carmel, said it was important for the parishes to celebrate Mass together. “We need God’s grace to work together and be community,” he said. “It was an amazing celebration.”
Long Prairie parishioner Beverly Heinze said she has always thought it was good for parishes to get together and share their gifts, especially schools. “It’s the Church,” she said. “We are united in Christ.”
The three pastors of the ACC— Father Bechtold, Father Guanchez and Father Ron Dockendorf — concelebrated along with retired priests Father David Maciej and Father Tom Becker.
“It was wonderful to have all the pastors here and to have retired priests from this town here,” Father Bechtold said. “It might go smoother, but it will never be better.”