I always appreciate the opportunity to get out into the diocese and meet the people who keep catechesis and faith formation thriving in our parishes. The workshop today was unique in that it was only for a couple of mission parishes. I typically get invited to hold a workshop in the main parish and any connected mission churches are invited to join us there. That was not the case today. Although these missions are served by St. Rose of Lima in Torrington, this workshop was tailored specifically for the catechists in Lusk and Guernsey. I was reminded today of what it is to be a "mission diocese."
Before moving to Wyoming I had been working in a parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis with over 3,000 households. The attached Catholic school had nearly 500 students and the parish religious education program had over 500 students. First Communion was problematic because the church was too small to accommodate all the people even though the church could hold 1,200 people. The mission churches don't struggle with such issues. I was informed today that they may have as many as three children make First Communion in a year. Some years there aren't any.
Wyoming is the least populated state in the country, and although Catholicism is the largest denomination in the state (followed closely by the Mormons), there are still only about 60,000 Catholics in the whole state. In metropolitan areas in other states you may find Catholic churches within blocks of each other. In Wyoming you won't find that kind of close proximity. Harsh weather conditions can make the isolation even more dramatic. If there is a sign on the interstate that says, "Next Services 76 Miles," you better believe that there is absolutely nothing available for the next 76 miles.
Catholic Extension Society has blessed the Diocese of Cheyenne abundantly through the years, and continues to do so yet today. As the Director of Pastoral Ministries for the diocese, I know first-hand the generosity of this wonderful organization. It is through grants received from Catholic Extension Society that enables my office to continue. It costs money to travel the great distances across the state of Wyoming--over 98,000 square miles. However, the ability to connect personally with people, as I did today with the catechists from Lusk and Guernsey, is essential to enhancing the outreach endeavors of our parishes and missions. The faithful people who contribute to the Catholic Extension Society bless people all across this country in mission dioceses in ways that they may never know on this side of heaven. I just want each and every one of those donors to know how much their donation means to the work of proclaiming the Gospel message. Your kindness and generosity is making a difference. Thank you.
After the workshop was completed today I took advantage of being in this historical part of Wyoming. I went to Register Cliff and also to see the Oregon Trail Ruts. Traveling across the state can be difficult even with all of the modern roads and vehicles that we have; I can only imagine the hardships of the early settlers. They had to be some rugged individuals and I admire their courage and tenacity.
Enjoy the pictures from Hartville, Guernsey, and the historic sites in the area.
Hartville is the oldest incorporated town that is still in existence in Wyoming. The school desks below are in the community center which also serves as a museum. The iron work on the leg of the desk is amazing. The oldest bar is claimed to be in Hartville. Although I did not get a picture of the actual bar, it was made in 1862 and shipped to Wyoming from Europe. Thus, it came by ship and eventually by train to its current location in Wyoming. The woodworking on the bar is fabulous.