Historic sites are important to many Montanans and are visited by locals and travelers from throughout the world. While unique sites and buildings preserved for historical purposes in the State of Montana include the locations of many historic mines and the Daly Mansion, for Catholics the importance of our historic churches transcends the longevity of their existence.
Our churches are not only historic but also sacred spaces. Our historic and sacred churches are tangible links to our ancestors who practiced the faith before us and who in thanksgiving to God for the blessings he bestowed upon them erected them to serve as permanent places of prayer and devotion.
Catholics in Montana are blessed to have the presence of numerous historic sacred Catholic churches in our midst, including the St. Mary and St. Ignatius Missions, the Cathedral of St. Helena which serves as the seat of our diocese and in our own community of Hamilton, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
We are blessed to have such a historic sacred space in our community, a direct connection to those pioneers who in constructing the church planted the seeds of the faith we practice today. St. Francis of Assisi Church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places in Hamilton; this designation is not handed out lightly.
The importance of St. Francis of Assisi Church to the people of Hamilton is evident when one examines the way they have cared for it throughout its history. Significant repairs and renovations were carried out on the church between 1991 and 2008, all of which were made possible through the generous donations of parishioners.
Given the age of St. Francis of Assisi Church, we are blessed that the community of those who care about it reaches beyond Hamilton to many far flung corners of the world; indeed everyone who has ever visited this church can be said to be part of the community of those it has impacted.
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St Francis of Assisi Church has been a beacon of the Catholic faith in Hamilton for 122 years. Many people, parishioners and community members alike, are deeply disturbed at the prospect of the church’s demolition. Aside from the obvious fact that once a historical site is demolished, it is gone forever, it is important to remember that as Catholics, we are taught that our churches should only be demolished as a last resort. Indeed the Vatican itself said this in a set of guidelines it issued in 2013.
St. Francis of Assisi Church has an important place with all the other historic buildings in the city of Hamilton. It can never be replaced once it is gone.
Those families whose history is tied closely to that of St. Francis of Assisi Church do not wish to see it destroyed. They are committed to finding a way to ensure that the church which has nourished the faith of so many throughout its more than 100 years of existence may continue to kindle the fire of Catholicism in those generations yet to be born. We who love so dearly St. Francis of Assisi Church are prepared to do what is necessary to ensure that it can be maintained as a Roman Catholic sacred space long into the future. Numerous examples exist of Catholic congregations throughout the United States and the world developing plans which allow them to gain the facilities they need to carry out their mission of serving the faithful while ensuring that our historic churches are retained. We pray that similar creativity will avert the loss of our historic St. Francis of Assisi Church here in Hamilton.
If you support Saving Historic St. Francis of Assisi Church please join our group on Facebook.
The demolition of the church could be decided at the Zoning Board of Adjustments meeting Monday, Dec. 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Bedford Building, 223 South 2nd St. Please mark your calendar and attend this very important meeting.
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