Every day, according to the latest stats of the WDOT, 274,000 people (79% single occupant vehicles), traveling I-5, pass by the Tacoma Dome. That would fill the Tacoma Dome to capacity 11 times. It’s an evangelist’s dream!
Every day, those same 274,000 people pass by what has become known all over the world as “that beautiful Church on the freeway”.
The steeple of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, with its cross atop, has been “preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ” for 127 years.
But now it is in danger of being silenced; of being struck down and obliterated.
While the numbers people sit behind their computers analyzing, assessing, adding up and arranging the costs to reflect the intended outcome to prevent this holy ground from becoming a ‘drain on financial resources’ another study is underway:
What impact will the destruction of this sacred temple of God have on the spiritual well-being of those whose lives it encounters?
Unlike the ‘practical’; the ‘realistic’, the dollars and cents figures, there is no way to evaluate the benefit of, or estimate the loss that the eradication of, this perpetually visual Gospel will have on the community at large – and beyond, taking into account the many visitors from out of state and out of country who drive by on I-5 and look up from their dreary drive and gaze upon the Cross of Christ atop the steeple of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church.
But today, after praying the noon Rosary with a group from the parish determined to find a way to save their (‘our’) beloved Church, I walked around the parish campus with my camera in hand looking for that ‘perfect shot’ that would express what I knew in my heart but of which I could find no human words, when a young man with an infant in a stroller came walking by and engaged me in conversation with a question: “Why are they going to tear it down?”
He wasn’t Catholic and had spent most of his youth in a destructive lifestyle but had since ‘straightened himself out’, wished he hadn’t gotten so many ‘tats’, was now working as a cook, married, proud to be the papa of his little son, and trying to quit smoking.
He didn’t seem to comprehend the ‘figures and costs’ rationale for the Church’s demolition when I tried to explain it to him.
“I hope they don’t do it; I hope they don’t bring in the wrecking ball and knock her down”, he said.
He called Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church ‘her’. I was intrigued and asked him a few questions of my own.
This is his neighborhood. He had lived here, off and on, his whole life. During his ‘bad years’ he would look out his bedroom window and see the steeple with its cross on top and it made him feel ‘warm’. He said it had a way of ‘talking’ to him; of calming him down; of making him want to try again. I assured him that I did not think that that was weird at all when he expressed concern that I would. I told him I knew exactly what he was talking about because I experience such moments too.
“Do me a favor”, I said, “and promise me that when this fence is taken down and the Church is open again that you will come inside her.”
“What? Really? Me?” he appeared incredulous that I would ask him such a thing and added, “I don’t belong in no Church.”
I reminded him that he had expressed the desire that the Church not be destroyed and asked him again that if his wish came true that he would come inside.
“I will”, he said, “I promise I will.”
So now it’s entirely up to Our Lady if she wants this precious son of hers, and his son, to enter this Church that is named in her honor. There is nothing Jesus will deny her. We pray that she manifest herself; make herself present and visible in a powerful way, on this land; this holy ground. We ask her to go to Jesus and say, “Make a miracle for these poor and humble people whom I love, and who love me so.”