BRIDGING OUR COMMUNITY: With a Little Help From Above!

PHOTO: Turba Photography

With the new Claude Allouez Bridge now open, traffic is rolling a bit more smoothly throughout the city of DePere -- but only after a pretty impressive Dedication Ceremony and all day party on Saturday. When I was asked to offer the prayer of dedication for the event, I recalled that in our Church's liturgy for the Dedication of a Church, while the prayers do hint at blessing brick and mortar, dedication prayers actually reflect the dedication of one's self -- those who will use the church for sacred rituals. I tried to capture that same spirit in the Bridge Dedication Prayer. In case you missed it, here's the prayer to which people acclaimed "Amen:"

Normally, when a member of the clergy finds a text that is quotable, it was often written about 2000 years ago by a guy named Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. But in honor of this occasion, I will use a text that was written just 12 years ago, as the dreams for this new bridge were just beginning. In 1996, REO Speed Wagon reminded us of what it takes to “build a bridge.” I will spare you the melody, but borrow their lyrics for your consideration. May the song on their lips be the prayer in your heart this day:

Father to son, husband to wife
Brother to sister, black man to white
Living together, falling apart
Looking for the common ground in every human heart:
It all comes down to each of us
Yeah this is where we start:

We are building the bridge!
One small stone at a time
With a lot of love
And some help from above
From your heart to mine.

There's a land of justice, cities filled with pride
A mountain of hope, just on the other side.
Across a river of indifference, and a valley of despair
There's towers of courage, piercing through the air
I have a dream for our children, I want to take them there

And we are building the bridge
One small stone at a time
With a lot of love
And some help from above
From your heart to mine.

As we seek out understanding
As we learn to forgive
When we open up our minds;
When our words are true and kind:
We are building the bridge!

In that spirit of hope and as a people of thanksgiving,
we bow our heads and pray for God’s blessing:

Good and Loving God,
we thank you and praise you for the blessings of this day,
and we thank you for the many ways you empower us
as individuals and as fellow citizens of DePere
and the great State of Wisconsin
to be a blessing to one another.

In particular, we gather today to give thanks
for Mayor Mike Walsh and our leaders
in local and state-wide government
whose vision and wisdom –
together with the construction workers
who worked tirelessly over these past 15 months –
have given birth to the bridge we dedicate right here, right now.

We pray that this bridge will serve as a companion
to our citizens and our visitors on their journey –
empowering us to make our destinations in safety and peace.

And we pray even further
that this bridge will serve as a metaphor for us
of a greater call to be a people of radical hospitality.
May this impressive structure remind us of our need
to dedicate ourselves to the task of bringing and bridging people together:
friends and strangers, DePere citizens and visitors alike
in an attempt to be one in mind and heart together
on our way home to God.

In the Spirit of Father Claude Allouez and his Jesuit Companions,
we make this prayer to our good and loving God,
through Christ and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.

May our Almighty God bless this bridge +
And all those who benefit from its contribution to our community:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

Safe travels, friends; enjoy the new view!

Father James Baraniak, O. Praem.


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