Posted at: 09/09/2012 6:56 PM
By: Gordon Severson
Hundreds Attend Mass for New Basilica
(ABC 6 News) -- A big celebration Sunday morning in Winona as hundreds gathered to celebrate the Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church becoming a basilica.
It's a high honor in the Catholic religion that only one other church in Minnesota can boast.
"Basilica was designated as a special honor by the pope to have a distinction because of its architecture it's faith community," Rev. Thomas Hargesheimer explains.
Built in 1871 by Polish settlers, the church became the 70th basilica in the country, 2nd in the state of Minnesota, in November of last year.
The journey began after getting approval from the bishop. After that, church organizers had to fill out a 140 page questionnaire.
Then submit a portfolio displaying the churches architecture and explaining its history.
It took them two and a half years to get their reply, which is actually pretty fast when it comes to approving basilicas.
"One other basilica started their procedure in 2004 and didn't receive it until this year," says Hargesheimer.
With only one other like it in the state, the church draws thousands of visitors.
From 17 foreign countries, 31 states, and nearly every city in Southeast Minnesota.
"When you walk into this church you're absolutely amazed at what you see," visitor Irene Maze says.
Maze came all the way from Rochester with her friends Sharon and Larry Pusc from Saint Pius.
"I'm sure a lot of people come here just because it's been made into a minor basilica that's quite a draw there," Larry Pusc says.
It’s a draw that continues to impress hundreds Catholics in the community.
Many who have been waiting months for Sunday's special mass.
"The people are excited. They've just bent over backwards in their generosity of their time, talents, and their treasures to prepare for this event," Hargesheimer says.
A once in a lifetime celebration recognizing a church and it's community and the never ending faith that binds them.
There are two types of basilica, majors and minors. Only four majors exist all of them are in Rome. Worldwide there are more than 1700 minor basilicas.