A new Catholic church will be dedicated Sunday in Wendover.
Mission San Filipe will primarily serve the growing numbers of Spanish-speaking casino workers, said Sister Janet Ackerman, one of two nuns who will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the new church.The mission is part of St. Marguerite's Parish in Tooele. The Rev. Michael Winterer, who lives in Tooele, will drive to Wendover for Masses and other services.
The new church had its beginnings when Sister Ackerman and Sister Jeanne Burn moved to Wendover in September 1986. "In the past the priest has come out here for Sunday Masses, but nobody ever lived out here with the people," said Sister Ackerman.
The two nuns live in a trailer behind the Texaco station, said Sister Ackerman. "We've been helping people with anything and everything. We've done a lot of sacramental preparation and a lot of work with legalization."
A regional office was opened in Wendover for the government's amnesty program for illegal aliens, which ended May 4. They helped many casino workers fill out their forms and apply for amnesty.
Groundbreaking for the new church, located in the rapidly developing northeast part of Wendover, was held last November.
The building will be dedicated in a bilingual Mass at 7 p.m., by Bishop William K. Weigand of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
Sister Ackerman said the church will serve both as a chapel and a multi-purpose building.
In the past, she said, services have been held on the third floor of the Stateline Casino, in the community center, the high school, "wherever we have found a spot.
"It's small but it's a beginning," she said of the new building. "But our work is just beginning. We must continue to build the church among ourselves. A building is only a building, it isn't worth a lot without building ourselves as a community."
With the amnesty program over now for all but farm workers, she said their next goal is to hold English classes for the now-legal U.S. residents. "That will also help to bond us together as Catholics in Wendover.
"The Catholic population is growing," she said. "A lot of the casino workers are Mexican, and they will be staying around now that they have sought amnesty."
English is the next step to help them live in their new society, she said. "It's needed for survival skills, but even better to bring forth the dignity of the person.
"We also want to keep the cultural values. They have a real profound faith. They may need to learn more about their religion, but their faith is very profound and firm. The church in America is going to be enriched by acceptance of the Hispanic."