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A church is not a church until all the people are in it, and Sunday St. Paul’s new Catholic Church became a church when more than 1,500 people crowded into it.

“Today, the church is really a church ... Look at all the people in it,” Father John Morgan said during the homily.

The third Catholic Church in more than 119 years — each one built to accommodate a larger parish — was still not large enough to handle all the faithful who showed up at the new location on Roosevelt Avenue to celebrate the official dedication of the $5 million church.

More than 20 priests, from Morgan who as a Nampa native was ordained in 1958, to Father Jose Ramirez — the most recent native son of St. Paul’s — participated. They joined Bishop Michael Driscoll in the three-hour ceremony steeped in tradition, including the oldest rite dating back to the early 4th Century when relics of various saints were placed under the altar.

But even though one church closes and another opens, the history, including the names of Nampa’s Catholic men and women lives on in the “Book of the Dead,” held in a special box under the altar. The first entry is 1901.

Attendees watched with interest as the choir sang religious songs and priests anointed the walls and Bishop Driscoll wiped down the altar with holy oil.

St. Paul’s current priest, Father Gerald Funke, beamed with pride as the dedication unfolded.

“It is a blessed and beautiful day for St. Paul’s parish,” Funke said after the Mass. “I hope it will add to the beauty and grace of Nampa.”

Fundraising started in 2002 and with the exception of a couple hundred thousand dollars, the 22,000-square-foot building is paid for.

“The Lord has made this day for us in many and varied ways — in the children of the parish skipping forward to offer their coins and dollar bills, in the preparation and selling of seemingly countless tacos and baked goods, and in the many miles walked on those early Sunday mornings in June,” Funke wrote in the dedication program.

Thanks to generous and sacrificial gifts and the inspired work of the planning committees, the new church is possible, Funke added.

Pam Pavelek of Pavelek Planning and Design had two missions. The first was to create a worship space worthy of the Lord and reminiscent of St. Paul and the lands where he and Jesus would have been preaching. Pavelek, a Catholic herself, visited the Holy Land in 2007, and took photos of the ancient ruins, capturing much of the Corinthian details of those days. Corinth was an ancient Greek city occupied by the Romans during that time.

It was also important to merge the old of St. Paul’s Catholic Church, including the treasured stained glass windows, with the new.

A large mosaic medallion at the entrance pays tribute to the church’s namesake, St. Paul. Funke, who regularly leads tours to the Holy Land, saw a similar one in Jordan and wanted it in the new church, Pavelek said. It was donated by the Dorothy Vauk Family.

Pavelek said several local artists and businesses were tapped for the massive project, and even the pews came from The Marshall Company out of Payette.

Parishioners were excited Sunday as they waited for the doors to open.

“I have such mixed feelings about leaving the old church and going to the new one,” life-long Nampan Vicki Hauge said. “Old St. Paul’s is the only church I know and I have so many memories. But it is so exciting to move to the new St. Paul’s. It’s such a beautiful building for the glory of God.”

Hauge, who has made the altar cloths for the church for years, made the new cloth for the new 8-foot cantera stone altar from Mexico.

Parishioner Rusty Boicourt, who chaired the Building on Faith Steering Committee since 1999, said it is very humbling to see the project completed.

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