Tara Bone, contributing writer
Since the Catholic church’s first mass in Cache Valley 104 years ago, the church has grown along with the Valley, steadily outgrowing buildings and overcoming challenges to become a thriving faith community with members throughout the region, but centered at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Hyde Park.
Father Joseph Minuth, parish administrator, says this year has been a rebuilding year while the church experiences new growth. He and church members are putting an emphasis on reintroducing traditions that have been lost with creation of a group called “Luke Two Forty”. The group’s goal is to teach youth underlying gospel truths and bring back “things that make life rich.”
“The hope is that by bringing back these feasts and festivals, they will remind youth that they are descendants of many people who fought for them to have their faith,” Father Joseph said. “It just didn’t happen. We had to work at it.”
Father Joseph says over time, honored traditional celebrations fell away. Many of these celebrations have ancient origins and some include All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day in November, Our Lady of Guadalupe in December, St. Joseph’s Table in March, The Crowning of Mary on Mother’s Day, and Mardi Gras, which is 47 days before Easter.
Often these celebrations bridge cultures — both anciently and modernly, as is the case with the Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLOG) Mass and celebration. Father Joseph says St. Thomas has an active and vibrant Hispanic population that looks forward to this celebration. Held every December at the church, it reminds all Catholics of reconciliation among different groups.
According to writer and church member, Christina Ledesma, during the celebration Danza Azteca Queutzalcoatl, a performing group from Idaho with 20 to 25 dancers in brightly colored and feathered costumes, honors OLOG through reverent dance and rhythmic music.
Rogelio Luna, a Danza Azteca Queutzalcoatl member explains, “The dance is Aztec and represents the bridge between two cultures that existed when Mexico was conquered by the Spaniards. The dance helped unify the Aztec … to embrace the Catholic faith.”
Named after Cardinal Newman from England, the USU Newman Center is one of more than 2,000 Newman Centers throughout the US. The Newman Center in Logan provides bible study classes and activities for USU students of all faith backgrounds.
Bringing people together of all cultures and ages has been part of St. Thomas from the beginning. Their first church, dedicated in 1942, housed parishioners at 45 East 500 North in Logan until members outgrew the space in the mid-1950s. Then the diocese purchased a former fraternity near Utah State University (USU) at 795 North 800 East and it became St. Jerome’s Parish and a Newman Center that serves USU students.
When parishioners outgrew this chapel, they worked to plan and raise funds for a new building. In 2005, the current chapel and community center in Hyde Park was dedicated. St. Thomas provides Mass every day, and offers a variety of programs for youth and adults. The church’s volunteer ministries deliver services to hundreds of local residents.
Father Joseph has only been in Cache Valley since August 2021 and has been busy overseeing the growing church, but has enjoyed his experience.
“The people I’ve worked with are amazing and wonderful,” he said. “They are very self-giving, and, in my experience, those are the happiest people there are.”
One of those “happiest” people at St. Thomas is Rita Hofmeister. Rita is an 88-year-old member from Richmond who says she has been a Catholic all her life and finds joy in her ministries. Rita sets up mass often for Father, delivers communion to those who can’t come to church, volunteers for Meals on Wheels and the Cache Food Pantry every week, and is known for her smile and wearing purple every day.
Rita Hofmeister of Richmond has been a devout member of St. Thomas for 13 years; she serves the church, Cache County Food Pantry, and Meals on Wheels. She’s known for her never-ending service, smile, and favorite color purple!
Of St. Thomas Aquinas she says, “I don’t ever want to leave [St. Thomas Aquinas]; everyone is so willing to do anything you ask,” Rita said. “I’m very blessed and lucky.”