Sunday, August 25, 2013

(121) WE ARE St. Louis Church Gallipolis……. A Vibrant Parish Community of Faith and Prayer; Love of God and His People

                St. Louis Church Gallipolis of the Diocese of Steubenville is the only Catholic church in rural Gallia County nestled in the southeastern Ohio in the middle of the Bible Belt.  It has only one priest, Fr. Thomas Hamm and 120 families or some 300 souls.  It has many of the same problems that plagues the Catholic Church……decreasing Mass attendance and interest in parish functions and organization, financial struggles, a drifting youth after Confirmation, etc.  Yet miraculously, St. Louis Church thrives with the help of God as it guides souls to Him.  Our goal for this Sunday Bulletin insert is to promote parish community and an appreciation of our parish and all that it has to offer.  At the same time I hope to show the importance and recognize the contributions of each person.  As with anything I write for the Bulletin I ask for the imprimatur (approval) of the Theology involved from our Pastor………that there is nothing that contradicts the Magisterium of Holy Mother the Church.

WE ARE St. Louis Church

            Our annual parish festival not only celebrates the feast day (August 25) of St. Louis IX, the patron of our parish church, but also its members who make up our parish community as part of the mystical Body of Christ.  It’s a time when we all come together to pray, to celebrate, and work together to raise funds for the common good of our parish community.  So many different people pull together and contribute to the success of the Festival year after year with their time, energy, donations, and participation.

        That’s what community is all about……a group of interdependent people organized to obtain common goals, the ultimate goal in our case being holiness and Heaven for all of us.  You have talents and skills I don’t have and I have skills and talents you don’t have.  So we work together to help each other here on earth on the way to eternity under the leadership and coordination of our pastor who is the celebrant at Mass, administers the sacraments, teaches, admonishes, counsels, visits the sick, and manages the parish with the assistance of the secretaries and the Parish Council.  It is the parish priest that brings us into the Church in Baptism, educates and forms us along the way, prepares couples and officiates at our marriages, and ultimately sends us off into eternity at our funerals and finally the grave site.  He is there during success and health, during illness, accident, and personal or family crisis.   

          Since there’s no way that the pastor can do it all, he needs our help.  Thus our time, talent, and treasure are indispensable throughout the year.  This is especially evident at Sunday Mass, in our different parish organizations and activities such as our Annual Church Festival, dinners after funerals, etc. 

          Help in Our Quest for Holiness.  To achieve that by one’s self is impossible without the graces received through Mass, the Sacraments, teachings, parish activities, and the prayerful support of the parish community.  Every week we gather to fulfill our very serious Sunday obligation to offer with the priest the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass as Calvary is brought to us in a mysterious unbloody way that transcends time.  Then as the Jews would consume the sacrificial lamb in the Old Testament, we consume the Lamb of God as we receive Christ Himself……body and blood, soul and divinity plus sacramental graces.  The ushers greet and direct the people to their seats, collect our material offerings, and pass out the bulletins.  The well-rehearsed choir leads us in poetic songs of praise.  Melodic beauty is added to the Mass as they who sing, pray twice.  The servers assist the priest at the altar.  The lector does the readings and leads the Offertory Petitions.  Families are honored as gift bearers in bringing up the gifts to the priest.  Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers help the priest distribute Holy Communion when there are too many communicants for the priest to handle in a short time.   

         When everyone enthusiastically participates in song and devoutly follows along with the priest, the Mass becomes vibrant, fulfilling, and powerful as we get a little taste of Heaven.  Only the passive, who do not really understand the Mass, become bored.

            In addition to Sunday Mass, the parish offers numerous opportunities to help us to become holy.  To enter Heaven, we must first be holy; otherwise we will become holy at best during a long and difficult stay in purgatory.  It’s much easier on earth.  There are numerous opportunities to get back on track and advance in holiness in Confession…..before every Mass, during Adoration, after the morning Mass on the first Thursday of every month, special Penance services before Christmas and Easter, and by appointment.  Soon to be Saint John Paul II went to confession every week.

         It was a tough old Vietnam combat veteran, who suggested to Msgr. Myers that we have Eucharistic Adoration.  Father consented under the condition that he would guarantee that there would always be somebody there even if that has to be him alone.  He has been faithful to that promise including during the annual all-night vigil for life on December 8.  Now he’s praying for a great revival in our parish that would make perpetual adoration possible.  One step forward is an hour of adoration three mornings before daily Mass.  The first Sunday of the month adoration from 11 am – 4 pm is a great opportunity to know the Lord in a more personal way, obtain consolation and help to cope with problems and decisions, to do spiritual reading, to meditate, to pray.  The afternoon of adoration concludes with vespers from the Divine Office and Benediction.  Nationwide, perpetual adoration has transformed parishes.  Even our limited adoration has had a significant effect and our parish has become more dynamic since it started.

         Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, who is on the road to canonization, would prepare his nationally televised homilies in front of the Blessed Sacrament (see EWTN for weekly reruns).  During the late 1950s and 1960s, he often had the top audience rating when placed head to head against the top comedian of the day on Tuesdays 8 pm on prime time.  They became friends by the way.  

          Before each Mass on the first Saturday and Sunday of the month, we say the holy rosary.  During Lent there are Stations of the Cross that help us to appreciate and learn from our Lord’s passion.  In October on the Saturday closest to the 13th, the anniversary of Our Lady’s last appearance to the three shepherd children and the Miracle of the Sun sign at Fatima in 1917, we have a Rosary Prayer Rally at the City Park on 1st Street.  In response to a deathbed wish of Fred Edelmann, the Knights of Columbus sponsor the recitation of the rosary before all the Masses on the first Saturday and first Sunday of every month. 

The Immaculate Heart of Mary is the Patroness of the Diocese of Steubenville.
              In the background is our John Paul the Great Parish Hall constructed in 2010. 

    The beautiful church, rectory, parish hall, and grounds are the fruits of years of work, planning, fund raising, and sacrifice since 1908.  Even the century old windows are a testament to this.  The flowers are the result of the tender loving care of a few “little flowers”, i.e., a group of our ladies.  In addition, Josh Davison did some great work on the landscaping outside.

     Although parents for good or bad are always the primary educators in the faith, lay volunteers help them as a supplement by teaching and preparing their children for First Reconciliation, First Communion, Confirmation, and the spiritual life in CCD plus the Vacation Bible School.  An hour and a half per week is nowhere near enough, yet crucial, especially when parents don’t take their great mission seriously. 

     Adult Education provides opportunities to learn more about the faith.  There’s a series during Lent and we have had Bible Study while the kids are in CCD.  Our pastor is so knowledgeable and informative, a walking encyclopedia.  He’s a holy priest, one who enjoys performing his priestly functions.  We’re so blessed, but don’t realize it.  We have had week long parish missions in the past.  RCIA is not only for those interested in possibly converting to the Catholic Faith.  Everybody is welcome to learn more about the faith, especially lapsed Catholics.  We participate in diocesan men’s and women’s conferences plus retreats, excursions, and mini-pilgrimages as to EWTN in Alabama. Our diocese has Marriage Encounter to strengthen marriages be they strong or on the verge of breaking. With fewer Catholic schools and nuns, the sad reality is:  the average Catholic in the pew does not know his/her faith.  Thus it is so easy to convert to another faith or lose the true faith entirely. 

     Social functions are excellent to foster parish solidarity as people get to know each other better and develop friendships.   We have pancake breakfasts after every Mass on the second Sunday of the Month, including Mother’s Day.  There is a parish New Year’s Party with ribs, another party before the start of Lent, Friday evening fish fries during Lent, occasional pot-luck dinners after Sunday Adoration, the Knights of Columbus Awards Dinner, and the Parish Picnic in the summer.  The Women’s Club occasionally holds a movie night.  “For Greater Glory” was a thriller and so historic.  Your attendance is crucial at any parish function for parish solidarity and developing a strong parish community.  Indeed your presence can make the difference between success and failure of any event.  Your absence produces a little vacuum and can be demoralizing to all.  Something is missing that you can add.

     Did you know that St. Louis Church has a men’s softball team and a women’s team in the Gallipolis Church League for great ecumenical fellowship and fun?  Our men’s teams are always competitive.  Call Mike Edelmann at 441-1989.  It even attracts lapsed Catholics to its team.  That’s a positive step.  Come to one of the games and see the “Not Top Ten Plays” and even some great ones.   Once when they were desperately short-handed, I made a dramatic comeback from retirement, but my feet got tangled as I tripped and fell on my way to first base.  I was out.

     Work Sessions.  Every year all members of the parish are invited to put up and take down the Christmas decorations inside and outside.  For Lent and Easter, there’s decorations again.  Mike Haas, Red Babbit, Matt Bokovitz, and others have given much of their time, talent, and energy to numerous maintenance projects in the parish and some outreach to the poor as well.   Occasionally there’s cleaning of the Church to help our wonderful janitorial staff.  Before Memorial Day, volunteers spruce up the cemetery.

             Our Lenten Fish Fries bring not only us together, but the surrounding community as many as 200 people from other churches coming for a great meal and fellowship, community leaders, politicians, retirees, families, etc.  Inspiring is the way our parish family pulls together to put in on.......organizing it, buying the food, cooking, serving, waiting on tables, busing tables, cleaning up, etc.  John Payne, a master cook, shares his culinary gifts with us at this function and other dinners.  John is at the center on the grill.   

     Parish Organizations.  The Catholic Women’s Club has great fellowship, fosters the spiritual growth of its members, and helps out in the parish and in the community (call Marty Edelmann at 446-0150).  The Knights of Columbus do the same with the men and more.  Being a national Catholic fraternal organization, its projects in the community are more developed as Special Olympics at GD, Coats for Kids, etc.  Its life insurance program to protect families is probably the best in the insurance industry.  Besides having among the very highest financial ratings in the insurance industry, it gives rebates and provides millions not for the stockholders, but for Knights of Columbus charities.  Call Matt Bokovitz at 745-709-1021.  

     The YACHT Club, our youth group, has service projects and fun activities with opportunities to grow in the faith.  Call Barbara White at 740-853-1868.  Furthermore, the parish provides a Catholic presence at the University of Rio Grande with the Newman Club (call Paul Sebastian at 245-9404).  These parish groups can do so much more; the only limitation is the number of members willing and able to actively participate with their energy and enthusiasm.

     The Sick.  We bring Holy Communion to the sick twice a week.  Fr. Tom administers the Anointing of the Sick as needed.  Be sure to inform the parish at 446-0669 especially when a family member is very sick, hospitalized, or confined to a nursing home.  Patty Hays manages a prayer chain on line.  You can contact her with your prayer request at  Two of our ladies visit patients of all faiths in nursing homes to comfort and show that we care. 
     The Poor.  Outreach, a community effort to help the poor with clothes and food, has its origins with St. Louis Church.  Call Sherry or Gary Fenderbosch at 446-8657 to help.  The Giving Tree of presents for children during Advent is a tradition.  Members donate food for Christmas baskets and pantries.  Furthermore, there are special collections for local people who are hurting as well as others for diocesan Catholic Charities and abroad in Catholic Relief, etc.   

     Our parishioners participate in the monthly ecumenical Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen every month (call Jaga Sebastian at 245-9404) as well as ecumenical Lenten luncheons.  The French 500 Free Clinic (the last Thursday of the Month 1-4 pm for the uninsured) has its origins in St. Louis Church.  In addition Allie Clark is very involved in a prison ministry, playing a vital role in rehabilitation which aspires to turn the lives of her women around.

     Right to Life of Gallia County is ecumenical, but St. Louis Church is the driving force.  Every January it participates in the March for Life in Washington, educates with booths at the fairs and flea markets, and organizes a Life Chain in October.  Call Mike Merry at (740)395-6226.
     So many have contributed.  THANK YOU all for helping to make our parish more active and vibrant.  Imagine what we could do if everyone would be active!  Are you taking advantage of everything our parish has to offer?  It is amazing how much goes on in our little parish of 120 families and 300 souls. 

     Lord God, constantly renew our parish and us too.  Please help us and our parish to become more dynamic, cohesive, and holy, ever closer to you.  Keep us faithful.  Help us to not only keep the faith, but to spread it.  Then individually and as a parish we as your instruments will become according to your will a force for good in the surrounding community, state, and nation as we reverse the national slide into godless secularism and put Christian principles into our jobs in the market place, in the schools as teachers, in government, in health care, etc. as your case may be. 

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