...in my summer assignment here in Pikeville, and I realized I hadn't taken time to post to my blog for a couple of weeks. Here toward the end of the summer, I've been a bit busier as it began to get closer to two events that will cap off my summer 'vacation'.
First, I've been privileged to be a part of the group preparing to host a diocesan wide retreat for young adults (late teens to early twenties) called "SEARCH". SEARCH is a retreat designed to help young adults make an important transition in their faith journey to living an adult faith journey that is authentically their own in some respects. I'm gathering this from what I've learned at the preparation meetings - I've never been on SEARCH before. It is somewhat unique in that the retreat is led by other young adults who have previously made a SEARCH retreat themselves. I got invited in a dual role as the designated 'gopher' for the staff, as well as the 'token seminarian' - each SEARCH has a token married couple, a token single person, a token priest, and a token seminarian; each participates on the staff of the retreat in some form as well as speaking at a session of the retreat about the particular vocation they are living. SEARCH is this coming weekend - pray for the staff and all who will participate. (Check out our SEARCH website, www.searchky.org).
Second, some long time blog readers will remember the ROCK THE COLLAR road trip I took last year with my brother seminarians around the diocese. We're doing the trip again this year - jumping in a Dodge Durango and travelling around the diocese - one parish each day for nearly two weeks - getting to know the priests and people we may one day be blessed to serve. With some changes in our group of seminarians, I'm honored to take a stronger leadership role in this year's trip - and it has taken some time to prepare for that.
So what else have I been up to? Let's see... I've been working with the parish administrative assistant on creating a new parish photo directory - we've got that pretty much in shape and will be ready to publish it just before my assignment ends. (Who needs professional photographers and all that expense when we've got digital cameras, Microsoft Publisher, and color laser printers?) I've also been setting up the necessary arrangements for the community to do non-profit fundraising on eBay. You wouldn't BELIEVE the different hoops to jump through to get that set up - but the good news is, now the parish can sell all KINDS of things on eBay as a way to raise money for the school and missions.
I've spent some time in the Pike County missions as well (thought not as much I would have liked). A couple of weekends ago while I was off to a SEARCH meeting, there was a small flood at the Phelps mission, so one day last week I went up there with Fr. Wil to do a small amount of cleanup. This week there was a group of folks from a religious community at the Elkhorn City mission doing some home repair for families in the area and some work at the thrift store - so this evening Fr. Wil and I went over there to celebrate mass and share a (FABULOUS) meal with them. I met and spent some time talking with an amazing young woman from Kenya who is discerning God's call in her life, and trying to pray and listen to where that calling may lead. Pray with me for her - she has an amazing love for those in this world who society all to easily pushes out of sight and out of mind (and, as much as I hate to say that, I include even our Catholic society in that indictment). May God bless her in His calling for her life and ministry.
I've also been helping coordinate some small repairs and risk management items here at the parish that need to be attended to. And of course, doing quite a bit of reading. LOL.
When its all said and done, the assignment has been nothing that I expected. In fact, in many ways, its been everything but what I expected. I could go so far as to say its been anything other than what I needed...but that would be premature. Who am I to judge what I do or don't need right now on this journey? What I do know is that where ever we are, whatever we are doing, if we're listening for God to speak and looking for Him to work in our lives - well, He's right there! :-) And, I've certainly found that to be true this summer as well.
I have learned that the mission areas of our diocese - if they're like the parish and missions of Pike County - are beautiful places, with beautiful and loving people, and it would be an honor to serve them. As different as ministry looks on the surface here in Pike County, from what I've seen there are important and fundamental similarities: making Christ present in the community; loving the people around you - within the Church or not; bringing good news - The Good News - to the world...much more by what you do (and especially, perhaps, what you do and how you do it when you're falling far short of the mark) than by anything you say.
I'm far from perfect. I'm far from having all the answers. I'm just another sinner - goofing, making mistakes, tripping over the same shoelaces day in and day out sometimes. But I'm excited by knowing that how I live THAT life has the power to help others see a loving Savior reaching out to them as well. ;-)
Anyway... that's what I've been up to.
Here are some pictures of the people and places of the community that has welcomed me these past weeks:
Jesus of the Mountains in Phelps, KY:
The Jesus of the Mountains Catholic Church
The living room of this house is converted into our worship space for the Phelps community. Here you see the altar where Fr. Wil presides at the Mass, while the assembly sits in the orange chairs which you see.
The Tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved is directly across from the altar behind two or three rows of chairs where the assembly gather for Mass. In the right of the picture you see the kitchen of the converted house, which doubles as a sacristy.
The Catholic community at Phelps just after the Saturday evening Mass.
St. Joseph the Worker in Elkhorn City, KY:
St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church.
Just inside the Church building, you see first the Easter Candle and Baptismal Font, beyond which is setup several chairs where the assembly gathers for mass, and just beyond those the altar where Fr. Wil presides at Mass.
Some of the Catholic community at Elkhorn City with Alan following a Sunday morning mass.
Sunday morning might be the only day you'd find the Thrift Store empty. Here's a picture of part of the store, which is run in the basement of the Elkhorn City church.