Caring for the Body and Soul

St. John Paul II Catholic Mission will not exactly wow anyone who comes to this page looking for grand cathedrals. Yet it’s a major step up from where the parish was just a few months ago.

The church is a mission of the Glenmarys, the Cincinnati-based order that establishes a Catholic presence in places that historically had none, often the rural south. That describes Rutledge, Tennessee, pretty thoroughly.

The Glenmary Home Missioners have been in Rutledge for the past decade, recently moving out of their storefront parish to a new church building. Two weeks after I descended on Grainger County, Most Rev. Richard Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville was there to dedicate the new church.

I came to Tennessee, and Rutledge, to profile the wonderful work of the St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic, a mobile health facility that travels across Eastern Tennessee, bringing much-needed services to the uninsured and under-insured in the rural communities.

Rutledge is truly rural Tennessee.

The newly built St. John Paul II Catholic Mission.

Father Neil of the Glenmary Missioners.

The St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic rolls up to St. John Paul II Mission.

Sister Mary Lisa Renfer is the medical director of St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic. In addition to being a Sister of Mercy, she’s also a medical doctor.

Our Bethlehem

Of all the places I visited on my trip, none sounded nearly as biblical as my chosen spot in Pennsylvania – Bethlehem.

I was there to attend Mass at Notre Dame of Bethlehem. That’s where Rev. Bernard Ezaki serves as associate pastor.

But I was also there to profile Father Ezaki’s other role, as chaplain at nearby Kolbe Academy. Kolbe is the nation’s only faith-based recovery high school, treating young men and women addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. It’s a neat place.

As noted before, these chronicles are not happening in real time. In fact, I spent the past weekend in Wyoming, the 51st destination. I’ll make my last visit the last weekend of July.

Above the entrance to Notre Dame of Bethlehem
Inside the church.

The Garden State Beckons

Again, it’s been a while. In my defense, I just last week returned from a rather lengthy trip to Alaska and Hawaii (photos to come, much, much later), so I was somewhat occupied. Yes, I can sense your “Oh, it must be so rough” sentiment from here.

This batch of photos comes from my trip to Belmar, New Jersey, a town close to the midpoint of the Garden State on the Atlantic Ocean. I was there for the vigil Mass, then drove a few miles south to spend the evening with old high school pals Jim Bilello, Chuck Durr and Kevin Keon. A nice side benefit of the trip has been the opportunity to catch up with some friends and relatives here and there.

The book itself is rounding into shape. I still don’t know exactly when it will be published, but it won’t be long now before it’s off to the publisher’s. I will obviously keep you posted about when it hits the shelves.

Thanks as always for following along.

The altar at St. Rose
The exterior of the church.
A statute of Mary, complete with Rosaries.
Natural light streaks across the church before the vigil Mass.

A Church Grows in Blythewood

Staying in the Carolinas, I spent Divine Mercy Sunday (see, I told you I had a lot of catching up to do) at Transfiguration Parish in Blythewood, S.C.

Transfiguration is relatively young, as the photos likely demonstrate. The church was founded in 2000 in a rural area north of Columbia. As you can see, the beauty at Transfiguration is largely found outside the church, which sits on a couple of hundred acres of land and is surrounded by tall trees. The parish has made good use of the setting.

From the perspective of the book, Transfiguration was a somewhat unique stop on my trip, as I was there to profile a single lay person, a lovely woman named Connie Turgeon who I’m sure all will find inspirational.

I didn’t get any photos of Connie, because I’m often dumb like that.

The sun rises over Transfiguration.
The outdoor Stations of the Cross.
A walking Rosary.
The modest interior at Transfiguration.

A Transformation in Charlotte

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

All the way back in April, the first weekend after Easter, I visited the Carolinas for Masses in on successive days. The first stop was St. Ann, home to what was once described by parishioners as the “ugliest church in Charlotte.”

A years-long campaign means that’s no longer the case, as the church has embarked on a building project and a corresponding in artwork to adorn the worship space. More work on the growing parish community is taking place between the church and an activity center. I also have photos of that, but it’s mostly gravel and chain link fences, so I’m omitting it from the collection here.

St. Ann has a well-attended Latin Mass among its weekly services, and thus the church has several features prominent to that kind of traditional setting, including the pulpit pictured below.

Thanks again to all who have been following me. I’m winding down rapidly now, with just six stops remaining on the actual trip.

Murals behind the altar.
The parish has added a tremendous amount of iconography and statues in the past decade.

The pulpit, fitting of a parish where the Latin Mass is celebrated.