The Home of Sister Thea

I’m going to double back a few weeks now, to my final visit in my recent southern swing, a trip that reminded me that it isn’t just COVID that can derail one’s best laid plans.

It was a Friday afternoon and I was buzzing into Baton Rouge, La., for a full weekend of activities in one of the most Catholic areas of the country. I had a concert, an art show, a Magnificat breakfast all on tap before hitting the French Quarter for Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe, International Shrine of St. Jude. Just then, I got a phone call from Father Tony, who informed me it wasn’t likely the church would be conducting Mass on Sunday due to the hurricane bearing down on New Orleans, a storm I knew nothing about.

Being a Northerner unfamiliar with these tropical storms, I hightailed it out of the Bayou for higher and drier ground. Not wanting to waste a perfectly good weekend in the south, I headed north to Mississippi, intent on pushing ahead my visit to Holy Child of Jesus in Canton and its sister parish, Sacred Heart in Camden. Holy Child is the home church of the late Sister Thea Bowman, for whom a canonization effort has already begun.

Despite my unannounced visit to the Parishes of Madison County, it was a wonderful weekend, kicked off by an afternoon with Sister Dorothy Kundlinger, who traveled with and cared for Sister Thea in the last years of the Sister Thea’s life, and was greeted warmly by the small but lively parishes of Sacred Heart and Holy Child, where the inspiring nun is still very present.

I have included a few photos from both parishes. As a bonus below you can find a link to part of Sister Thea’s remarks to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1989, when she spurred those older gentleman to stand up, hold hands and sing We Shall Overcome, a testament to her courage and commitment in her pursuit of the faith.

The DIY cross outside Sacred Heart
The colorful altar acknowledging the parish’s African roots.

The parishioners of Holy Child of Jesus.

Father Guy Wilson delivers his homily behind a painting of Sister Thea Bowman.

Interview at St. Joseph

During my recent visit to St. Joseph University Parish in Buffalo, I was invited to sit down with Claire Rung of the parish staff to talk about the book. The finished product is available at You Tube. I have to hand it to Claire. She did a remarkable job making me sound much more polished and confident than I felt.

A link to the video is here.

Experiencing the Eastern Church

One of the really neat aspects of the pilgrimage I’ve undertaken is to encounter things truly new to me. My visit to Atlanta in late August was just such an experience. For the first time, though not the last, I experienced the Liturgy in a parish outside the Roman Catholic tradition.

St. John Chrysostom is part of the Melkite Church, an Eastern church with roots in Greece, Syria, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East that is in communion with the Holy See. I was invited by Father John to the parish, where I enjoyed Orthos (the prayer service) and Divine Liturgy, followed by lunch and the opportunity to meet many of the parishioners.

It was an enlightening experience, one that serves as a reminder of the breadth and diversity of our Catholic faith.

For the architectural buffs among my readers, it’s worth noting that the church building was once the mansion of Coca Cola Company Founder Asa Candler. I’d say now it’s closer to the Real Thing.

The church is located in the Druid Hills section of Atlanta.
There’s no mistaking the Middle Eastern style.
In the Byzantine Church, they don’t use statues, only iconography.

The ceiling above the sanctuary.

Worshiping Outdoors in Alabama

This past week was the first time I’ve been on the road for an extended period, venturing across the south over the course of nine days. I’m just now playing catch up.

My visit started in Alabama, in the river town of Tallassee. The parish there is St. Vincent de Paul, though that’s not where I spent the Vigil Mass.

Each Saturday in the summer, SVdP moves its Vigil Mass to the Church in the Pines, a nondenominational outdoor structure located just a few feet from Lake Martin. Vacationers, boaters and other summer sorts take a break from their leisurely activities to worship.

My experience featured virtually all of the elements of the outdoor Mass setting, beginning in the sweltering heat of an August day in Alabama, watching the darkening clouds behind Father Mateusz Rudzik while thunder rumbled in the distance, feeling the spray of the blowing rain when it finally broke through, then watching the skies clear again for a beautiful sunset.

You can see where the Church in the Pines gets its name.

Catholic Radio Appearance

Tomorrow morning, Thursday, Aug. 19, I’ll be featured for about 10-12 minutes on a radio station in Kansas City. I had a nice conversation with host Ken Billinger yesterday, to be broadcast between 7:35 and 7:50 a.m. Thursday on his program.

He’s also welcomed me to come back periodically to update him on the trip.

Here’s the link below if you’d like to listen live. And many thanks to Ken for reaching out to me to set this up.