A pastor explains why it’s the people who make the difference at St. Michael Parish in Kalida, Ohio, and nearby St. John in Continental, Ohio.
By Fr. Mark Hoying, C.PP.S.
Greetings from St. Michael in Kalida, Ohio, and St. John in Continental. With two parishes and one priest, there is always something happening to keep me busy. So I don’t know where to begin to describe all the ministry that happens here.
When anyone visits our parishes a comment is always made about the windows. At St. Michael, the windows are from Germany; they are the last windows sent to the United States before World War II. Since the windows were on the ship before the blockade, they were allowed to come into the country.
The windows show scenes of the Mysteries of the Rosary and are just beautiful. Many visitors stop to check out the magnificent building but are always taken by the windows. Instead of making a visit to a church, a small pilgrimage is made by many a visitor traveling on Ohio Route 115. Many remark on the church’s beauty. My comment to visitors is, ”If you think the church is beautiful, wait till you meet the people.”
The people here have a wonderful, vibrant faith that is characterized in many ways. My favorite sign of our parish’s faith is our Vacation Bible School. Over 200 children attend. Songs and dances are performed throughout Kalida all summer. The mysteries of God’s love are shown in joyous, sorrowful and glorious ways to illuminate the world.
At St. John, we have the newest stained glass in Putnam County. We have a different style of windows, which uses new technology. These windows can be seen from inside and out. Four big windows depict the spirit of St. John. Because of our young families and many children coming from multiple small towns, our windows begin with a welcome. Jesus welcomes the children in the first window. All are welcome to join in our parish life, which centers around the feeding of us all by the Lord.
The next window portrays a small boy offering loaves and fish to Jesus to multiply and feed the 5,000. God uses who we are, though small, to build up the Body of Christ. The third window shows a disciple distributing fish and bread to a woman and child. In the Gospel, we hear of the feeding of the 5,000, not counting women and children. As our parish council talked about the windows, we were sure that Jesus would not let anyone go hungry, especially women and children.
As a parish we are called to reach out to those whom others may forget. Which leads to the fourth window of Jesus washing the feet of the apostles. We are called to be servants as Jesus was a servant. After we are fed at the table of the Lord, we are called to make disciples of all nations.
Being a farmer, I enjoy hands-on ministry. Each year the parishes send workers into the field. We have gone to Appalachia in Kentucky in past years to spend a week building or repairing homes. During this week we work, play and pray together. It is a time in which parishioners put their talents to good use and see their pastor in a new light. Many a card game and corn hole match are played. The workers get to see the competitive side of me. They also get to see the chef side as I do a lot of cooking during this ministry week. Along with Vacation Bible School, going to Appalachia is one of my favorite weeks of the year.
One more farmer story of the parishes. Each parish has a garden. At St. Michael, vegetables are grown to be shared especially in soups at parish functions. At the garden at St. John in Continental, pumpkins and gourds are grown to spruce up the altar area in the fall. I have always prayed and worked well together. These gardens provide a retreat spot away from meetings and office work.
Well, one more final farm story. Pigs are still raised, processed and distributed by people in the parish. This past year, the meat was given to the local food bank. We have a waiting list of people who want to help with the butchering process. It is a day of gathering and fun as we recall butchering stories of the past.
Life at the parishes of St. Michael and St. John is wonderful. Faith is put into practice at worship and in daily living. The love of God reaches within our borders and beyond. As St. Gaspar had missionary spirit, so do the people of St. John’s and St. Michael’s. It is a joy to see faith so alive.