Saturday, September 25, 2021

Thursday, September 23, 2021

"SAINT THERESA MUSEUM BRIEF" #5 - Our One Religious Brother"



Born Joseph Leo Burch, Brother Edwin Leonidian is the son of Leo Burch and Elizabeth Abbie (Elder) Burch. After their marriage at St. Theresa, the Burch family moved to St. Louis where Joseph Leo was born July 19, 1914. 

Joseph Leo Burch entered the community of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in 1930. In 1933, he was invested with the holy habit of that community and received his religious name Brother Edwin Leonidian. 

While teaching at St. Mary's College in Winona, Minnesota, in 1936, his health began to fail. He was sent back to St. Louis to Mount Saint Rose Sanitorium for treatment for about a year. Feeling that the country air would be more beneficial, with his Superior's per mission, he went to his grandmother's home in Mooleyville near St. Theresa Church. In the summer of 1939, he died at St. Joseph Infirmary in Louisville. His burial services were held at St. Theresa's and he was laid to rest among his family members in the church cemetery.

Sister of Mercy Sister Mary Bernard Warren, Father Joseph Henry Elder, Brother Edwin Leonidian Burch, Father Henry Lee Egart and Dominican Sister Mary Catherine Buren, all from St. Theresa, died from tuberculosis, (the first at age 31, the second at age 39 and the last 3 at age 25), one of the infectious diseases that took the lives of many young people at that time. In those days, many women died during child birth which explains why so many men married two or three times in their lifetimes. 


Tuesday, September 21, 2021


In June of 2019, I was invited to Notre Dame University to present a paper at their fifth annual conference on Catholic preaching. The title of my paper was "Claiming the Pulpit for Spiritual Leadership and Personal Sanctification."

I was honored two weeks ago when a copy of the book, PREACHING AS SPIRITURAL LEADERSHIP: Guiding the Faithful as Mystic and Mystagogue, arrived and saw that my paper made up Chapter 18 of the book. It was both a tremendous honor and such an affirmation to be included among 24 nationally recognized leaders in Catholic preaching! 


Sunday, September 19, 2021


One of the biggest problems we face today is the ability to distinguish between what is true and what is false! We seem to have lost the ability to know whom to trust! It is so bad now that people who do tell you the truth are condemned, while those who tell you a lie are praised! Even tech companies are having a hard time separating truths from lies and what to do about it when they do know lies are being packaged and spread as truth! People seem to be more susceptible to all this because people want their opinions validated, not challenged. People seem to, more and more, want to hear what they want to hear, believe what they want to believe, do what they want to do and they do not want anyone to challenge them on it! Traffic in misinformation is now a big business! Calling the truth a lie and a lie the truth must be a very old problem if the Book of Wisdom speaks about it as clearly as it does today.

Confronting this twisting of the truth has been called "fraternal correction." “Fraternal correction” is an old religious idea that has fallen out of style, but one that our readings today talk about! “Fraternal correction” is the practice of calling a brother or sister on some destructive action as a way of helping them stop doing that wrong! As you might imagine, it is extremely risky, because the one who receives the criticism almost always acts defensively. “Mind your own business,” “You’ve got a lot of room to talk,” “Who in the hell do you think you are?” are only mild forms of the backlash you might receive in response. You could end up with black eye, missing a tooth, a former friend or even end up seriously maimed in the process! With so many people on edge and so many available guns, you can actually get yourself killed for trying to confront evil! John the Baptist had his head chopped of for having the nerve to tell Herod that it was not right for him to live with his brother’s wife! No wonder the idea of “fraternal correction” has gone out of style! People tend to think that "prophets" are mainly people who predict the future. Not, so! More often than not, "prophets" are simply people who tell the truth when nobody wants to hear it! That's why they usually get killed - not for lying, but for telling the truth to people who don't want to hear it!!

Here again is what out first reading said. Listen to it's warnings to those of us who dare confront evil.

The wicked say:
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for according to his own words, 
God will take care of him.

Wisdom 2:12,17-20

Regardless of how tricky and dangerous it is, the Prophet Ezekiel tells us that it is our obligation to correct others, and others to correct us, when wrong is being done! Ezekiel says, “If you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die and I will hold you responsible for his death.” Whoa! That sounds like another version of Cain’s old question to God about his brother Abel: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer is: “Of course, you are!”

In the gospel, Jesus gives his disciples a four stage process on how “fraternal correction” is to be done. (1) If your brother or sister is in the wrong, first have a “one on one” to discuss it. (2) If that doesn’t work, get a couple of friends together to make the appeal. (3) If that doesn’t work, get the whole faith community to make an appeal. (4) Finally, if that doesn’t work, “treat him like a Gentile or tax collector.”

It is very important to understand this 4th step. How did Jesus treat Gentiles and tax collectors? He loved them anyway! In other words, if all efforts fail, let it go and love them anyway, even if you think they are making a mistake!

I can still remember one very painful experience in particular, from years ago, when I tried “fraternal correction.” It involved one of the one or two weddings that I simply refused to do! A young woman and her boyfriend, both friends of mine, were fighting like cats and dogs. There was infidelity, as well, on both sides. They came in one day and told me that they wanted to get married and asked if I would preside at the wedding. They came to me with the crazy belief that marriage would cure their intense fighting and chronic infidelity!

It would have been easier on me to just go ahead and perform the wedding, and have them to like me, but I knew in my gut that my doing a marriage was not right and that it would not be good for them either. I told them I could not, in good conscience, do their wedding under the circumstances. I finally got up the courage to do the right thing, not the easy thing. They left very angry at me and went to the Lutheran Church where the pastor asked no questions and performed their wedding in a few weeks. The marriage lasted six months and, sadly for them, ended in a very messy and angry divorce. I could not stop them from hurting themselves, but I felt that I had done the loving thing for them, even though they did not appreciate it at the time.

There are times when we absolutely must speak out, especially when others' lives, property or reputation are at stake. We should all know by now that it is illegal, and immoral, not to report a possible Columbine-like situation. We should all know by now that is illegal, and immoral, not to report child abuse, even suspected child abuse. We should all know by now that it is illegal, and immoral, to leave the scene of an accident without offering assistance or calling for help. We should all know by now that we are morally and legally obligated, for the sake of the community, to “blow the whistle” in cases of gross embezzlement, grand theft, pyromania and hazardous exposure.

It is not always appropriate or advisable to confront someone personally, as in cases of suspected spouse or child abuse, grand theft and vandalism. In those cases, there are avenues that provide help and guarantee anonymity. Sometimes, when the situation is not life-threatening but involves close friends or family members, all we can do is speak the truth with love and let it go! Sometimes all we can do is not participate in, encourage or condone immoral behavior! That kind of silence and passivity can speak louder, and sometimes be even more effective, than words! The loving thing is not always the easy thing. The easy thing is not always the loving thing.

We are our brothers and sisters keepers. We are morally obligated to speak out, but we are obligated to speak the truth with love! The goal of “speaking out” is not to hurt, embarrass or get even, but to help the individual and to help the community. As Christians, we are called to do “fraternal correction” for each other. Turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to evil gives it an environment to grow and spread, until it inundates a community and even the world.

In the Confiteor, when we call to mind our sins, we admit to the things we have done and failed to do. The Letter of James says this, “It is a sin to know the right thing to do and not do it!” The famous Edmund Burke put it this way, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for enough good people to do nothing.”

Thursday, September 16, 2021

"SAINT THERESA MUSEUM BRIEF" #4 - "Our Eight Priests"


Our little parish of Saint Theresa of Avila in Rhodelia, Kentucky, has produced 37 Sisters, 8 Priests, 1 Brother and hundreds of lay heroes in its 203 year history. In these periodic little "history briefs," today I will spotlight the eight priests Saint Theresa Church has produced for service in the broader church. .

Born 1829 - Ordained 1855 - Died 1868
Born 1829  - Ordained 1855 - Died 1868  
Born 1864 - Ordained 1887 - Died 1890
Born 1887 - Ordained 1916 - Died 1939
Born 1914 - Ordained 1941 - Died 1985

Born 1925 - Ordained 1950 - Died 1980

Born 1923 - Ordained 1960 - Died 2014
Born 1943 - Ordained 1969 
Born 1944 - Ordained 1970 



Tuesday, September 14, 2021

"SAINT THERESA MUSEUM BRIEF" #3 - "Our Master Carpenters"

Our little parish of Saint Theresa of Avila in Rhodelia, Kentucky, has produced 37 Sisters, 8 Priests, 1 Brother, hundreds of lay heroes and dedicated pastors in its 203 year history. In these periodic little "history briefs," I will spotlight the various religious communities from which they belonged, some of their families and their contributions to Saint Theresa Church. Today, I want to focus on three of it's "master carpenters." 

Mary Ann Wight - With First Wife and Family


Honora T. Brown - With Second Wife and Expanded Family

John Baptist Manning married a third time to Catherine Emma Clark after the death of Honora, his second wife. All together, the Saint Theresa history book lists fourteen children from his three marriages.  

Born in France to non-Catholic parents - emigrated to America with an uncle at age ten.
Learned cabinet making in Louisville. Helped build the Abbey Church at Gethsemani. 
In 1860, he moved to St. Theresa to help finish the present church, met and married Frances Jane Brown Egart (1845-1922). He became a Catholic in 1861. They were parents to St. Theresa's second priest - Fr. Henry Lee Egart, who is buried beside them. Until his death in 1910, George Jean Egart was an exemplary Catholic and loyal member of St. Theresa Church. 

Probably no one, in the history of Saint Theresa, has done more to build the structures of the parish than Father Felix J. Johnson, our pastor from 1937-1960. He was truly a "master builder." 
He installed electric lights in the church, had it frescoed, laid a hardwood floor in the sanctuary and modernized the heating system. He opened the new cemetery. In 1947, he erected our parish hall. He was behind building a new rectory, a new convent and a new school, laying the bricks and overseeing much of the construction work himself.  


Sunday, September 12, 2021


 Peter took Jesus aside and began to scold  him.

Mark 8: 32

Up to this point in the gospel, things were going very well in the ministry of Jesus.  A deaf man had regained his sight. Five thousand had been miraculously fed on one day and four thousand on another. A blind man had regained his sight. A successful exorcism had been performed on a young demon-possessed girl. Another young girl had been lifted well from her sick bed. A woman with a hemorrhage had been restored to health. An insane man had given back his sanity. A man with a withered hand had had it made healthy again. A leper had been cleansed from his leprosy. A crippled man was made able to walk. A deaf man with a speech impediment was able to hear and speak plainly.

Peter was so overcome with excitement by all these miraculous things that he was moved to call Jesus the "Messiah."  In this gospel, Peter was the very first one to do this. The "Messiah" was the "promised one to come" that Jews had looked forward to for centuries, the one who would do the very things that Jesus was doing. The lights went on for Peter! He came to the conclusion that Jesus just had to be the "Messiah” – the awaited One that had finally come! 

Jesus immediately took the wind out of his sails, telling him that the Messiah would not only do wondrous things, but would have to go through great suffering, rejection by religious authorities and even death on a cross. Only then would he rise victorious from the dead after three days. 

Peter did not like what he was hearing one bit, so he took Jesus aside to scold him. "Look, Jesus, we are on a roll here. The people are behind you. Soon we will be able to conquer these foreign Roman invaders occupying our country and finally throw them out. Then you can be our King and we can all be part of your royal court. Please don't blow it now with all your negativity about suffering and death!" 

When he heard this, Jesus spun around in disgust and thought to himself, "Satan said he would be back to tempt me again and here he is disguised as one of my leading apostles, Peter!" Jesus then looked around at all of his disciples and addressed Peter directly, "Get behind me, Satan! You are not thinking like God, but like human beings! I went through these kinds of temptations in the desert before I began my ministry! I rejected them then and I reject them now! What you are thinking about is not God’s plan for me! Now stop it right now!" 

As Peter's face fell, Jesus addressed the whole crowd following him, "Now listen up, because you all need to get one thing straight! If you are going to follow me, you need to be ready to suffer with me, for whoever loses his life my sake will save it. Otherwise, if you go down the path that Peter has just proposed, you will certainly lose your life! You will not be thinking like God, but like human beings!"

Just because Jesus stood up to Peter in this story, we do not need to conclude that it's never OK to scold and argue with God. The fact is, many of the major figures in the Bible and church history argued, scolded and had words with God - people like Job, Jeremiah and Theresa of Avila. Just as Peter learned a lesson today, sometimes the only way they learned what God's will was for them was through a struggle. As any good teacher knows, encouraging, challenging, questioning, discussion and debate are the best way to learn. Like students, when disciples are allowed to think through and discover things for themselves, the best learning takes place. 

The prophet, Jeremiah, is a case in point.  Jeremiah was a very young man when God called him to be a prophet and to preach in his name. God said to Jeremiah, "Hey, Jeremiah! I've had my eye on you since the moment you were conceived! I have a job for you! I want you to go to the people and preach my message to them!" What was Jeremiah's response? "No thank you! I'm not interested in preaching to anybody! I'm too young! I have other things I want to do in life! Besides, I'm not good at public speaking!" God snaps back, "Do as I say and don't give me any of your lame excuses! Wherever I send you, I will be with you! Don't worry about what you are to say. I will put the right words into your mouth as you go along."

This wasn't the last time that Jeremiah argued with God. After he was deeply involved in his ministry as prophet, and everything seemed to be going wrong, Jeremiah returns to give God a royal chewing out.  "You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.  I should have known better than say “yes” to you! When I speak in your name, I am the butt of people's jokes and mockery. I’ll tell you what! I quit! Take this job and shove it. I ain't working here no more! From now on, I am never going to mention your name again!"   

After he had unloaded his guns on God, Jeremiah must have felt better because he follows his rant with these words. "On the other hand, God, I have to admit that your words are like a fire in my heart. They are embedded in my bones. I grow tired trying to hold them in. I guess I'll just have to keep doing what you want me to do!"

Saint Theresa of Avila was a great woman of very deep faith, but she was not afraid of giving God a piece of her mind every once in a while. One time, I read somewhere, she went to the chapel and prayed for a safe trip on one of her many journeys around Spain. Everything imaginable went wrong on that trip. When she got back to the convent, she marched right into the chapel and yelled, "If this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!"

Many of us grew up being told that faith is about unthinking trust and acceptance of God, the Bible, the teachings of the Church and the trials of life. To question any of those things was to demonstrate a weak faith and a blasphemous heart. However, faith does not grow through unthinking submission, but through a process of questioning that leads to understanding. Just as Jacob wrestled with the angel of God in the Book of Genesis, a real commitment to God often involves a deep, honest and sustained wrestling with God.  The only sin is never to enter the wrestling ring, but just walk away because the struggle is too much trouble! The real sin is to dismiss God without ever really engaging him, without even arguing with him! If you insist on rejecting God and his Church, at least do it after an honest fight! At least, give God a chance to win!

I challenged you today to enter the ring with the rest of us who remain in the church. Remember, we go into the ring as a tag team. Together, we wrestle with God - in here and out there. We need to put up a good fight and not wimp out just because we are just too lazy or too scared. God will win, of course, but when the match is over, we will know more about God and how he operates than we did when we first entered the ring.  We will have flexed spiritual muscles we never knew we had, and we will be strong enough to handle the inevitable struggles of marriage, family life, priesthood or whatever profession we find ourselves in!   



Thursday, September 9, 2021

"SAINT THERESA MUSEUM BRIEF" #2 - "Our Ursuline Sisters of MSJ"

Our little parish of Saint Theresa of Avila in Rhodelia, Kentucky, has produced 37 Sisters, 8 Priests, 1 Brother and hundreds of lay heroes in its 203 year history. In these periodic little "history briefs," I will spotlight the various religious communities to which they belonged and of whom Saint Theresa Church is proud. Among the Sisters coming from Saint Theresa, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth had twenty-three, the Sisters of Loretto and the Mount Saint Joseph Ursulines both had five, the Sisters of Mercy had one and the Dominican Sisters had three. I highlighted our three Dominican Sisters last week. I am still researching the many Sisters of Charity and the one Sister of Mercy. This week I want to spotlight our five Mount Saint Joseph Ursuline Sisters. 

Sister Ruth Helen Flaherty OSU 

Sister Elizabeth Ann Ray  OSU

Sister Marita Greenwell OSU 

Sister Mary Amadeus Pike OSU 


Tuesday, September 7, 2021


When I was younger, my motto was "go for it!" As I have gotten older, my motto is becoming "let it go." 

For most of my life as a priest, I had a beard. I grew it the second summer after I was ordained when I made my first of five backpacking trips to Taize, France. For the first forty years, it was dark brown. When it started turning gray, I tried to "hold on" to it by dyeing it. I don't think it fooled anyone but me. When I retired, I finally got up the nerve to "let it go." I shaved it off. I could never get used to it being gone, so last year I let it grow back in all its whiteness! I learned that I did not have to let go of my beard. I just learned that I could still have an old-man beard, but not a young-man beard! It was never a matter of giving up my beard altogether, it was just a matter of adjusting to reality.  

When I retired, I was adamant that I was not going to sit down in a rocker and die. I wanted to do something new and interesting rather than cling to my old jobs or try to repeat them in another location. I made a clean break. I resigned from my job as Director of the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates that I had created at Saint Meinrad Seminary fourteen years earlier. Next I stopped writing my weekly column in The Record, called An Encouraging Word, after fifteen years. 

I did not "retire" in a traditional sense. I re-created myself. Instead of working at the seminary, I started volunteering in the poor Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Instead of writing a weekly column in our diocesan paper, I started writing my own blog by the same name - An Encouraging Word. For a while, I did keep on conducting a few local parish missions and leading priest convocations and retreats mostly in Canada and the United States. 

Last year, after 12 trips to the Caribbean missions, I decided it was time to stop and find something closer to home, especially after COVID and a major volcano eruption. COVID also stopped me from booking any more parish missions. It hurt, but I re-invented myself once again and started my most recent project, turning  my old Saint Theresa Grade School in my home parish, that had been closed for twenty-eight years, into a new Saint Theresa Family Life Center

Last week, I decided to "let go" of one more thing. After doing over 160 priest retreats and convocations in 9 countries, and cancelling 4 more because of COVID, I still had one on the schedule - one in the Honolulu, Hawaii. At first, I said "yes" to their invitation for the spring of 2022. I bit the bullet last week and told them that I did not think I could honor that request after all. They persisted and tried to book me for 2023! At that, I was tempted to delay a decision until I realized, as painful as it was, that it was now time to "let go" of doing priest retreats and convocations altogether. I know in my heart of hearts that it was a good decision. 

In all of this, I have learned two lessons. (1) Sometimes, it takes more courage to "let go" than to "hang on." (2) I learned, as well, that "to let go" does not mean "to quit." It simply means opening oneself up to something new, something more age appropriate and something different. My new project at my home  parish is another great outlet for my renovation creativity, my parish revitalization training and my love for preaching. It's more distance-appropriate for my age.  It is a chance to give back to the people who gave so much to me! It excites me! 

“Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday. Realize the past no longer holds you captive. Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits."
Sarah Breathnach

“I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.”
William Shakespeare

Monday, September 6, 2021


LUKE 6:6-11

On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught,
and there was a man there whose right hand was withered.
The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely
to see if he would cure on the sabbath
so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.
But he realized their intentions
and said to the man with the withered hand,
“Come up and stand before us.”
And he rose and stood there.
Then Jesus said to them,
“I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”
Looking around at them all, he then said to him,
“Stretch out your hand.”
He did so and his hand was restored.
But they became enraged
and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

Our gospel reading is from the gospel of Luke. I love the gospel of Luke for many reasons – mainly because it is the gospel with the most details, it is the gospel for the Gentiles, it is the gospel of prayer, it is the gospel of women, it is the gospel that speaks the most of praising God and it is the gospel of the universality of God’s.

We see Luke’s propensity for detail. A doctor himself, he lets us know right off the bat that it was the man’s right hand, something that neither Matthew nor Mark mentions in their accounts. One of the apocryphal gospels says that he was a stone mason who comes to Jesus for a cure because he did not want to have to beg for his bread, but to work for it.

We see even more of Luke’s propensity for detail. As he tells the story, he mentions several pertinent details: it was the Sabbath, Jesus was there to teach, there was a man there with a withered right hand, the Scribes and Pharisees “watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath.”

Luke tells us that Jesus realized their evil intentions and defiantly calls the man up and tells him to stand there in front of everybody. Jesus, we are told, looked around at all of his enemies and said, defiantly, “Stretch out your hand!”  With that the man’s hand was restored! The response from the Scribes and Pharisees, Luke tells us, is that they were “enraged,” very much “enraged,” and “discussed together what they might do to Jesus.”

It is important to remember just why  they were enraged! They were not enraged because Jesus healed the poor man’s hand. They were “enraged” because it did it on the Sabbath. They considered healing as “work” and “work” was forbidden on the Sabbath day of rest. Instead of rejoicing that a poor man had his hand healed, had his job back and had his dignity as a worker restored, they were upset because they loved their rules and regulations more than they loved the reason for those rules - God himself.

Sisters and brothers, here is the simple lesson for us today. As an organized religion, we need rules and regulations, but there is an ever-present danger that we all have in organized religion – the danger of putting loyalty to the system above loyalty to God, making secondary things essential and essential things secondary. I learned this lesson in a most memorable way from Cardinal Collins of Toronto, Canada.

I led his priest retreat in the Archdiocese of Toronto, Canada, a few years ago. I did half of the priests one week and the other half the following week – about 900 priests in total.  Cardinal Collins was there listening both weeks. Well, he really liked what I had to say, so he asked if I would come back next year and give what I just gave to the priests to the seminarians of Saint Augustine Seminary. When I agreed, he asked me if I would give the priest retreat the following year.  That would mean that I would be giving retreats in Toronto for five weeks over two years and he would have to personally listen to me for four weeks himself!

To test his sincerity, I told him I would come back the following year if he would come to Saint Meinrad, where I was working, and lead a prayer day. I thought that would give me an escape from writing another set of retreat talks. To my shock and surprise, he said, “I’d love to!

He came to St. Meinrad that Fall and led the Day of Prayer to open the school year. During that day, during the question and answer time, one of the seminarians asked about making Holy Hours. Cardinal Collins paused a moment and said, “Yes, I believe that making a Holy Hour is a very, very important discipline for priests and seminarians alike! He repeated his words for emphasis. Then he paused for a few seconds and said, “But… but if someone is dying in the hospital during your Holy Hour and you get called, forget your Holy Hour and go to the Hospital!” There was an audible gasp from all those pious little seminarians! He made the very same point Jesus is making in today’s gospel – sometimes, there are a few things more important than even pious disciplines and religious rules!


Sunday, September 5, 2021



Jo Ann Reasbeck became Sister David Clare Reasbeck SCN in 1950

Today I am going to my home parish of Saint Theresa to honor a great woman who spent many years serving the members of our parish, especially the youth, Sister David Clare SCN. She served in our parish from 1965-1984.

In August, 1965, Sister David Clare received word from Nazareth to be ready to go to Crossroads Public School and St. Theresa Parish, in Rhodelia, Kentucky as superior, principal and teacher of grades five and six. There, in Meade County, Kentucky, Sister David Clare ministered for nineteen years.

Sister Anne Magruder, one of the sisters who was with Sister David Clare in Rhodelia, said that she learned so much about hospitality from Sister David Clare who was always ready to welcome others.

The parish at Rhodelia had family choirs under the direction of Sister David Clare. Parents and their children sang at Sunday Masses from the choir loft.

At that time, St. Theresa parish had two seminarians - Rev. Bob Ray who was ordained in 1969 and Rev. Ron Knott ordained in 1970. The SCNs always welcomed these seminarians to meals at their convent home whenever they were in Rhodelia. Sister David Clare planned and directed the music for each at their first Masses after ordination.

A former student at Rhodelia recalled fond memories of Sister David Clare who, after school provided roller skating, or parties, or movies, for the children. The former student said she decided to be a teacher because of Sister David Clare’s example of attention to the needs of the children.

Sister David Clare, with her brother Father David Reasbeck after whom she was named. Father Reasbeck died in 2011

Sister David Clare celebrated her 90th birthday on August 26, 2021. She called twice to tell me about all the many wonderful cards she got from her former students. "So many!" Beloved by all, she will return today, with Father Bob Ray and Father Ron Knott, to be honored by the parishioners of Saint Theresa in celebration of her 90th birthday.  This photo was taken at the Saint Thresa Picnic on August 14 of this year when we celebrated the revealing of Phase One of the new Saint Theresa Family Life Center. In her honor, I offer these recorded songs - Happy Birthday and Going Home





Tuesday, August 31, 2021

"SAINT THERESA MUSEUM BRIEF" #1 - "Our Dominican Sisters"

Our little parish of Saint Theresa of Avila in Rhodelia, Kentucky, has produced 37 Sisters, 8 Priests, 1 Brother and hundreds of lay heroes in its 203 year history. In these periodic little "history briefs,"  I will spotlight the various religious communities from which they belonged and their contributions to Saint Theresa Church.  Among the Sisters coming from Saint Theresa, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth had twenty-three, the Sisters of Loretto and the Mount Saint Joseph Ursulines both had five, the Sisters of Mercy had one and the Dominican Sisters had three. I am still researching the many Sisters of Charity and the one Sister of Mercy. 

Today, I spotlight the Dominican Sisters from Saint Theresa. Next I will spotlight the Sisters of Loretto and the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. I will then spotlight the eight priests and the one religious Brother. In between all of them, I will recognize many of the lay heroes and ordinary folks who made up the parish of Saint Theresa. As many as possible will be recognized in the historic photo museum in the hallway of our new Saint Theresa Family Life Center. All these lay and religious heroes helped build the Saint Theresa family that we have known over the last 203 years!   


Sister Mary Catherine Buren O.P. 
Dominican Sisters of Fall River, Massachusettes 

Ora Mary Buren, daughter of Paul Emil Buren and Susan Eleanor (Cody) Buren, was from the small river town of Concordia, Kentucky, not far from Saint Theresa Church. Her parents owned a general store and hotel. She wanted to be a missionary and work with the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii. When she asked the help of a Dominican priest to help her discern this call, he steered her instead to a convent in Carrolton, Missouri. She became a Sister there, taking her younger sister's name and making final vows at 21 years of age. Her sibling sister, Catherine, joined her as a boarder at the convent school where she was living. 
Sister Mary Catherine contracted tuberculosis very soon after she made her vows. In spite of her illness, she insisted on accompanying the Mother Superior to help start a new community of Sisters in Fall River, Massachusetts where she died at age 25.  She is considered to be one of the 5 foundresses of the Fall River Dominican Sisters.  

Sister Mary Cecilia Buren O.P. 
Dominican Sisters of Fall River, Massachusettes 

Sister Mary Catherine's sibling sister, Catherine, followed her to Fall River and became a Sister herself in 1895 becoming Sister Mary Cecilia Buren O.P. three years after her sibling sister's death. She died in 1956 at 77 years of age. She lived much longer than her older sister. Both Buren Sisters are actually great aunts of our own Father Thomas E. Buren (1914-1985) who was a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville also from Saint Theresa originally. The parents of both Buren Sisters are buried in the old Saint Theresa Cemetery: Paul Emil and Susan Eleanor (Cody) Buren. 

Sister Mary Thomas Wight 
Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois

Sister Mary Thomas Wight was the daughter of Thomas Noble Wight (1790-1855) and Harriet E. (Lilly) Wight (1800-1863) of Saint Theresa Church. She joined the Dominican Sister of Springfield, Kentucky. taking her father's name of "Thomas." In 1873, she was selected to be part of a group of 6 Sisters to establish a new community of Dominicans in Springfield, Illinois, to teach the children of Irish immigrants whose fathers were building the railroads. Her parents are buried in the old Saint Theresa Cemetery. She is considered to be one of the 7 foundresses of that Illinois Dominican community.    

Sunday, August 29, 2021


Humbly welcome the word that has been planted
in you. Be doers of the word and not hearers only.
James 1:21-22

Of all the things I do as a priest, I take preaching most seriously. I was in the seminary during Vatican Council II. I remember clearly being taught that preaching the gospel is the primary duty of priests. I remember even more clearly the words of the bishop as he put the Gospel Book in my hands, as I knelt before him, entrusting  me with the task of preaching.  Here is what he said to me, as he looked straight at me: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are! Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach!” For those reasons, I try to give preaching my best and I pray that my efforts are effective!

From all I have heard from you, I understand that Catholics have been disappointed with Catholic Church preaching for so long, they don’t even expect it anymore. When Catholics do find a priest who can preach convincingly, they tend to follow him from church to church.  Others have just learned to do without it, year after year. Still others, sadly, join some Protestant denomination in hopes of finding an effective preacher. 

This problem, I believe, can be traced back to the Protestant Reformation, four hundred years ago. I have been warned that my image is a bit simplistic, but it seems to me that in that painful split, there was a property settlement. It seems that Catholics took the altars and Protestants took the pulpits.  Maybe that’s why most Protestant churches, at least until very recently, seem to have had tiny little communion tables and huge pulpits, while most Catholic churches had tiny little pulpits and huge altars. 

Catholics who leave us for someone else’s pulpit must know that they are going off and leaving the Eucharist. What we need to do as Catholics, what we have been working on over the last several years, is to strengthen both: powerful celebrations of the Liturgy of the Word followed by powerful celebrations of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted
in you. Be doers of the word and not hearers only.

Preaching is being taken more seriously these days in our seminaries. I was not professional homiletics professor, but for a few years I did teach homiletics (preaching) at St. Meinrad Seminary. The downfall of most preaching courses, I learned, was that they focused way too much on public speaking techniques and not enough on the faith of the preacher. My belief in this matter is similar to William Faulkner’s who said, “If a story is in you, it has to come out.”  I always reminded my students that if the love of God was in their hearts, they would find an effective way to communicate it. “Nemo dat quod non habet.” (If you ain’t got it, you cain’t give it!) If the love of God did not burn in their hearts, their efforts would probably be just another speech about God. A homily is not a speech. The insight of a homily, I believe, is meant to turn on a light bulb in the minds of those who hear it, to help the listener make a deeper connection to God. 

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted
in you. Be doers of the word and not hearers only.

 The preacher, and the lectors at Mass, must be the first to ‘humbly welcome the word” and “be doers of the word, not just speakers and readers only.’ Preaching, especially, is an awesome responsibility and the well from which it comes, must be constantly fed!  The preacher must know himself, know others and know God, and be able to talk about all three in a convincing way. Lectors don’t just “read to people,” they “proclaim the good news” too. They must read with conviction and they, too, must practice what they read!

For the next few Sundays, the second reading will be taken from the Letter of James. James is famous for his insistence that faith is to be lived out, not just claimed and talked about. “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” “What good is it to profess faith without practicing it? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and no food for the day, and you say to them, “Good-bye and good luck! Keep warm and well fed,” but do not meet their bodily needs, what good is that? So it is with faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless.”

My fellow Catholics, we cannot be ignorant of scripture and at the same time live the way God has asked us to live. There can be no distance between faith and practice. As the Letter to the Romans puts it, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe unless they have heard of him? And how can they hear unless there is someone to preach? Faith, then, comes through hearing, and what is heard is the word of Christ.” 

It would be wonderful if every one of us took the opportunity to study scripture in a formal way. Scripture classes are offered in almost every parish these days. The diocese has many continuing education classes available on scripture. However, one of the simplest ways to study scripture is to take advantage of our Liturgy of the Word each week. To get the most out of the Liturgy of the Word each week, three things must happen. (1) Readers must read well. (2) Preachers must preach well. (3) People must prepare themselves to listen well.  

(1) One of the hardest things to get across to lectors is that they are not just “reading to people.” They are “proclaiming the word of God.”   That means they must, not just be able to read the words on the page, but be the medium through which people hear God speaking to them. That means the reader must be familiar enough with the text to convey its meaning. If the reader does not know what the words mean, how can he or she read it with meaning? The role of the lector, standing in the pulpit, should be taken as seriously as the priest standing behind the altar. Incompetence, sloppiness or pretension, in the pulpit or at the altar, should never be acceptable in our churches. Good liturgy strengthens the faith of the people. Bad liturgy weakens the faith of the people.      

(2) As a priest, our primary role is to preach. I have a long way to go, myself, but of all the things I do, I take preaching most seriously. I typically work a minimum of 10-12 hours a week preparing these homilies for delivery in person and for publishing on my blog for people to read or re-read. Not everyone can hear. Not everyone can get to Mass. Not everyone can understand the English language well.  As you know, not all priests spend that much time preparing to preach. I remember one incident when I was Vocation Director. I was reading an evaluation that one of our pastors wrote about one of our soon-to-be-ordained seminarians. He criticized the seminarian for “working too much on his homilies.” This time the seminarian was right and the supervising pastor was wrong! Preaching is not just one of many things a priest does, it is the single most important thing a priest does!  

(3) People in the pews must prepare themselves to listen well. The word “liturgy” means “the work of the people.” In reality, many Catholics still don’t understand that! They come to liturgy and put the whole burden of a meaningful liturgy on the backs of the priest, the musicians and the liturgical ministers. Many come late, leave early and in between, sit with their arms folded, never singing or answering the responses or even mouthing the creed. Sometimes they come with an attitude of “OK, now entertain me, impress me and inspire me and, if you fail, I’ll blame you and leave here to tell the world that “I don’t get anything out of Mass because of the boring priest and the lousy music.” The word, “liturgy” means “the work of the people.” We preachers, presiders, lectors and musicians are here to “help you pray,” not to “do your praying for you.” It is your job to pray over the readings before you get here, get here in time to hear them read and at least sit up and pay close attention when God’s word is proclaimed from the pulpit.  

“Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you.” Like the parable of the Sower and the Seed, it is now enough just to have good seed to sow (the word of God), not enough for the sowers to sow well (the lector and the preacher’s job), but the ground on which the word is sown must be fertile and receptive. That, my friends, is your job: to be good hearers of the word.    

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted
in you. Be doers of the word and not hearers only


Friday, August 27, 2021


I have written a lot lately about trying to control my thinking with all the bad news swirling around me. Somebody picked up on that and sent me the piece below. He thought I might want to put it on my blog. Great idea! Here it is! 


Thursday, August 26, 2021


I told him to come back soon and I would fix lunch or we could have "gin and tonics" out on the deck!  Just to think that my mother would panic when she saw our parish priest drive by the house, fearing that he would stop in on his way back! She would have really freaked if Pope Francis had stopped in! After she had calmed down, I am sure that she would have loved this Pope as much as I do!


Tuesday, August 24, 2021


1868 - 1952


Saint Theresa Academy, in my home parish of Saint Theresa of Avila near Rhodelia, Kentucky, was founded in 1868 by our pastor, Father Patrick MacNicholas. It opened as a boarding and day school operated by five  Sisters of Loretto. Their stay was short but effective. In 1870, the original six Sisters of Charity of Nazareth arrived to take over the education of eighteen boarders and forty-five day pupils. (Sister Generose O'Mealy (Superior), Sister Demetria Carey, Sister Marcelline Fleming, Sister Alma Cannon and Sister Raphaella O'Brien). Various Sisters of Charity Nazareth stayed for a total of one hundred and twenty-three years. Two Sisters of Charity of Nazareth died while missioned at the old Saint Theresa Academy and are buried in the old Saint Theresa Cemetery: Sister Hortulana Mahan (October 20, 1903) and Sister M. Loyola McNulty (January 28, 1919).  

The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth served our parish faithfully for another forty-one years even after the old Academy building was torn down and a "new" smaller Saint Theresa School and Convent were built. The Sisters of Charity finally had to leave our parish in 1993. What a tremendous loss! 

At some point in it's history some of the overflow orphans from Saint Vincent Orphanage in Louisville were sent to Saint Theresa Academy as part of the group of boys who were "boarders." Together, they were locally called the "boarder boys."  That was before my time. It was surely about the time my father was a "day student" at the Academy. 

I went to the first and second grade in the old Saint Theresa Academy. My classroom was on the ground floor on the front right side of the bottom photo above. Each Sister taught two classes at the same time. Sister Mary Ancilla taught me in the first and second grade. 

The classrooms were heated with pot-bellied coal stoves. Each classroom had a woodbox to hold kindling used to get the fires started in the mornings by a janitor. There was no running water. All of us, including the Sisters, used an outhouse. Before lunch, one bucket of water and one empty bucket would be carried into the classrooms. With a dipper, each child would wet their hands with one dipper of water and wash them with a bar of soap. Then another dipper of water would be poured over them to rinse them off. Each child would be given a half of a paper towel to dry their hands. There would be a couple of outhouse beaks each school day. Emergencies were highly discouraged because you would have to put on your coat and walk through the rain or the snow to the outhouse.  If you were a good student, you would be "rewarded" with the job of sitting on the woodbox behind the stove to cut paper towels in half with a pair of dull scissors. 

I remember the classroom had a large crucifix, a picture of a Guardian Angel and two children, a picture of the Holy Family (a favorite of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth) and of course an American flag.  There were probably more religious pictures, maybe one of Pope Pius XII, but I do not remember them. The large printed alphabet cards to help us remember how to write them lined the walls above the blackboards. 

I remember one smell in particular - alcohol! That was when Mrs. Goddard, the nurse from the County Health Department, came to give us shots for this or that disease prevention. She would set up shop in a little room right outside our classroom, so we could not only smell the alcohol, but hear the screaming of other kids in the upper grades resisting the needle! 

The Chapel was right down the hall from from our classroom (first floor, first three windows on the left, in the photo above). I can't remember going to Mass there too much. Maybe it was because I had not yet made my First Communion or maybe I was just a "little heathen" with a poor memory.

The two windows to the left of the front door was the "Sister's Parlor," a dark serious room with large paintings that one never entered unless one was in trouble - and that trouble usually involved your parents.) Inside the front door was a beautiful, highly polished, wooden staircase to God-knows-where! It must have been up to the Sisters' private quarters. I did ascend it one time, just to the top step, and the only thing I remember was a chest of drawers with a large jar of Necco Wafters! I also remember no one offering me even one wafer nor an opportunity to simply help myself since the jar was out of reach and spying eyes seemed to be everywhere. Honestly, I think we all thought that Sisters came with eyes in the back of their heads! I just couldn't seem to wrap my mind around the fact of a whole jar of Necco Wafers just sitting there un-eaten! 

I do remember being invited into the Sisters Parlor (first window to the left of the front door in the photo above) on one special occasion in the second grade. It was a Saturday. Sister Mary Ancilla thought my "fire prevention poster" might be a "winner," so she invited me to come in and "touch it up," before she entered it in the County-wide poster contest. I thought that day would be the end of my "being honored," until a few weeks later my Dad told me that Sister Mary Ancilla had called to tell me that I had won the contest! I was presented a "Parker Pen and Pencil Set" by the County Superintendent in the lunch room in front of the whole school. That was the last time I remember being honored like that for a long, long time! 

I remember a few odd things like a classroom game of throwing corn into a hallowed out pumpkin for a prize around Halloween one year. I remember playing "baseball" in class. If you answered a question correctly, you got to move around the classroom to "bases" until you made it back to "homeplate." I am sure there was some small reward like a gold star glued to a piece of paper. Gold stars were the most traditional rewards one could earn back then. I remember all of us getting a free Coca-Cola pencil and writing tablet once a year. They brought as much joy as winning a lottery! 

I remember two events in the lunchroom when I was in the first grade. One was when I was going through the lunch line trying to balance a bowl of soup and a muffin on my tray. Sister Mary Ancilla was trying to help us manage the task  when my muffin rolled of my tray and onto the floor. She bent down to pick it up. I looked down and my bowl of soup slid off my tray and hit her in her starched bonnet. With vegetables all over it, the bonnet "melted" around her head and neck. This caused her to run out of the lunchroom and up the steps to her room to retrieve her "spare." Back then, seeing Sister's hair would have blinded a child for life - at least we thought!

The other event was the day they served liver, ground into a paste and rolled up in a ball. I couldn't stand liver then and I still detest liver today. I wasn't about to eat it, but I was too little to fight Sister over it, so I slipped it into a couple of borrowed paper napkins, put it into my pocket ever so carefully knowing that my turn to go to the outhouse was coming up immediately after lunch! Thank God for outhouses, I thought!

My last memories of my old classroom, with its pot-bellied coal stove, were the big rough sawn 2 X 10 beams they brought in to hold the ceiling and the seventh and eighth graders from crashing down on us and crushing us to death below them. The building was literally on it's last legs. 

In the 1951-1952 school year, we could watch the "new" school being built out on the lawn from our classroom. Then we could watch our old school being torn down from our classrooms in the "new" school. As young as I was at the time, I remember a great hole in the psyche of the whole community, once the majesty of the old Academy building was gone, that the "new" school could not fill.

Be sure to check out the second issue of the SAINT THERESA HERITAGE PARTNERS NEWSLETTER at the top of this webpage.