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!