Thursday, December 28, 2023



New book chronicles effort to revitalize community of Rhodelia

By Ruby Thomas

December 14, 2023

The renovation of St. Theresa Family Life Center, above, on the grounds of St. Theresa Church in Rhodelia, Ky., is the subject of Father J. Ronald Knott’s new book entitled “The Little Community That Could: The Story of a Rural Eco-Friendly Family Life Center.” (Photo Special to The Record)

“The Little Community That Could: The Story of a Rural Eco-Friendly Family Life Center,” a new book by Father J. Ronald Knott, chronicles a renovation project on the campus of St. Theresa Church in Rhodelia, Ky. 

Behind that project is much more than a renovated building, said Father Knott.

The project reminded the rural parish community of its history and potential while urging it to look to the future, writes Father Knott, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville who hails from the Meade County parish.

“It’s not about fixing up an old building. It’s about parish revitalization and getting old rural parishes to think” that they have a future, said Father Knott. “It’s the type of thinking I hope will engage readers.”

St. Theresa is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Meade County. It was founded in 1818, according to the Archdiocese of Louisville. The 123-year-old school building had remained closed for nearly 30 years when Father Knott started speaking to parish leaders about its potential, he said.  

In 2021, Father Knott and Father Robert Ray, who also has roots in Rhodelia, led an effort to convert the parish’s former school building into the St. Theresa Family Life Center, an environmentally friendly space for use by parishioners and members of the wider community.

They envisioned a gathering space that would welcome parishioners from St. Theresa and nearby St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi Church, as well as families from the wider community.


Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre prayed during a blessing of the St. Theresa Family Life Center in Rhodelia, Ky., on Oct. 15, 2022. He was flanked by clergy, from left, Father George Illikkal, Deacon Dean Sears and Father Ronald Knott. (Record File Photo by Ruby Thomas)

“If we’re going to spend this money, we need to invite as many people as possible to use it,” he said. 

The St. Theresa Family Life Center, which opened last year, now houses the parish offices, conference rooms equipped for live-streaming, a museum room and gathering spaces for events.

The book details how the center is helping to promote the community’s health across various markers — physical, spiritual, psychological, environmental and economic. 

Father Ray — also a retired priest who grew up at St. Theresa — leads an effort to create programs at the center, said Father Knott. The center hosts addiction recovery groups and plans to add others, such as grief and divorce support groups and groups for singles and senior citizens. 

Father Knott noted that rural areas of the archdiocese often lack resources, and so the center intends to fill in some of the gaps. 

“Rural areas have all the problems but not the resources,” he said, adding that the center “is focused on building up families.”   

A geothermal and solar-powered heating and cooling system makes the St. Theresa Family Life Center stand out among buildings in Rhodelia, he noted. Parish leaders were concerned that even if they were able to renovate the old school building, the utility cost would be a setback, said Father Knott. 

The book goes into detail about the geothermal system, which harnesses power from the solar panels to pump air from 200 feet below the ground to heat and cool the building. Funds for the geothermal system were donated by the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute at the University of Louisville. 

The book also highlights the center’s intention to illuminate its history, including the parish’s involvement with slavery. To that end, the center’s long hallway features several galleries displaying photographs that tell the history of the parish.

During the renovation project, Father Knott discovered the baptismal records of 222 enslaved individuals at St. Theresa. Those names are now displayed in one of the center’s hallway galleries. 

The book also details finding the headstone of enslaved parishioner Matilda Hurd in an old cemetery on St. Theresa’s grounds. Hurd is the maternal grandmother of Venerable Father Augustus Tolton — the first recognized African-American priest ordained for the U.S. church. He is currently on the road to canonization.   

Father Knott said the spirit of St. Theresa’s early missionaries and parishioners sustained him during the renovation project and in writing the book. 

They had “very few resources but what they had was an abundance of faith and imagination. … Stoking the fires of faith, determination and imagination always takes more focus and tenacity than merely remodeling an old building,” he writes in the book.“

The Little Community That Could: The Story of a Rural Eco-Friendly Family Life Center” is available on

St. Theresa Church parishioners gathered recently for a community-building event in the St. Theresa Family Life Center in Rhodelia, Ky. (Photo Special to The Record)


Tuesday, December 26, 2023


You don't need a movement! You don't need an organization! You don't need permission!

If enough individuals did this, Christ would soon be back in Christmas!

Monday, December 25, 2023



When the time came for her to have her child,
she gave birth to him in a barn, wrapped him up
and laid him in a feeding trough for animals.
Luke 2:1-14

       If you read the story carefully, the first Christmas was a pretty sad event, even pathetic! If there hadn’t been a census that year, Jesus would have been born at home, in Nazareth, in a warm bed, surrounded by family and friends. If there hadn’t been a census that year, Jesus would have been laid in a new baby-bed, hand crafted by Joseph himself, right there in his own carpenter shop. If there hadn’t been a census that year, one of his aunts would probably have come to stay with Mary a month or two to help her before, during and after her delivery. If there hadn’t been a census that year, neighbors, friends and local Nazareth musicians would have gathered outside the house as the birth drew near, a traditional Jewish practice at that time. If there hadn’t been a census that year, those musicians would have struck up the band and the whole neighborhood would have erupted in singing and dancing when it was announced: “It’s a boy! It’s a boy!”

       For reasons known only to God, it didn’t happen that way! As usual, God had a different idea. Instead, Mary came due at the very same time that Joseph was required by law to register in a rotating, fourteen-year Roman census. Because of that census requirement, a very pregnant Mary and a very worried Joseph were required to pack their bags and travel 80 miles, across country, on donkey-back, to Joseph’s ancestral town of Bethlehem. All this happened so that the foreign government occupying their country could have a better headcount to collect their taxes. Away from home, with labor pains coming on and unable to find a place to stay, this scared and exhausted young couple took refuge in a barn. Mary delivered her baby, right there in the barn, using an animal’s feedbox for his bed. How pitiful can you get!

       Luke, the writer of this narrative, knew that if this birth had taken place at home, things would have been very different, but here he is telling us that the Savior of the world was born in the most desperate of situations. Looking at all this through the eyes of faith, Luke paints a pathetic picture and then heaven wrapping it up in wings of love. Shepherds take the place of celebrating neighbors and family members back home in Nazareth. Singing angels fill in for local musicians. Luke turns this pathetic situation into a heavenly event. In his story, he shows us God kissing the whole earth and every human being on it.

       We know all the details of the Christmas story quite well, but do we know the point of this story? Do we understand what it means? Luke is not merely reporting historical facts here: he is making a religious point. He is telling us that by sending his Son, Jesus, into the world in this strange way, God is saying to us that he wants to be intimately involved in our lives, even in the most pathetic and unlikely situations, even when things seem hopeless and even when God seems absent. By sending his Son, Jesus, into the world in this way, God is saying that he loves us, all of us, including the weakest and most vulnerable of us, even those of us the world considers worthless.

       The story, of course, does not end here. The Christmas story is just one part of a much longer love story. This God-child grew up and preached the ongoing reconciliation of heaven and earth. This Jesus revealed the soft-spot in God’s heart for the marginalized of society – the poor, the sick, the old and the suffering – and gave them a sense of their own dignity, no matter how desperate their situations.

       What does this incredibly loving God want from us for all this? What kind of response does God want to his incredible incarnation? In a nutshell, God wants to be involved in our lives in an intimate way. God wants nothing less than a love relationship. He wants to shower us with love and he wants us to love him back by trusting him, especially in time of doubt and sorrow. No matter how much we have been through, he wants us to know that he has “been there and done that” with us and that someday we will understand how it all fits together!

       My friends, on this Christmas we gather again to celebrate the embrace of an incredibly loving God! So let us realize again today that, no matter who we are, what we’ve done or failed to do, what we’ve been through or what we cannot seem to get over, we are being held right now in the embrace of God’s unconditional love. His name is Emmanuel, which means “God with us!”

       My friends, some of you are reeling from incredible losses, some of you are hurting and some of you are scared of what’s next. I cannot take that away or make it all better this Christmas, but I do hope you know that the first Christmas was not all that merry either! For Mary and Joseph, it was a time filled with fear, homesickness and disorientation. Just as the angels wrapped their wings around their pathetic situation, may the angels of God wrap their wings around you and your situation! I don’t know why some people suffer, but I do know that God loves them! In spite of the hard time, you may be experiencing, I hope you know down deep that in giving us his Son, God has given us his heart! 












Sunday, December 24, 2023


"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus. The child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.”
Luke 1:26-38

This was in a Christmas letter from my friend, Joseph Muench, in Independence, Ky.