Recently, I accompanied Fr. Jim (‘Jimmy’) Marchionda, the Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great, and John Angotti, a well-known musician, on a parish mission at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Caledonia, Minnesota. St. Mary’s is a parish of about 3,000 people in rural Minnesota, which had hosted them for three previous missions, the last one six years ago. Here are a couple of my thoughts.
#1. The people of God are generous and spiritually hungry
St. Mary’s is not a very big parish. There are two masses every weekend, one held on Saturday evening, and one on Sunday morning. Attached to the parish is a grade school of about 100 students.
Despite its small size, it is a lively parish. The average attendee at the two weekend masses came to mass with several family members. Almost half of the families in attendance looked to have children high school age or younger.
The pastor, Fr. Stephen, was a warm, welcoming and gracious host, and the congregation really seemed to love him. This small but mighty parish came together to provide very generously for our physical and spiritual needs providing each of us with room and board. Members of the parish’s Catholic Daughters of the Americas chapter took turns preparing lovely meals, including ‘Hot Dish’ – a Minnesota staple – on our last night there. In return, Fr. Jim and John doled out rich spiritual food for both Sunday masses and then for two evenings straight, and the people couldn’t get enough.
The theme, ‘Never Defined By Our Flaws,’ centered on God’s desire to use us, even in spite of our failings. It was brought to life by powerful preaching, moving music, and natural storytelling. As the mission progressed, people became more and more receptive and engaged. On Monday night, the mission concluded with a powerful recitation of the Nicene Creed, capped by a thunderous, ‘Amen!’ Both preachers remarked on the drive out of town that they were amazed how fervent and receptive the community had been.
#2. There is ample room for the Dominican Preaching Mission
I was blown away by how eager the parishioners were for the Word of God. I was equally blown away by wondering how many parishes would have a similar reception to this kind of preaching mission.
In the Diocese of Winona-Rochester – not a particularly large diocese – there are 106 parishes including St. Mary’s. Winona-Rochester is one of 55 dioceses and archdioceses in the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great.
I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.