By Barb Arland-Fye
Mary Anna Parris, a 59-year-old retired school teacher, fabulous guitar player and “revert” to the Catholic faith, gave me a glimpse of the New Evangelization Sunday morning. She’d organized a guitar Mass to celebrate her “60th-birthday-minus-one” at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire where both of us are members.
Her intention was to bring together friends, family and strangers — Catholics and non-Catholics — to experience the joy that active participation in a Catholic faith community has brought to her life. After our pastor, Father Joe Wolf, agreed to celebrate the Mass, she publicized it with colorful posters — reminiscent of the hippie era — and posted images on Facebook. She invited me to include an announcement in our Catholic Messenger calendar of events and to post her Facebook announcement on The Catholic Messenger’s Facebook page.
Mary Anna invited members of our parish choir and anyone else who wanted to sing or play the guitar at this special Mass to save the date for Sept. 22 at 11 a.m. How could I possibly say no? Her enthusiasm inspires me.
In his Year of Faith address at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport — the same day as the guitar Mass — Bishop Martin Amos observed that the New Evangelization has three aspects: a mission to those who don’t know Jesus Christ, attention to our own growth and continuing need to be evangelized, and outreach to those who have fallen away.
Echoes of Mary Anna’s story reverberate in each of those aspects:
“I was born in the fall of September 1954 to LOVING, traditional Catholic parents who belonged to and participated in everything at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport,” she said. Religious education at Sacred Heart grounded her in the traditions of the Church along with the love and faith of her parents, Ralph and Mary Jane Hoehne. But contact with various “Jesus People” at Central High School in Davenport and the University of Iowa “challenged my Catholic upbringing and caused me to ask many questions about Catholic doctrine and search for answers.”
She attended what she describes as the “Hippie Mass” at St. Anthony’s in Davenport in the 1970s, and in the 1980s led guitar Masses at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bettendorf and “Praise and Worship” times for an organization called Women’s Aglow.
During this time she was befriended by Dorothy, a custodian who worked at the school where Mary Anna taught. “She encouraged me to attend an evangelistic church, allowing and operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I wanted more! So I left the Catholic Church and went to the evangelistic church that seemed to be preaching the Word of God heavily and allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to people in SO many ways!”
She talked with the pastor of Lourdes at that time, who told her, “I will be here when you get back.”
Mary Anna was away from the Catholic Church for about 10 years before returning to Sacred Heart because she and her husband had found a faith community they could feel comfortable participating in together. In 1998, the couple moved to LeClaire and Mary Anna began attending Mass at Our Lady of the River.
“I just attended, but did not want to join … then Carolyn Graham, who I taught with for years, decided I should meet Cheryl Brogla Krupke (the parish’s music director). She took me right up to the front of the church and introduced me.
“So here I am, loving the Catholic Church, loving all the folks at OLOR (Our Lady of the River), loving music, loving guitar Masses again, wanting to love others, minister to others, and joyfully welcome back anyone if they have been away from the Church, or help someone find a place of love to belong,” Mary Anna said.
About 60 people attended: “Baptists, Evangelicals, Methodists, Presbyterians, cradle Catholics, converted Catholics, people of unknown faiths and one relative who had not been in church for many years and made the decision the night before to attend,” Mary Anna added.
She has taken the message of the New Evangelization and embraced it, whether or not she realizes it!