By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
WELLMAN — It may have been tempting, but football fans chose Saturday night Mass over the Iowa-Iowa State game on Sept. 11 to celebrate the Year of St. Joseph with Bishop Thomas Zinkula. The bishop jokingly asked members of Holy Family Parish gathered inside St. Joseph Church why they were missing the game and then answered the question. “Either you are devoted to your faith or you don’t like football!” The parishioners corrected him, “Oh, yes we do!”
Bishop Zinkula turned to a more somber subject, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. He asked the gathering to pray for those lost because of the 9/11 tragedy and for all who have died suddenly because of acts of violence.
The bishop’s presence in Wellman, a town of about 1,400 people in Washington County, delighted the gathering at St. Joseph Church. He is visiting churches in the diocese that bear St. Joseph’s name as part of the Year of St. Joseph that Pope Francis initiated. His visit to the Wellman church included a blessing of a life-size statue of St. Joseph.
Many of the parishioners at Mass wore T-shirts that read “Work Hard. Pray Hard.” “The patron saint of our little church would have felt right at home here,” longtime parishioner John Conway said while providing a brief history of the church at the end of Mass. “The townsfolk who banded together here over 110 years ago (to build the church) were of an era when ‘Working Hard’ automatically translated into ‘Hard Work.’ What better saint to appeal to for guidance and strength than our revered husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, St. Joseph! Our beloved saint of all workers.”
Sixty years ago, parishioner Howard Greiner convinced fellow parishioners to build “this new church from scratch, from the ground up, totally on their own,” Conway said of his father-in-law.
Dr. Jay Miller donated land for the new church and in 1961, “the foundation was dug and the basement poured for this new house of worship.” Everyone contributed to the building effort in some way. Parishioners engaged in physical construction juggled their volunteer labor with full-time jobs and families.
Conway paid tribute to three volunteers who attended the Sept. 11 Mass, longtime parishioners Bernard Borg, Howard Bohr and Lindy Redlinger. “We all owe them for their lifetime of dedication to this church, and their willingness to ‘Work Hard’ and ‘Pray Hard’ for our St. Joseph’s Church.” A fourth honoree, Ladora Patterson, “our ‘most-senior’ parishioner volunteered literally countless hours to support this church.”
Father Bill Roush, pastor of Holy Family Parish (St. Joseph Church-Wellman, St. Mary Church-Riverside and Holy Trinity Church-Richmond) presented the honorees with crucifixes he made in his workshop. He created each cross from the salvaged wood of a pew from the original St. Joseph Church and purchased the corpus to place on each one. He inscribed each crucifix with a personal message to the recipient.
Conway’s description of parishioners’ self-sacrifice on behalf of the church dovetailed with the homily Bishop Zinkula gave, reflecting on Mark’s Gospel for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
“Jesus is talking to his disciples about the suffering that a person experiences as a consequence of speaking and acting in the manner that Jesus does, the suffering we experience for being his disciple.”
“This is the cross that Jesus has in mind, denial of self, choosing, voluntarily, to place Christ and the common good, rather than our individual selves, at the center of our lives.”
“On the cross, Jesus carried the burden of the world’s sin and bore the burdens of others in love. This is what we must do as well; we are to seek ways to lighten the loads of other people.” The bishop asked, “Is the symbol of our lives open hands or closed fists? As we celebrate the Year of St. Joseph and the blessing of the statue, we remember that St. Joseph chose to open his hands to God’s plan, and to welcome Mary and Jesus into his life. Jesus wants us to open our hands and bear the burdens of others in love.”
After Mass, parishioners gathered in the vestibule for the blessing of a statue of St. Joseph. The statue came from St. John Church in Burlington (of Divine Mercy Parish), where John Conway was baptized. The statue needed a new home, so “our family purchased it, had it repainted and moved it here, to its forever home.”