I’ve been at the work of development and stewardship in the Catholic Church a long time. It’s a vocation I never expected, never planned on, and never had an inkling towards undertaking. Yet here I am, just about ten years into it.
Over that time, I have visited hundreds of churches across the US and around the world. I’ve been in such disparate places as St. Peter’s in Rome and a church with a dirt floor and rough-hewn benches in Honduras. I’ve photographed many of these places, too. Maybe one day I will offer a little tour of some of these holy places right here in this space.
It’s funny how, even after seeing some of the most beautiful, breathtaking, architectural wonders in the world, it’s the smallest structures that seem to mean the most.
Yesterday, October 16, I visited two pastors and their parishes in our diocese. As a result of consolidation a few years ago, each of these two pastors has responsibility for two churches. Fr. Frank Renner has Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Petersburg, and Blessed Sacrament in Oakland City. Fr. Brian Emmick has St. Joseph’s in Princeton and St. Bernard in Snake Run.
I was intrigued by the name of the community where St. Bernard’s is located: Snake Run. In my mind, that’s more of a Wyoming name than one from Indiana. I was in the neighborhood, so to speak, and decided to stop by.
What I found was a beautiful little church out in the country that was incredibly well-cared for. Let me tell you about it.
The church is a traditional structure with a very tall steeple. It stands on a hill above the highway and can be seen from a long way off. The entrance is framed by two large trees that having been standing as sentinels for many, many years.
Around the side are statues of Mary, our Blessed Mother; St. Francis; Mary and the infant Jesus; and several angels.Around the side are statues of Mary, our Blessed Mother; St. Francis; Mary and the infant Jesus; and several angels. (See the slideshow below)
The statues are all part of a Rosary garden, which also contains a Rosary walk. The walk features a large crucifix with five decades of “beads” which one can walk on as the Rosary is prayed.
There is a marker in the pavement that lists all the priests from the beginning of the parish through 2015. Fr. Brian is the current pastor, and his name is on the marker as an associate from his time there from 2012-2014. One day it will be there as the pastor.
Farther back is a cemetery. There is a marker that shows the final resting place of Johann Adam Zerker, from Heligenstein. Heiligenstein was ceded to France after World War I, but lies in the Alsace region, which has considerably deep German roots. He died (gestorben) in 1855 in America.
Fr. Brian told me about the German heritage in this little community, and it shows in every corner. The landscaping is immaculate and the church looks like it was built and painted yesterday.
I have a real soft spot in my heart for small parishes and churches. To me they are the epitome of stewardship, as the people who have been given the gift of their faith take that gift and offer it back to God, with increase, in the form of a place to give praise to the LORD.
It’s not St. Peter’s. There aren’t any popes buried at Snake Run. But St. Bernard’s is a testament of faith for a people who know what faith is.