Gates parishes find unity through Kentucky trip - Catholic Courier

Gates parishes find unity through Kentucky trip

Deacon Matt Coriale of Lexington, Ky., left a lasting impression when he told parishioners of Holy Ghost Church in Gates several years ago about the work of the Father Beiting Appalachian Mission Center in a poor, mountainous area of eastern Kentucky, recalled parishioner Jim Stocks of Chili.

At Bible study after Coriale’s weekend talk, Stocks and others discussed the stories of abject poverty that they had heard.

"We were all moved by this young man and said what can we do about it," he recalled.

They considered just making a donation, but over the course of several weeks, the idea to organize a mission trip emerged. At the time, the parish was beginning the process of clustering with two other Gates churches, St. Jude and St. Helen, so Stocks said the parishioners thought it would be an ideal project to help unify the newly formed Gates Catholic Community.

For the past three years, members of Gates Catholic Community have performed service with the Father Beiting Appalachian Mission Center, which is a ministry of the Diocese of Lexington, Ky. Their most recent trip was in August, and they already have begun talking about a return trip in the spring.

Stocks said the mission trips have helped to unify the three parishes.

"It is our goal that this become a long-term ministry for our cluster," he said.

Stocks said the first year the group went, they had set an ambitious goal of getting 30 people to take part, but Stocks said most people told them they’d be lucky to get a half a dozen to make the journey. Yet 48 people first expressed interest, and all told 30 made the trip.

"You could see God’s hand," Stocks said. "Problems would come up and go away with no effort on our part."

For instance, Stocks said he first grappled with the logistics of feeding 30 people on the trip. At a meeting he asked if anyone had any connections to a cook who could take care of the food.

"Before I could even get the question out of my mouth, a man in the back raises his hand and says, ‘I can do that for you,’ " said Stocks, noting the man had catering experience.

Volunteers each contributed $25 toward food for the weeklong trip, and by the end of the week they had enough money left over to have a pizza party and make a donation to the mission center.

In the next year, the group solved a problem with a lack of tools by setting up a giving tree for tool donations. They got enough to have three complete sets of tools with extras and monetary donations.

"That proved to be successful beyond our wildest imagination," Stocks said.

Calls for volunteers also have been answered. This past year, the team included a group of four women — two mothers and their teen daughters — who said they had no prior construction experience. By the end of the week the women had built a wheelchair-accessible wooden deck for a teen girl who was in a wheelchair following an accident.

"We taught them the skills they needed that week," Stocks said.

One of this year’s volunteers, Mike McBride, a retired code inspector who worked for the city of Rochester, said he found the trip to be very fun.

McBride said he felt a little bit of culture shock on the trip, noting that some of the paved roads abruptly become dirt trails. He said while he was working on a roof, he was dismayed to learn that they were working in an area with rattlesnakes, and he was informed that was why some of the workers were wearing tall boots.

"Oh great — I’m not going to get off the roof today," McBride said he had thought to himself.

This past year, the group served in Louisa, Ky., where the mission center is located. About half of the people in the area live at or below the poverty line, Stocks said. Much of the work the group did was a to repair floors, roofs, doors and walls in 50- and 60-year-old trailers in which people were living. Stocks said one mother’s gratitude to the repairs stood out.

"The mother was just thrilled to have a bathroom where she could close the door," Stocks said.

The group also has thrown a birthday party for a 1-year-old whose family was living in a temporary shelter at the mission center. The center is named for Father Ralph Beiting, who started the Christian Appalachian Project and built it into one of Kentucky’s largest charities. He also started the mission center in Louisa in 1991 and died in August 2012 at the age of 88.

"He was a living saint," Stocks said. "There’s no doubt in my mind where he’s at. He was a wonderful person."

"You mention Father Beiting and the doors open," McBride said.


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