Let’s face it. Warranted or not, it is an undeniable fact that some parts of our city get a reputation — a stigma — that often threatens to define the place and its people.
Newcomers to town are told that this area has a high crime rate; another part of town is filled with those who are down on their luck. This neighborhood is snooty and snobbish; that neighborhood is on the cutting edge of what’s new and different.
The veracity of the descriptions doesn’t appear to matter. Once a tag is hung on a neighborhood, it takes years — and lots of good people working hard — to remove it.
That’s why what’s happened to the people of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta parish is so worthy of our attention.
A story in the July 17 issue of The Record chronicled the latest tribulation faced by the parish. Vandals — in their third attack of the month — ransacked the church’s pavilion, which lies at the rear of its property next to Fairdale High School.
Lights were broken; fan blades destroyed; fire extinguishers were discharged. Mayhem apparently raged for a while.
And all of this took place in an area used by the church to do a great deal of good — it’s where the people of the parish distribute food to the poor, to the people who need it.
To exacerbate the problem even further, this most recent stupidity was foisted on the people of Blessed Teresa just days before the annual parish picnic.
But here’s the thing about the people of that parish, and the people of the Fairdale area in general.
They might, on occasion, be slow to show warmth toward strangers. And yes, more than a few of them have known hard times in their lives. But when bad things happen to their neighborhood, to their people, the good of the parish and the surrounding area bubbles to the top.
It’s not a cliché to say that people who have the least to give are often the most generous. Father Patrick Nolan, the parish’s pastor, perhaps said it best in a warm letter to the editor published in this week’s paper. He noted that the American people “are known to be at their best when things are at their worst.”
That was evident last weekend at the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta parish picnic.
First people came to help the parish get ready and clean up the mess the vandals had left behind. Then others brought extra cakes for the cake booth, especially after a call had gone out to the people of St. Aloysius Church in Shepherdsville to help stock their neighboring parish.
And when all was said and done, vandalism or no vandalism, the people at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta — with the help of their Fairdale and Hillview neighbors —
helped the parish enjoy one of the best, most successful picnics in its history.
“We ran out of chicken,” said Father Dolan in his letter. In fact, he was one of the people who didn’t get a taste of the annual dinner. People came in great
numbers, he said, and the area attacked by the vandals has been completely repaired and was ready for this week’s Dare to Care Food Bank distribution.
“When the chips are down, the people of this parish are very helpful to one another and to the parish,” he said.
Sometimes those helpful people are not even Catholic, the pastor noted.
“Basically, there are pockets of Catholic families here and there,” Father Dolan said, noting that the Fairdale community’s history stretches all the way back to
1798. “Just a tiny percentage of the people here are Catholic — probably just one percent. Ours is not a normal type parish. The airport expansion took part of our area; we’re surrounded by the Jefferson County Forest; and after our merger with St. Mary’s (in Hillview) only about 20 percent of those people chose to come here, mostly because there were other parishes closer to their homes.”
So, the bottom line is that Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, even without the vandalism, has had to carve its own niché in the community. And for the most part, it has.
“You may not always get along with everybody,” said the parish secretary and jack-of-all-trades Jan Phelps. “But everybody still works together. We have parishioners who have gone to other parishes because of families or other reasons. But when they hear that we need help, they come back and give us a hand.
“People care about one another here,” she noted. “And I think that’s why they chose the name ‘Blessed Teresa.’ We want to live up to what she stood for.”
If their response to the recent threat to their picnic is any indication, the people of the parish are on there way to doing just that.