By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
GREENSBURG, Ky. — High upon a hillside — green with the signs of spring — sits Holy Redeemer Church, a small close-knit parish located near the Green River in Green County.
Holy Redeemer celebrated its 50th anniversary April 6 with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz. The Mass was followed by a reception in the adjacent hospitality room. About 40 people attended the anniversary Mass.
The parish — which is located in the south central part of the state about 40 miles southeast of Elizabethtown — began as a mission church in the 1960s. It was established by Father George Bowling with the assistance of the Louisville Archdiocese Mission Promoters (LAMP). LAMP’s aim was to spread the faith in rural areas of the archdiocese.
Though the parish is small — the enrollment totals about 35 people — the parishioners possess a love of the church and a deep hunger for the Catholic faith.
Maryann and Ed Matheny began attending Holy Redeemer about a dozen years ago following a move from the East Coast.
“It’s just a nice, small quiet church,” Ed Matheny said in a recent interview at the parish.
Maryann Matheny agreed and said parishioners are friendly and welcoming.
“We all get on. We pull together and get things done,” she said.
Joe Dunn, who has attended Holy Redeemer since he was a small child, fondly remembers the humble origins of the parish.
Dunn recalled attending Mass in a rear storage area of the local Kentucky Utilities building before the congregation had a worship space.
About 20 people from eight families would set up the altar, chairs and kneeling pads each Sunday morning before the late Father Bowling arrived to celebrate Mass, he said.
As the community found a permanent home and began construction on a church, Dunn had a birds-eye view of the process from his home that sat uphill from the church.
“I lived across the street in a red-brick house and watched it being built. My brother and I helped haul cement blocks and bricks when they were constructing here,” he said.
Holy Redeemer is clustered with Good Shepherd Church in Columbia, Ky., and Holy Spirit Church in Jamestown, Ky. The three share an administrator, Father Joseph Thomas, a priest of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate order from India.
Linda Fitzpatrick, business manager for the three parishes, said parishioners have experienced a great deal of transition in the last decade, at times more than they would like.
“Just in the last 10 years, we’ve had six priests. It’s a lot of transition. It makes a difference,” said Fitzpatrick, who has been a parishioner of Good Shepherd since 1976.
As new pastors and administrators come and go, programs and offerings are inevitably lost, Fitzpatrick said.
“It’s really hard to grow and build when you have so much change,” she said. “Sometimes we feel forgotten.”
Despite parishioners’ concerns, those who attend regularly said they feel empowered to take ownership of the parish and to make suggestions.
Instead of a parish council, parishioners gather quarterly for “town hall” type meetings and a potluck to discuss concerns and plan for upcoming events.
The Mathenys said they found the Archdiocese of Louisville’s recent parish discernment process to be fruitful. Those who participated advocated for an increase in adult education and faith formation, among other things.
They also decided to add the praying of the rosary prior to Mass and regular times for adoration and the Stations of the Cross.
“Almost everybody here is looking for adult formation,” Fitzpatrick said.
Holy Redeemer overlooks U.S. Highway 68 in the southern part of Greensburg, which is the county seat of Green County. It’s located about 18 miles from Columbia in Adair County. Twenty miles beyond that is Jamestown in Russell County.
Parishioners admit the clustering of the three parishes is hard and they all want more attention than their priest can spare.
Father Thomas, who has been at the three parishes since June, said he’s impressed with the steadfastness of his parishioners.
“This is a very small community but there is active participation,” he said.
He described the parish as welcoming and devout.
“The Catholic population is less in this area. Those here are Catholic, not just in name only,” he said.
For Dunn, Holy Redeemer is home. Aside from his time in the Navy, he has regularly worshipped at the parish.
“The people here in this parish will really do anything for you,” Dunn said.