Two days later, amid the strong smell of burned wood, I gathered with the faithful and Fathers Kenneth and Thomas to celebrate Mass in the nearby parish center. The center was just 10 yards from the flames that destroyed the church, and so we were all aware of the tragic destruction.
It was Advent and so natural for us to renew our hope in the Lord Jesus. From tragedy comes new life! This is the kerygma or core message of the Gospel: Jesus, innocent of sin, died a painful death and now is risen.
Many times, we see this grace of the Paschal Mystery of Christ alive in the heart of an individual who somehow is released from an addiction to begin a new life, embracing God’s plan. Over these six months I witnessed this new life occurring in the community of Our Lady of the Caves and through the effort to rebuild.
Just as the chosen people of Israel rebuilt the temple destroyed in 587 BC, so I have witnessed over the last six months the hand of God just as clearly.
It all started with the owner of a local fast food restaurant in Cave City generously offering to provide a matching gift that would bring the small Catholic community within reach of a new church with a better footprint to serve in the future.
The gap between the insurance benefits and the cost to rebuild exceeds $150,000, far more than this small community could be expected to raise.
The generous donor agreed to match gifts up to $75,000 and so from March 15 to June 15, the pastor, Father Kenneth Soroko, reports an outpouring of generosity, both from the parishioners of Our Lady of the Caves and from parishes and individuals throughout the Archdiocese of Louisville. To date almost $94,000 has been raised.
I like to describe the Archdiocese as 110 parishes helping one another. We see it every year with the Catholic Services Appeal. In this situation, we also witness this movement of the local church at work in the midst of a tragedy.
Ultimately, this story is not really about money raised but about generous hearts growing more deeply in love with Christ in and through the body of Christ, our local church.
This year, every parish in the archdiocese will have the opportunity to participate in a guided discernment of what it means for the parish to grow as the Body of Christ over the next few years.
My pastoral letter, “Your Parish the Body of Christ Alive in Our Midst” serves as the framework for this discernment.
Surely this process will result in new projects and new involvement among parishioners but most significantly, we will witness the death and resurrection of Jesus alive in our midst and through it, become more deeply the Body of Christ.
Through this process, our hearts will grow in generosity just as they did when a small church went from ashes to new life.