Newburg church celebrates diversity, outreach

The St. Vincent de Paul Helping Hand Center at St. Ignatius Martyr Church offers a food pantry. Deacon Lucio Caruso hopes to eventually turn it into a choice pantry so visitors can select their own food from what’s available. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

St. Ignatius Martyr Church, 1818 Rangeland Road, sits on the eastern edge of Louisville’s Newburg neighborhood. Over the past decade, the 59-year-old historically blue-collar parish has become home to a diverse congregation, welcoming families from various African and Asian cultures.

Parishioners hail from more than half a dozen countries and varied cultures, Deacon Lucio Caruso said. Among them are families from Burma, the Philippines, Somalia, Congo, Burundi, Kenya, Ghana and Togo.

Deacon Caruso, who was named pastoral administrator in June, said he is “so touched by the cultural elements that they bring to their Catholic faith,” and it’s important to him that worshipers from different cultures feel included in the parish and its liturgies.

Mary Lou Durbin, the parish volunteer coordinator, is working on that.

“Our main goal and our challenge right now is to get the people involved,” she said during a recent interview at the parish office. “We don’t want them just sitting there at Mass, we want them involved.”

Parishioners of different cultures are already involved in the Mass is by serving as lectors and in the choir.

Deacon Caruso said the church also recently hosted a Mass in Burmese. During the liturgy, the lector approached the altar, bowed and took off his shoes and socks.

“They have that reverence for the word of God so they remove their shoes and socks when they come up to the sanctuary to read,” Deacon Caruso explained.

Mary Lou Durbin, parish volunteer coordinator, surveyed a box of goods left outside the St. Vincent de Paul Helping Hands food pantry. She said people leave a variety of items for the food pantry clients. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

“That’s the beauty of these things that enrich us as a parish,” he noted. “The good challenge of, ‘How do we then make sure all are welcome, all are involved, all are integrated? All are bringing their own ideas and ways of doing things that can enrich us, that may be different than what we’ve done in the past.”

In addition to a culturally diverse congregation, the church campus is home to myriad programs, which have also brought life to the parish and people to the campus.

The church hosts an Ohio Valley Education Cooperative Headstart program, a St. Vincent de Paul food pantry and offices, a Helping Hands ministry, Catholic Charities of Louisville Common Earth Gardens, and it has plans for more.

Deacon Caruso, who serves as a liaison for the various ministries, has high hopes for the future of the 180-family parish.

“All these things work so well together,” Deacon Caruso said. “I work closely with our Headstart principal, and sometimes they have families they refer to our St. Vincent de Paul, which is really nice.”

For a parish without an assigned pastor, St. Ignatius — considered by Durbin to be a family — is making the most of what it has. The “beauty of this place” is in the way that “as close as it is, it’s not closed,” Deacon Caruso said.

The original Catholic Charities Common Earth Gardens at St. Ignatius Martyr Church is being turned into a playground for the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative headstart program. The gardens will move to a much larger plot beside the church’s parking lot. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

Deacon Caruso said he doesn’t get caught up in red tape. When he sees a need, he finds a solution. For example, the Headstart program recently asked for a space for a new playground. Deacon Caruso’s solution was to turn the current Common Earth Gardens plot into a playground and move the gardens from behind the school building to a large area beside the parking lot — expanding its footprint enough to house more than 80 individual garden plots.

The parish’s sense of welcome, diversity, programs and outreach will be celebrated during the St. Ignatius feast day homecoming Mass and brunch on Oct. 30, the deacon said.

He’s canceled the regular Saturday Mass Oct. 29, the day before the homecoming celebration, to encourage all members to attend Sunday Mass. Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre will celebrate the special Mass at 10:30 a.m., marking his first visit to the church. Immediately following Mass will be a brunch in the parish hall. All current and former parishioners, family, friends and visitors are invited to attend.

“I think what’s neat is we’re not a big parish … but we’re saying, ‘OK, how are we to be today?’ I think that’s the church that Pope Francis is speaking of, that we’re not stuck,” Deacon Caruso said. “We honor our past, which we’re going to do at our homecoming feast, remembering where we were” but also look forward to where the church is going.

“All of this is what we want to celebrate on Oct. 30,” he said. “And not only welcoming (Archbishop Fabre) but letting him be aware of this, what I think is a really incredible gem of a little place.”

Kayla Bennett
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Kayla Bennett
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