By GLENN RUTHERFORD
SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. — Joseph and Peggy Raley were sitting near the front of St. Aloysius Church on Sept. 9, part of an early-arriving crowd that was preparing to celebrate the parish’s 100th anniversary.
Joseph Raley is 91, and he remembers when the parish was housed in a church with white planks on the side. He also is quick to note that he’s been a member of the parish since 1942.
“I recall that we had a contractor back then who was a member,” he said prior to the start of Sunday’s anniversary Mass and celebration. “He took the lead in building this church and if I remember correctly that was in the late ‘40s.”
His memory was spot on. Construction for what is now
St. Aloysius Church on Plum Street just off downtown Shepherdsville’s main thoroughfare began in 1948, and the building was opened and blessed in 1950.
The past year or so has been a worrisome time for the parish, both Joseph Raley and Peggy Raley noted. St. Aloysius faced “a kind of stumbling block” when the parish school was closed at the end of last school year.
“But that’s the past, and I think it’s coming back,” Joseph Raley said. “There are a lot of good people here; this parish is kind of getting a new start.”
Parishioner Donna Peak feels the same way, as does the parish’s pastor, Father Brian Kenney.
“I’ve not been here a real long time, just eight-and-a-half years,” said Peak, who helped put the Sept. 9 celebration together. “But the parish is beginning some new efforts, some new ministries and I see this anniversary celebration as a time of new opportunities.”
So does Father Kenney.
In an interview last week, prior to the centennial celebration, Father Kenney noted that the parish is “looking to begin anew” several ministries that hadn’t been affordable while St. Aloysius’ 300 or so families were looking to keep its struggling school alive. Now they’ve put that struggle behind them.
“Some of the biggest news in our parish right now is that I’ve just hired a pastoral associate — Philip Millay — and we’re really excited about that,” Father Kenney said. “He’s going to get our CCD (the parish’s catechetical and religious education programs) up and running. We’ve been able to convert a couple of classrooms into a lounge and a classroom for our RCIA program, something we didn’t have
And Father Kenney was able to make a big financial announcement at the anniversary celebration, too.
“Back in 2008, Mr. Nick Simon who owns Publishers Printing here in Shepherdsville lent our school $100,000 in order to cover some of its expenses at the time,” the priest explained. “We still have
$86,000 of that loan to pay back and I went to Mr. Simon again and asked him if we could transform that loan into a tuition assistance program, whereby parishioners who have children in Catholic schools elsewhere could receive assistance in terms of tuition payments.”
That was a key announcement made at last Sunday’s event. So was the fact that, “in the spirit of what a jubilee is,” Father Kenney noted, the Archdiocese of Louisville has agreed to forgive $50,000 in parish debt.
“This is going to be a big help,” Father Kenney said. “This will allow us to begin focusing on our present ministries. We’re kind of starting from ground zero again, because our school had dominated our sense of parish mission. Now we’re getting back to the basics of what it is to be a parish, to its ministry of broader catechesis and outreach to the community.”
Another sign of that broader outreach is a program that, at some point in the future, will use space in the former school building. It’s called “First Impression,” and Father Kenney said it is for women from disadvantaged circumstances who are entering or re-entering the workforce.
“Those assisted will be referred by the local” Center for Women and Families, he explained. “They’ll be able to come and pick out a nice outfit of clothing they can wear to their job interview.”
If the women are hired, Father Kenney added, they can return to First Impression to pick out “a couple of additional outfits to help them through their first couple of weeks on the job.”
“One of the key themes of this jubilee is ‘from the humblest of beginnings,’” he explained. “My understanding is that when the church was built here there were but 40 families, and so Catholics in this area were always a minority presence. We’re going to re-focus on being a Catholic presence in this community.”
In his homily at the anniversary Mass, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz noted that in the early days of the parish, Masses were sometimes celebrated in private homes, in the chambers of the local courthouse, and even in a skating rink.
“Then in 1912, through God’s grace, the people of this parish were able to build their first church,” he said.
The archbishop also noted the forgiveness of the $50,000 in parish debt in honor of the St. Aloysius jubilee celebration. And he announced a “challenge grant” for the parish of another $50,000. The archdiocese will match “dollar for dollar” the cost of any capital repair or expense — or any payment of a debt — that the parish undertakes or accomplishes over the next three years.
“It’s a way to say, as we start the next 100 years, ‘do not fear,’ ” the archbishop told the packed church before him. “And as we go forward, let us pray for the intercession of St. Aloysius, that we will be true to Christ as he has been true to us.”