Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Growing in Grace

Holy Spirit parish in Hernando, Miss. here in the Diocese of Jackson is celebrating its golden anniversary this year. The Memphis Commercial Appeal did a nice story on the celebration:

Here's Christine Greer's recipe for success for the 50-year anniversary celebration next Sunday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Hernando: "There'll be a lot of food. You've got to have food. Feed 'em and they'll come," says the secretary-bookkeeper and parishioner at the church on the prominent hill west of Interstate 55 at 545 East Commerce St.

Of course, fellowship and joy at seeing some long-lost faces are part of the menu too.

Greer came to the church a quarter-century ago as its first employee; greeting her then was the church's volunteer secretary, Rose Powell, a communicant who has shared the whole Holy Spirit history.

"I got paid and Rose didn't, but she loved me just the same," Greer says.

Both are busy helping organize the anniversary of the laying of the original church's cornerstone with a gathering at the Family Life Center from noon to 2 p.m. Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m.

"I think I'm the only one left who was around when the church was dedicated" -- back on July 2, l961, Powell said. "The rest have all died or moved away."

The pastor is Rev. Robert Tucker; associate pastor is Rev. Greg Schill, a native of San Antonio, Texas, who was just ordained in May.

"I just got here, and this is just a wonderful thing to be part of," says Schill, giving the busy parishioner-planners plenty of room.

The seed took a while to sprout, but now for a half-century Holy Spirit has been a tower of the community, firmly rooted in history and service on its hill. From about a dozen families when Powell came, it's grown to more than 360 families -- about 800 people, Greer said. "There were just 62 families when I came 25 years ago."

"We're inviting everyone in the community regardless of church affiliation to come and celebrate with us," Powell said.

The church practices what it preaches: It's involved with an interfaith group of 15 area churches that meets monthly on common issues.
She and Greer hope the event will be a reunion of sorts: "We're sure many people will be coming, along with a lot of our former priests."

Holy Spirit's own story springs from the Hernando community's earliest days.The history goes back to the first known Roman Catholic settler in the area, Col. Felix LaBauve, who came in 1838. He is known for having left a large endowment to the University of Mississippi for the education of orphan boys of DeSoto County. In addition, he left land to the Diocese of Mississippi to build a church in the area. LaBauve died in 1897.
After land on what was then Holly Springs Road was acquired, Holy Spirit Church was built on the east side of what became West Commerce Street.In 1983, an education building was completed and in 1994 the large Family Life Center was erected. The center was used for Sunday masses as the parish grew, "but little did we know that it was where mass would be celebrated for the next 14 years," Powell said.

After much talking, giving and praying, the present, larger church was built and dedicated in 2008.
In frames large and small, "the longtime dream of Col. LaBauve and many people came to be on our beautiful sloping hill," Powell said.

For more information, call Holy Spirit at (662) 429-7851.-- Henry Bailey: (901) 333-2012

Long journey
As there wasn't a Roman Catholic priest in the Hernando area for decades, the faithful more than a century ago had to travel for Sunday mass to Memphis, a long trip in those horse-and-buggy days.

In 1891, Mr. and Mrs. Robertson Yates moved from Memphis to the Hernando area. The nearest priest was in Water Valley, and Mrs. Yates had him come to their home to celebrate mass.

As the number of communicants grew, it became impractical to have services in homes, and permission was received to use an unused Episcopal church on Church Street as a mission church for Catholics.

Following the loss of the church by fire, Catholics asked for and were granted permission to use the large upstairs courtroom in the DeSoto County courthouse for services. Then finally in 1961 came the chance for a real church home.

As many of our readers know, this area of Mississippi has been booming in population over the past decade or two. Parishes such as Holy Spirit and Christ the King in Southaven, Miss. were once very small but now are some of the largest parishes in the state thanks largely to urban flight from nearby Memphis. There are also vibrant Hispanic populations in this region.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Catholic Church is growing throughout the South and Mississippi is no exception. While our diocese has traditionally considered itself to be "mission territory" for the Church, I suggest that a change in outlook and practices could cause Catholicism to boom in our state. Truth is potent and highly attractive. If it is presented and lived out boldly, joyfully and without compromise, it draws people in. We should take a note from Bl. John Paul II who encouraged us to live out a New Evangelization. And we should learn lessons from our evangelical brothers and sisters, making sure that in all things, we are bold and that we live out our Catholic faith without reserve.

Let us aim to serve the poor in humility - let us do good. Let us worship unabashedly as Catholics, according to our tradition, not our creativity - let us worship in beauty. Let us preach the Gospel in both words and in deeds, boldly - let us serve the truth. "The good, the beautiful and the true."

At World Youth Day in 2008, Pope Benedict pointed out that "life is a search for the true, the good, and the beautiful." In other words, all men have an innate attraction to what is good, beautiful and true. The Catholic faith, when lived without reservation, best displays the fullness of all three. So, when we live out our faith, we cannot help but to attract others to the light of Christ. These ideals are ancient and time-tested and, if lived out with God's help, would lead to a bountiful growth of our Catholic faith here in our region.

Congratulations to our friends at Holy Spirit in Hernando!  May the next 50 years bear witness to a loving, bold and deep-seeded Catholic faith in Hernando and throughout our state. With a sure foundation, may we all labor to produce a rich harvest for God's kingdom. God's grace is sufficient.