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(Editor’s note: To help mark the Year for Priests, The Criterion is inviting readers to share stories of priests who have ministered to them in a special way. This week, we share a reflection from Virginia Berheide, a member of the Richmond Catholic Community, which is made up of Holy Family, St. Andrew and St. Mary parishes in that eastern Indiana city. Berheide reflects on the positive influence that Father Todd Riebe has had on the Catholic community in Richmond.)
About 14 years ago, the city of Richmond had three Catholic parishes: St. Mary, St. Andrew and Holy Family. Priests serving at St. Mary and Holy Family parishes had retired or were transferred. The priest ministering at St. Andrew Parish was trying to cover all three parishes.
God heard our cry [for help] and called a young missionary priest from Juba, Sudan, home to Terre Haute. Father Todd Riebe was asked to help in Richmond, and when Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein asked him to become the pastor for the parishes in Richmond, his reply was, “If that’s where God wants me, that’s what I’ll do.”
So Father Riebe came to Richmond. He saw, he cared, he loved and he healed.
Parishioners returned to the Church and converts joined us in our faith. We began to work together as a family, now known as the “Richmond Catholic Community.”
Ministries were formed to serve the spiritual and physical needs of our family, and not only our Catholic community, but also all residents of Richmond. We grew into a loving, caring community thanks to the guidance of Father Riebe and his love for each and every one of his sheep.
Father Riebe has given of himself unselfishly to the needs of every parishioner. I’ve known him to drive to Dayton or Indianapolis at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. to visit people in hospitals or nursing homes there. He will go wherever or whenever he’s needed.
His concern and love for the young people to continue their Catholic education beyond the eighth grade resulted in the remodeling of a former elementary school into the beautiful Seton Catholic High School, and the dream of a gymnasium was completed this past year.
When our young people have children and grandchildren who ask them if they ever knew a saint, they will say, “Let me tell you about Father Todd.”
When he returned from his three-month sabbatical, an elderly man called out after Mass, “Father Todd, do you remember me?”
Father Riebe smiled and replied, “Of course, I remember you, John.”
He knows all of his sheep by name.
Father Riebe once walked over to a handicapped lady sitting alone off to the side for Mass, and pushed her wheelchair to the end of a pew so she could worship with the rest of us.
“Preach the Gospel and when necessary use words.” That’s Father Riebe.
“Be kind! Be kind! Be kind!” is his motto. He has taught us so much about loving, caring and helping others just by showing the merciful and kind things he does in such an easy, natural manner.
We have become a strong, loving and caring “Catholic Community” because of this dear priest.
I can hear God say, as he looks down from heaven, “This is one of my beloved priests. In him, I am well pleased.”
Father Riebe will live in our hearts forever. I am proud and feel blessed to be a member our loving, caring Richmond Catholic Community.
Thank you, Father Riebe! †