February 10, 2012

Rockville parishioner donates his talents ‘Foor’ the love of God

St. Joseph parishioner Robert Foor of Rockville holds a replica of a B-29 airplane that is a World War II souvenir while he stands in front of artwork that he created on wood veneer panels. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

St. Joseph parishioner Robert Foor of Rockville holds a replica of a B-29 airplane that is a World War II souvenir while he stands in front of artwork that he created on wood veneer panels. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

By Mary Ann Garber

ROCKVILLE—God willing, Robert Foor said, he will celebrate his 90th birthday in December.

He hopes to mark that distinguished milestone by continuing to help St. Joseph parishioners celebrate eucharistic liturgies.

The talented actor, artist, and retired Indiana University Northwest theater professor and dean of students volunteers as a lector and expertly proclaims the Scripture readings during Masses on many weekends at the Rockville church.

Serving as a lector is “an honor and a privilege,” Foor said, that he has enjoyed for 24 years.

The World War II veteran believes that God called him to this lay ministry role after he and his wife, Betty, moved to their retirement home in scenic Parke County in September of 1987 then he joined the Church during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday in 1988.

His professionally trained voice projects well even without a microphone as he conveys the appropriate inflections and respectful tone while sharing God’s word with parishioners and visitors.

Parke County’s historic covered bridges are popular tourist attractions, and Foor is happy to help welcome guests that come to weekend Masses at his beloved parish church throughout the year.

“Historically, there is a relationship between theater and the Church,” he explained during a recent interview at their home nestled beside a winding creek and wooded hillsides on eight acres of land.

“The Mass is theatrical,” Foor said. “It is ritual. For 30 some years, theater was my church. Then I came down here and made the Church my theater.”

Assisting as a lector is one way to thank God, he said, for many blessings in his long life, especially his safe return from 30 Army Air Corps bombing missions to Japan, his 68-year marriage to Betty and their seven children.

“I had no religion while growing up,” Foor said. “Betty is a cradle Catholic. When we were married at her parish in the rectory [in East Chicago, Ind.] on Dec. 29, 1943, I promised to raise our children in the Church.”

Two days later, Foor began his military training in Kansas. Two months later, he was deployed overseas as a gunner on a B-29 in the Allies’ three-year Pacific campaign against Japan.

After the war, Foor was eligible for the G.I. Bill, and decided to major in theater at the Indiana University campuses in Gary, Ind., and Bloomington.

He earned a bachelor’s degree and later a master’s degree while teaching for 13 years at a public school then accepted a faculty position at IU Northwest, where he started the theater department and later served as dean of students.

Their daughter and six sons live in Indiana so the Foors decided to retire in the Hoosier state.

They fell in love with the natural beauty of Turkey Run State Park and Parke County then moved to the rural Rockville area in September of 1987.

Foor also found a home among the artists’ community in Rockville, and has sold many of his intricate, hand-carved wood veneer pictures at a local gallery.

The late Msgr. Joseph Kern, St. Joseph’s pastor at the time, came to dinner several times, Foor recalled, and he gave the priest “a semi-realistic picture of the Holy Family,” which is displayed in the church foyer.

“I’ve lived 30-some years in a nest of Catholics so I decided that it was time to become one,” Foor said. “During the [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] meetings, Father Kern would say, ‘Bob, you read this. You do it so well.’ ”

After Foor joined the Church, Father Kern asked him to serve as a lector.

Years later, Father Joseph Villa, St. Joseph’s current pastor, thanks him after Masses and funeral liturgies for his wonderful proclamation of the Scriptures.

“That embarrasses me,” Foor said, “because I am thankful for the opportunity. … I read it like I mean it, and I do mean it. I don’t read words. I read thoughts. When I read [from the Letters of] St. Paul, I think Paul’s thoughts and express Paul’s thoughts.”

Foor’s favorite Scripture passages are the Apostle’s writings about love in 2 Corinthians.

His most powerful experiences of sharing God’s word are the times on Good Friday that he proclaimed the Passion stories from the Gospels at St. Joseph Church and the former Immaculate Conception Mission in Montezuma.

“I don’t have the breath control and the breath power that I once had,” Foor explained, “and I want to make sure that people can hear me.”

To help her husband, Betty sits in a pew at the back of the church to reassure him that his voice carries well because there is no microphone at the ambo.

He does just fine, she said, smiling, and shouldn’t worry about it.

Foor’s love for God is also expressed in his artwork and generosity to the Church.

After Good Shepherd Parish was formed on the near south side in Indianapolis in 1993, a few years later, Foor donated to the church beautiful wood veneer Stations of the Cross that were meticulously carved during countless hours of loving work.

Father Gerald Kirkhoff, Good Shepherd’s current pastor, said the Stations are “very beautiful” and “enhance the whole environment of the church.”

Even better, he said, their intricate and unique beauty inspires people to pray throughout the year.

“I have noticed that people frequently pray the Stations,” Father Kirkhoff said. “We’re very happy to have them.”

As he contemplates his 90th birthday later this year, Foor said he is happy that he can continue to be of service to God and the Church in the archdiocese with the gifts of his voice and hand-carved religious images. †

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