November 6, 2009

Parishes are at the heart of shared ministries supported by ‘Christ Our Hope’ appeal

Leroy and Marlene Oser, members of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Siberia, work on Aug. 19 at Martin’s Cloak, a food and clothing bank located at their parish that is a program of Catholic Charities Tell City. (Submitted photo)

Leroy and Marlene Oser, members of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Siberia, work on Aug. 19 at Martin’s Cloak, a food and clothing bank located at their parish that is a program of Catholic Charities Tell City. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

Holy Rosary Parish in Seelyville and St. Martin of Tours Parish in Siberia may be small—both have less than 80 families among their members—but that has not stopped their parishioners from serving those in need far beyond their parishes’ households.

It was members of St. Martin Parish who started a food and clothing pantry called Martin’s Cloak 16 years ago.

Marlene Oser, a 76-year-old member of St. Martin Parish, helps oversee the ministry that is still located at the parish in the rolling hills of the Tell City Deanery. Today, it is a program of Catholic Charities Tell City and serves those in need in a four-county area.

Mary Chloupek, a member of Holy Rosary Parish, helps manage the Christmas Store of Catholic Charities Terre Haute.

Both Oser and Chloupek are happy to see the faith that is instilled as their small parishes reach out far beyond their boundaries.

“It’s a good thing,” said Oser of Martin’s Cloak. “There are a lot of needy people in the area. We’re just glad that we’re able to go ahead with it.”

Chloupek said she doesn’t “want to leave my faith at the church door when I come out” on Sunday.

When Chloupek speaks about how she puts her faith into action at the Christmas Store, which provides clothes, household items and toys as Christmas gifts to families in need in Terre Haute, she recalls one of the first clients that she served when she began her ministry there 11 years ago.

A woman came to her in cold and snowy weather without a winter jacket. Chloupek found a coat for her.

“I’ll never forget her,” Chloupek said. “I had her try it on. She went to the mirror and was like a new woman. She looked beaten down and just gray.

“And when she put on this new coat and twirled around in it with a beaming smile, it felt so wonderful because I don’t think anyone had said a nice word to her.”

The ministry of these women from small parishes is able to reach a wide range of people in need because of the support they receive from the annual archdiocesan stewardship appeal, which is now known as “Christ Our Hope: Compassion in Community.” (Related: Christ Our Hope has goal of $6.75 million | Prayer)

Oser spoke of the van that Catholic Charities Tell City purchased for Martin’s Cloak that helps her and husband, Leroy, pick up food for the pantry in Evansville, Ind.

“That helps a lot,” Oser said. “Before, we used our own pickup truck. If the weather was bad, we had to try to cover it up.”

Chloupek, in addition to her ministry in the Christmas Store, is in a good position to appreciate the support Catholic Charities Terre Haute receives from the annual stewardship appeal through her service as president of its advisory council.

“It’s a tremendous help because we are in a very [economically] depressed area,” Chloupek said. “… They are helping us with Ryves Hall, which is where we’re teaching our youth how to struggle through their own problems and that there is hope [for them].”

The programs of Catholic Charities Terre Haute and Catholic Charities Tell City are examples of the shared ministries that are unable to be supported by any one parish community alone.

It is the contributions of Catholics across central and southern Indiana to “Christ Our Hope” that help make these shared ministries possible.

Many of those shared ministries are carried out by members of parishes across the archdiocese to serve those who aren’t Catholic.

Father Rick Nagel, on the other hand, oversees archdiocesan ministry to young adults and college students that is supported by Christ Our Hope.

Through it, Father Nagel reaches out to young adult Catholics and Catholic college students who are not active in archdiocesan parishes, nurtures their faith and encourages them to set down roots in a parish.

At present, the ministry is based at St. John the Evangelist Parish in downtown Indianapolis.

According to Father Nagel, about 175-200 young adults and college students are attending a weekly 7 p.m. Sunday evening Mass at St. John that began in August.

About 80 of these people have volunteered for various liturgical ministries. And they’re spreading the word about the Mass and the ministry that Father Nagel oversees.

“Evangelization is happening,” Father Nagel said. “Every Sunday, I’m meeting new young adults that, when I ask, ‘What brought you here?,’ will say, ‘Well, my friend here invited me.’ ”

Father Nagel has described his ministry as a bridge that links the time when teenagers are ministered to in parish youth ministry programs to the point where they are beginning careers and families and once again become settled in a parish.

He sees basing this ministry at St. John as an important means to that end.

“Hopefully they’ll have a good model of parish ministry and parish life and being involved in that and being consistent and committed,” Father Nagel said. “Then, they’ll desire, when they move [elsewhere], to set roots immediately in their local parish and be involved.”

Father Nagel appreciates the support he and others involved in young adult and college campus ministry receive from those who contribute to Christ Our Hope.

“They’re investing in so much more than programs,” he said. “They’re investing in souls. And what more could you do with a gift of your resources than to help a soul get to heaven?”

(To learn more about “Christ Our Hope: Compassion in Community,” log on to

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