November 18, 2022

Celebrations kindle ‘fire of faith’ at St. Michael, St. Francis Xavier

Father Jeyaseelan Sengolraj, administrator of St. Michael Parish in Charlestown and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Henryville, center, smiles with members of St. Michael after an outdoor, bilingual rosary procession held at the parish on Oct. 30. (Submitted photo)

Father Jeyaseelan Sengolraj, administrator of St. Michael Parish in Charlestown and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Henryville, center, smiles with members of St. Michael after an outdoor, bilingual rosary procession held at the parish on Oct. 30. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

As Carol Combs recalls, southern Indiana “had been in a drought condition for several weeks. On Oct. 30, Mother Nature chose to end that dry weather.”

It was the day that outdoor rosary processions were held at her parish, St. Michael in Charlestown, and its neighboring parish, St. Francis Xavier in Henryville.

But the drizzle did not stop roughly 70 St. Michael parishioners and 50 St. Francis Xavier parishioners from joining in their respective parish’s rosary procession. The processions—including candle-bearing servers, a crucifix and a statue of Mary borne on a platform—were the culmination of a daily rosary devotion at each parish during the month of October.

“I wanted to start new things for the people” of St. Michael and St. Francis Xavier, says Father Jeyaseelan Sengolraj, administrator of both parishes. “They told me the October daily rosary and procession had never been done” in the parishes as far as they recalled.

“People told me they want this, they’re longing for the Catholic traditions,” he says. “That’s what people expressed to me, and I felt the power of God and a community spirit of [the] people” as the monthlong devotion proceeded. “It’s kindling the fire of the faith in the people.”

The October devotion not only sparked “the fire of the faith” within each parish. It also drew together the English- and Spanish-speaking communities at St. Michael on Oct. 30.

“The rosary during the procession there was bilingual, with one mystery in English and the other in Spanish,” says Father Sengolraj, a priest of the Archdiocese of Delhi, India, who for nearly three years has served the Church in central and southern Indiana.

“This priest is learning about the Hispanic community and trying to learn Spanish,” says St. Michael parishioner Luz Nino. A graduate of the Pastoral Institute of the archdiocese’s Office of Intercultural Ministry, Nino helps coordinates Masses, events for special Hispanic feasts and more for the Hispanic community of St. Michael.

“When I started helping there [15 years ago] there were only 10” Hispanic members of the parish, she says. “Now there are more than 100.”

Father Sengolraj “is working to bring the [Anglo and Hispanic] communities together,” says Nino, who led the Spanish parts of the rosary during the Marian procession. “I love to share our cultures. They learn about us, and we learn about them.”

Combs, a 25-year member of St. Michael, noted the “special relationship” both groups have with the rosary. She appreciated praying during the monthlong devotion and the bilingual procession as a united community.

She also appreciates Father Sengolraj’s enthusiasm for encouraging both parishes in longstanding Catholic practices and traditions.

He is devoted to “giving the faithful opportunities for both private prayer and public worship,” says Combs. “He has scheduled days of prayer, adoration and reconciliation to assist us in our spiritual journey.”

Father Sengolraj says he is “really very happy” about the response of members of both parishes to the rosary devotion in October. “People are already excited to do this again in May.”

Meanwhile, he is enjoying celebrating with St. Michael parishioners the Hispanic Catholic tradition of praying the rosary during the 46 days prior to the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12.

“We’re doing it in houses of parishioners,” he explains. “We carry a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe to each house and then pray the rosary there.”

The feast will include mañanitas—prayers and music—through the evening of Dec. 11 until midnight, then Mass and a procession on the evening of Dec. 12.

During the nine days before Christmas, St. Michael will also offer las posadas—a special novena of Hispanic Catholic tradition. And St. Francis Xavier will host a live Nativity on Dec. 22-23.

All of these traditions and devotions “bring the people together in faith and help them come to know each other,” says Father Sengolraj. “That’s the way we build the Church.” †

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