St. Patrick Church Draws Members From Near and Far

March 15, 2013

Our Church of St. Patrick, located in the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, was recently profiled in their Diocese’s Newspaper, The Catholic Times.  The full article is reprinted below, with the kind permission of The Catholic Times.

St. Patrick Church Draws Members From Near and Far

By Tim Puet, Catholic Times

Columbus St. Patrick Church is located at the edge of downtown in an area surrounded by warehouses and Columbus State Community College, yet has nearly 1,100 registered families and draws more than 2,000 people, mostly from beyond the Interstate 270 outerbelt, to one of its five Masses on any given Saturday evening and Sunday. Nearly all of those people have to drive past one or more other parishes to get to St. Patrick’s, with some making round trips of 100 miles or more from communities such as Washington Court House, Centerburg, and Zanesville. Parishioners say what attracts them and keeps bringing them back every weekend is a combination of the spirituality of the Dominican friars who have served the parish for more than 125 years, respect for church tradition mixed with youthful enthusiasm, and a family-centered program with a variety of activities for all ages. “It’s a very interesting mix,” said Father Michael Mary Dosch, OP, pastor of the church since 2010. “For our 9 a.m. and noon Sunday Masses, you see a lot of families, because our religious education classes start at 10:15.” Other weekend Masses are at 5 p.m. Saturday and 7 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. “What’s significant is that no one just drops their kids off for classes and goes elsewhere. Most of the parents gather for coffee and doughnuts while their children are in class, then they all go to Mass as a family at noon if they haven’t already done it at 9. There’s a real bond that develops among the families.” Dan DeMatte, director of religious education and youth ministry for the parish, said between 400 and 450 young people attend its Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes each Sunday. St. Patrick’s doesn’t have an elementary school, so that’s where most of them receive the bulk of their religious education. “The catechists we have here are great, and they communicate in a way that makes the kids want to come here on their own, rather than feel like they’re being dragged here kicking and screaming,” said DeMatte, himself in his late 20s and a nationally known speaker and writer who a few years ago was featured on an A&E television series about four young men considering whether they were called to the priesthood. “More than half of the young people in our religious education program are home-schooled, so the activities here allow them to develop a lot of good friendships and cross-pollinate our other youth ministries,” he said. The religious education program starts with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. The Faith and Life series from Ignatius Press forms the basis of the program for first- through eighth-graders, Confirmation takes place in the sixth grade, with the size of recent classes ranging from 30 to 50. One of the highlights of the year for the younger children in the program is an All Saints Day party which allows everyone to dress up as a favorite saint. Last year’s party included a “Stump the Priest” game with Father Dosch and associate pastor Father Gregory Schnakenberg, OP, trying to guess the identities of the costumed saints. In addition, Vacation Bible School for children takes place in mid-July. St. Patrick’s is one of the few diocesan parishes with a high school religious education program. DeMatte said about 100 students take part in it each week. It focuses on the sacraments and on the traditional Catholic method of allowing the intellect to lead a student to conversion and deeper contemplation. The parish has youth ministry programs every Tuesday night for high school students and the first Tuesday of each month for sixth- to eighth-graders. Activities for middle-schoolers focus on the creed, the sacraments, Christian living, and prayer. The high school program features a different theme for each month, including prayer nights, issue nights, peer ministry, and discipleship. The young people also take part in many service and social events, including a retreat during the Christmas holidays, which this year took them to Appalachia for work with the Missionaries of Charity, and a recently completed spring retreat to Geneva Hills in Lancaster. They also make an annual trip to the March for Life in Washington, which is part of an active pro-life ministry throughout the parish that Ohio Right to Life has spotlighted in a video on the organization’s website. Young adults beyond high school age also have a ministry at the parish. St. Patrick’s started a 20s group  in 2011, and anywhere from 30 to 50 married and single people in their 20s have joined group leaders  Mary Parker, Justin Hernandez, Nikita Phillips, Rebekah Richards, and Marissa Gerdes for the meetings at 7 p.m. each Thursday since then. Each meeting starts with a Holy Hour. The meetings have a rotating monthly structure which includes catechesis study, Gospel study, a lecture night, and member talk. They conclude with participants going out to dinner together or having a dinner in the parish center. The parish center, built in 2003 to celebrate the parish’s 150th anniversary, includes two large meeting spaces – Patrick Hall and Aquinas Hall, the latter honoring the former Aquinas High School, now part of  Columbus State, as well as several small and large meeting rooms. The availability of such spaces, as well as St. Patrick’s location close to downtown, allows the parish to serve as host for groups including the Catholic Men’s Luncheon Club, which meets on the first Friday of most months, and Catholic War Veterans Post 1963, which gathers on the third Sunday of each month. The parish’s Dominican presence makes it the natural home for meetings of a chapter of the Third Order of St. Dominic. The chapter is named for St. Catherine of Siena and dates to 1939. In addition, a cenacle of the Marian Movement for Priests meets on the first Monday of most months for Mass and devotions dedicated to family life, and on the third Monday for Eucharistic Adoration and prayers for vocations. St. Patrick’s is one of two parishes in Ohio hosting monthly meetings of the Calix Society, an association of Catholic alcoholics who, through affiliation with and participation in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, maintain sobriety. Father Thomas Blau, OP, the parish’s other associate pastor, is the society’s chaplain. Father Dosch said the parish has about 40 adult groups which meet regularly. Besides those mentioned, others include a Marriage and Family Life group which sponsors children’s concerts, Sunday coffee and doughnuts, dinners and speakers, trivia nights, and retreats; the Madonna Garden Club; the Martha-Mary Sewing Circle; a Women’s Club which raised more than $13,000 for the parish last year, mostly from bake sales; and Knights of Columbus Council 11207, which is hosting weekly Friday fish fries through March 22 and is sponsoring a “40 Cans for 40 Days” Lenten food drive and conducting an Easter lily sale. The parish has just completed its annual Lenten mission, which this year featured Father Allan White, OP, the former Dominican prior provincial of England. RCIA coordinator Gina Switzer said 12 people preparing to become Catholics are taking classes at the church, and she expects at least nine to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. Other regularly scheduled devotional activities include a Respect Life Eucharistic Vigil on the third Friday of each month, from 8 p.m. until 7 a.m. Saturday, followed by Mass and recitation of the rosary at a local abortion center; a Eucharistic Vigil for Vocations on the fourth Friday, also from 8 p.m. until 7 a.m. the next day; a Holy Hour with Benediction, from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. every Friday; first Saturday Fatima devotions after the 7 a.m. Mass; and recitation of the Rosary after the 7 and 11:45 a.m. Masses daily. Adult education opportunities include an ongoing Bible study with Father Blau, currently focusing on the Gospel of Matthew; occasional in-home catechesis programs in which a host invites family and friends for discussion; a “Why Be Catholic?” program for non-Catholics; and catechist certification activities. Father Blau last year conducted a series of talks on some of history’s great military battles and their impact on Catholicism and said he’s considering another set. Appropriately enough, the parish’s major social event is on the Feast of St. Patrick, March 17 – moved this year to March 18 because the 17th is a Sunday. Mass at 6:30 p.m. will be followed by a torchlit procession to the Litany of Irish Saints, accompanied by pipes and drums. An Irish tea party is scheduled afterward, featuring scones, soda bread, shortbread, whiskey bread, tea, punch, beer, and, wine. Whiskey Mile will play Irish music from 8:30 to 10:30, and parishioners involved in Irish dance programs have been invited to perform. Father Dosch reminds everyone that people visiting a parish church on its patron saint’s feast day may obtain a plenary indulgence, provided that during the visit, prayers (the Creed and Hail Mary) are offered for the pope, and that one makes a sacramental confession and receives Holy Communion within 20 days. Father Dosch is the 32nd Dominican priest to serve as pastor of St. Patrick’s since the parish was entrusted to the Dominicans by Columbus Bishop John Watterson in 1885. The parish, the second-oldest in Columbus, was founded primarily to serve a growing Irish immigrant population. The church building was dedicated on Sept. 25, 1853 and has been almost continuously used for worship for 160 years, except for nearly a year of rebuilding which followed a devastating fire in May 1935 and a restoration project that began in 2000. Just inside the front door is a shrine to Blessed Margaret of Castello, a Third Order Dominican who was born blind and lame in 1287 but used her suffering to help others, visiting prisoners, the sick, and the dying until her death at age 33. Her incorrupt body lies under the altar of St. Dominic Church in her hometown of Castello, Italy. There has been a special devotion to her at St. Patrick’s to her since the 1930s. The shrine was established in the late 1950s and renovated for the parish’s 150th anniversary. A Blessed Margaret Guild has been established at the parish to promote her canonization and to raise funds for “the unwanted” in all walks of life. Each Wednesday, a novena and canonization prayers for her are prayed at all Masses and a relic of her incorrupt heart is venerated, with other devotions to her taking place through the year. Robert McGonigle, who is involved in at least a half-dozen parish activities, described St. Patrick’s as “a microcosm of the church as a whole. People from all walks of life, all types of social status, come here because they like what they find here. I was away from the church for 38 years and God drew me back to Catholicism,” he continued. “But I couldn’t find a parish I was satisfied with until I walked through the doors here in 2006. Once I did, I felt I was home.” Eunice Hayes of Newark had similar words when describing why she’s willing to make a 60-mile round trip to go to Mass at St. Patrick’s each Sunday. “I moved to the area 16 years ago, tried several parishes, and didn’t feel they met my spiritual needs,” she said. “I knew about St. Patrick’s, but wasn’t going to go there because I heard negative things about those Dominicans. One winter day, I wanted to attend another Catholic church and see what its Mass was like, but there was a snowstorm and I missed that Mass. St. Patrick’s was the closest alternative, so I said ‘Oh well, how bad can things be?’ I went to Mass here, was impressed by its beauty and the quality of its music and preaching, and felt this was where I belonged. I’ve come here ever since.” First-time visitors to St. Patrick’s, especially those who grew up in the pre-Vatican II era, often are struck by how the parish has retained many historic elements of worship within the current context of the Mass. These include having a Communion rail, kneeling to receive the Eucharist, traditional liturgical chant, and use of incense at many weekend and holy day Masses. The 7 and 9 a.m. Sunday Masses, as well as daytime holy day Masses, are incense-free for those who have allergic or other reactions to incense. Since St. Patrick’s has three priests and a deacon, there is no need for it to have extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass, but 15 to 20 men and women serve in that role to bring Communion to the sick. DeMatte said the parish’s retention of some of the things that have made Catholic worship distinctive through the centuries appeals to him and other young people to whom those elements were unfamiliar, and is why many young families have become members of St. Patrick’s. “It’s taking the beauty of the traditional church and preserving it in a new, vibrant way,” he said. Another unique element about St. Patrick’s is that it’s the only parish in the diocese offering confessions on a daily basis. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is available on weekdays, except civic holidays and holy days, from the end of the 11:45 a.m. Mass until all are heard, as well as Saturdays from 4 to 5 p.m., and Sundays one-half hour before Mass. Father Dosch estimated that about 50 confessions a day are heard and that the priests are in the confessional about 12 hours a week. The parish also has plenty of altar boys available to assist at the Masses. Sixteen new servers fulfilled requirements for the position this past October, bringing the total to 108. St. Patrick’s retains the custom of using all male servers, which often helps those men discerning a priestly vocation. At the same time, St. Patrick’s has also sought to develop programs for young women, such as its annual Brunch with the Sisters, which brings in speakers from various communities to help young girls discern a vocation. St. Patrick’s has been a fruitful source of vocations over the years for the Dominicans and religious life as a whole, with more than 20 sons and daughters of the parish currently serving as priests or religious, and many others who have gone to their eternal reward. Seven men and four women from the parish are in formation for religious life and the priesthood. “Dominican spirituality has always been appealing to young men and women who wish to grow in their faith, whether through the lay state or religious life,” Father Dosch said. “We Dominicans value our history and our roots. We cherish our tradition as preachers and teachers that goes back eight centuries. We’ve never changed for the sake of change, but always tried to retain what was valuable in the past with what is new and good, using it all to preach for the salvation of souls.” The article was taken from the March 17, 2013 edition of The Catholic Times, which is available on-line.

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