by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven
BLUE RAPIDS — At the “Enflame Our Hearts: Be Disciples, Make Disciples” convocation in October 2019, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann explained to participants what real discipleship is all about.
“It means being so grateful for the gift of your friendship with Jesus — for your Catholic faith; for the meaning, the hope, the purpose, the joy that it brings to your life — that you want to share that gift with others,” he said.
Father Anthony Chendumalli and his three parishes — Annunciation Church in Frankfort; St. Columbkille Church in Blaine; and St. Monica-St. Elizabeth Church in Blue Rapids — took Archbishop Naumann’s message to heart Jan. 11, with a fellowship event at the latter.
“We believe we are one in Christ, but it is not always true in reality,” said Father Chendumalli. “So we hope it will help each of us within our three parishes become true brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“This social event is simply for the sake of spending time together,” explained Sally Olson, St. Columbkille parishioner and co-event coordinator, “just like within our immediate families when we come together for Sunday dinners. It is not a fundraiser — just a ‘fun’ raiser.
“Our hope is that families from all three parishes will come for the food or come for the fun and relax and enjoy each other’s company.”
Planners hoped it would lead to future similar events among the three parishes.
“Father Anthony has been with our parishes for about two years,” said Olson, “and one thing I have gathered from him, his culture and his family and friends in India, is their love for getting together.”
To help make the event more feasible for parishioners in all three parishes, Mass schedules were rearranged so that the event could start off with a 4 p.m. Mass before gathering together for a potluck and a night of bingo with white-elephant gift prizes.
“The bingo was a lot of fun,” said Marilyn Hazen, Annunciation Church parishioner and church office secretary. “I thought it went really well, and the Blue Rapids parish did a great job hosting the event. Everybody was very cordial and gracious.
“I believe we should work together toward being one family as a church.”
Janice Rowe, St. Monica-St. Elizabeth parishioner, said that, after attending the convocation, she and the other parish delegates knew fulfilling the archbishop’s request starts in their own parish families.
“We thought we needed to share our love through fellowship and social time,” Rowe said. “I think it is important for us, although we are three parishes, to realize that we are all a permanent union of persons with God. We need to show that we are a life-giving community of love. We can demonstrate that by extending Christ’s love through time spent together.”
In his homily, Father Chendumalli tied Archbishop Naumann’s convocation message to the weekend’s feast of the baptism of Jesus.
“Everyone should baptize their children,” he said, “because we have the responsibility of spreading the good news to everyone.
“You don’t have to be great preachers going all around the world and preaching about Christ. It is where we are, where we work, with who we work, the daily conversation. We can bring Christ to others.”
Robert Bergman, St. Columbkille parishioner, said sharing the faith is what made the event so important.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do is get out and talk with our fellow Catholics and see what’s going on,” Bergman said.
He added that the parishes were brought together musically during the Mass as well, when he brought his banjo and accompanied musicians from St. Monica-St. Elizabeth who played the guitar and bass.
“People came up to me afterwards and said that it was really neat having that banjo,” said Bergman. “It created more interest.”
With the event complete, Rowe said she hopes it inspires other combined events in the future.
“We do hope that more families in our parishes will be inspired by this event and want to attend more combined events,” Rowe said, “so we can spread God’s love more efficiently in numbers.
“The team of delegates are already planning more three-parish events that each parish will [take turns] hosting. A special retreat for Lent is underway as is a special movie night.”
“We know that events like this take a lot of planning, working and scheduling, but we all need to realize that it is God’s love that we all share,” she added.
“Let that love enflame your heart and share with someone else,” she continued. “A good place to start is together as one.”