3 faith communities unite for Mass, procession in Roseville

By: By Tom Dermody

PHOTO: Msgr. Thomas Mack carries the Blessed Sacrament in a eucharistic procession through a park in Roseville during the United in Faith celebration on June 22. (More photos from this event can be viewed in an album on The Catholic Post’s Facebook page.)


ROSEVILLE — The first Catholic Mass in memory celebrated in this Warren County crossroads community of 1,000 quickly brought calls for an encore.

“It’s beautiful to see. This is wonderful,” said Theresa Noel as she welcomed 400 people who had gathered at Roseville’s park from three different area Catholic churches for a “United in Faith” celebration. The June 22 event on a sunny summer morning included an outdoor Mass, a eucharistic procession around the park, and a potluck lunch.

Noel chairs the stewardship committee that represents the parishes of Immaculate Conception in Monmouth and St. Patrick in Raritan, as well as St. Theresa Church in Alexis.

“It’s really exciting to see this happen,” said Noel, noting it was the first major joint event since the churches were linked as “cluster parishes” through the Diocese of Peoria’s Growing in Faith Together (GIFT) process.

It likely won’t be the last.

“I wish we could do this more often,” said Gisele Badang, a lector at the Mass and a member of the Monmouth parish, as she moved through the line at the potluck lunch that followed. “Two or three times a year. I would do it.”

Msgr. Thomas Mack, pastor and principal celebrant of the Mass, called the turnout “a great inspiration for each and every one of us” and a blessing for Catholics in Warren and Henderson counties.

“Who says we can’t do things well in western Illinois?” he asked at the start of the 10 a.m. Mass., celebrated on a raised concrete stage near a pavilion and playground. The assembly sat in lawn chairs or bleachers beneath towering trees.

There was plenty done well at United in Faith.

Parishioners were encouraged to wear colors representing their respective churches. Matching t-shirts were made available — green for St. Patrick, Raritan; light blue for Immaculate Conception, Monmouth; red for St. Theresa, Alexis. The Alexis church was merged into Immaculate Conception Parish last summer, but continues to host a Sunday morning Mass.

Those colors were prominent at three altars set up in the park’s baseball field. Following Mass, celebrated on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Msgr. Mack carried Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to each of the altars. The hundreds in attendance followed in prayerful procession.

Father Timothy Hepner, parochial vicar, said in his homily at the Mass that while Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, is calling on neighboring parishes throughout the diocese to work more closely together, the church “doesn’t bulldoze our identity.” He listed aspects unique to each faith community and church, and said the feast also known as Corpus Christi was the perfect day to show unity.

“There is absolutely no way that all of us could come together without the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” he said, speaking alternately in English and Spanish. “It seems like Jesus and the Holy Spirit are ahead of us.”

The event united not only the faith but the talents of the three communities. Two choirs provided music for the Mass. One was comprised chiefly of members of the Raritan parish under the direction of Joan Blindt, organist, and the other was the Verdad y Vida Hispanic choir from the Monmouth parish, featuring guitar, mandolin and tambourine.

Throughout the Mass, smoke rose like incense from a large grill just east of the stage and altar as head cook Ron Byers and his assistants prepared 400 pork chops and 200 hot dogs for the lunch to follow. The grill had been made from an old fuel oil tank by migrant workers from South Africa assisting at his farm.

“They’re tremendous welders,” said Byers, adding that even though the chefs were busy during Mass, “we knew what was going on” just steps away.

Fred Bride, a lifelong resident of the Roseville area and member of St. Patrick, Raritan, said he could not remember another Mass celebrated in the rural community located at the intersection of Illinois Route 116 and U.S. Highway 67. He called the gathering “fabulous.”

“It’s the best idea anybody has had here in quite awhile,” Bride proclaimed.

Alejandro Godina, a member of Immaculate Conception in Monmouth who was one of the cantors, called the gathering “a true testament not only to the nature of Catholicism but to the community of our parishes.”

Meanwhile, Lydia Perrilles, a sophomore at Monmouth College, spoke for many when she described the “wonderful feeling” of celebrating Christ with members of the neighboring churches.

“It’s a warm, happy, home feeling,” said Perrilles, one of four college students coordinating a weeklong Totus Tuus youth religious education experience at Immaculate Conception Parish starting that evening.

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