“I’m fulfilling a special need here at Saint John’s because there’s no priest available on a regular basis,” Sister Marie Michael points out. And there are plenty of challenges. She explains, “A big challenge is the fact that everyone lives so far apart. One lives 12 to 15 miles in one direction. Another 10 miles in the other direction. Another is the fact that Catholics are in a minority in the Fordsville area, and a high percentage of our residents are senior citizens or middle aged. We have very few families with small children. The area also has a high unemployment rate, which accounts for our lack of young families.
It may be an older group of Catholics who find themselves living as a minority in a rural area with high unemployment, but they have never lost their faith. “The families that are with us are very strong, faith-filled Catholics,” Sister Marie Michael proudly proclaims. “They are committed to their church and are so cooperative when it comes to working for the church.” She continues, “We strengthen the Catholic faith of our parishioners through two weekly masses, sacraments and sacramental preparation, religious education of grade- school and high-school youth, adult faith sharing and bible study groups.” There are other areas in which the parishioners can get involved. “We work to spread the gospel to others in the community through outreach to the poor (St. Vincent de Paul), visitation to the local nursing homes and senior center, and working with the community on local projects.”
Christine Kemper Dietel is youth minister at St. John’s. “Sister Marie is a spiritual leader and advisor,” she says, “she has been instrumental in my spiritual growth. I have learned much from her. She provides much wisdom when others or I have questions. Sister is well known by all in the community, people of all faiths. She visits hospitalized patients and makes home visits to people of all faiths.”