#27 Father Ralph and a Tiny Church
Near the Cemetery
It was 2009. We had heard about an old cemetery not far from our campground, so my husband and I went exploring.
We found the cemetery, but what a nice surprise to find this lovely white church with a picket fence.
I snapped a picture from the end of the curved walk. What a peaceful image in the middle of nowhere. Shady trees, colorful flowers and a lovely little bell with a rope for ringing.
Then suddenly I noticed a man coming around the corner, carrying a watering can. Father Ralph saw us and introduced himself. "Would you like to go inside?" He asked.
So Tiny and Tidy
In recent years the only Catholic churches I've entered were grand, echoing cathedrals in big cities. This was a church where you would imagine a prayer could be heard. Where the priest would make eye contact with each parishioner sitting in the 5 rows. But Father Ralph's eyes were wandering around the church as he sat down on a pew near us.
Father Ralph spoke softly as he pointed out some of the recent renovations. You could tell he was very proud of this small chapel that made it through the Civil War. Then he shared a little about himself. He was new to the church. I can't remember where he was from, somewhere in the east? I wondered how he was welcomed by this congregation closer to a Texas State Park than a town.
He was very matter of fact as he described the difficulties of getting to know church members. Many who attended church were traveling visitors. He said it was also hard because his work had been interrupted by cancer treatments.
(I just listened...no camera snapping for me. I found these interior shots recently on the internet)
Thank You, Father!
You were so warm and welcoming when you invited us into your church. The tiny bit of yourself that you shared has never been forgotten.
I remember putting some money in the donation box as we left. I also wish I could have donated a few casseroles. I worried about you over the last few years. I wondered who would take care of you if you got sicker. I couldn't picture these camping church goers bringing you hot meals when you needed them. But I found this picture on the internet. It has your name on it, just like my photo. Not only are you still at Stella Maris, but it looks like you've added another mass. Things must be going well!
To celebrate my birthday in April 2012, I decided to reflect on the past with a different kind of list. I've met a lot of people in my 55 years, but I'm going to stop and remind myself about the strangers I've met. These are people I met by accident, not through friends or work. For some reason, these strangers dropped into my life. Even though we may have only spent a few minutes together, these people have never been forgotten.
Each week, I'll spotlight someone I met in the past, who in some small way, made me stop and think.
Remember 55 Strangers