Small Parishes, Big Ministries

St. Dominic’s Church in Garden City, KS, is like many other small-town churches in 2020 America. The 800-family, multi-cultural parish shares a priest with a nearby mission church, so much of the sacramental and administrative work falls to the staff…which in the case of St. Dominic’s, is a bundle of energy in wild socks, Sr.
Myra Arney.

Parishioner Jan Deal says that as the Director of Religious Education, Sr. Myra manages a thriving religious education program, with students from preschool through high school. She recruits volunteer teachers and office help, coordinates enrollment and tuition, creates the school calendar and schedules First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies.

Sr. Myra Arney, in blue, at a confirmation ceremony.

“RCIA is where I have gotten to know Sr. Myra best,” parishioner Jan says. “She is an inspiration to me and to my faith. It is easy to see her devotion to our church and to the people she serves.”

“I have known Sister Myra since 2012 when I began working at St. Dominic Parish,” says Matt Perez, Parish Administrative Assistant, Stewardship Director and Adult Formation Director. “Not only am I a beneficiary of the work that she has done in the parish, I am also a beneficiary of her friendship, grace, and partnership in ministry. Knowing Sister Myra Arney has been a blessing,” Matt said.

Sr. Myra is known for her wild socks.

Across the country, in Leetonia, OH, St.Patrick’s church is very different from St. Dominic’s. A small congregation of older families in a mainly white community, St. Patrick shares a priest with nearby St. Paul’s in Salem.

Sr. Barbara Rapp joined the parish as the Pastoral Administrator in 2018, and according to parishioner Mary Ann Greier, immediately began to learn names, faces and families. She also jumped into parish activities, volunteering at the Food Pantry, helping with the Parish pierogi sales, and ministering to the needs of
the congregation. She often meets with parishioners on the porch of the home that she shares with Sr. Rene Weeks.

Sr. Barb Rapp meets with a parishioner on her front porch.

When the church was closed this spring during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sr. Barbara put her many talents to work for the good of the parish, sewing and distributing masks, applying for grants for the church food pantry, and sending emails full of parish news and words of encouragement.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know Sister Barbara in the short time she’s been with us in little Leetonia,” Mary Ann said. “We’re lucky to have her. My faith remains steadfast. I think the stability of our church and having someone like Sister Barbara there to keep everything going helps.”

Sr. Rene Weeks works with Hispanic families in Salem, OH.

Sue DeJane, who runs the parish food pantry at St. Patrick’s Church, says that Sr. Barb and Sr. Rene Weeks, who serves the Latinx community at sister parish St. Paul’s, are active participants in all parish ministries.

They help unload and stock donations from Second Harvest, pick up items at local stores, and help box food for the pantry’s drivethrough distribution.

“Their participation has given us a closer bond with our Church as a whole. Their words of faith and encouragement have lifted our spirits,” Sue says. “We are proud to have the Sisters working beside us. This has brought them closer to the rest of our small community.”

Across the country, there are many stories of our sisters in parish ministry helping young and old prepare for the sacraments, providing a listening ear and prayerful counsel, and doing what they can to strengthen not just their church, but their community.

Click here to read the entire 2020 Annual Report.

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