Congratulations 2022 jubilarians!

Bishop John Iffert, 25 years

‘God calls us to happiness’ and Bishop found it in the priesthood

Laura Keener, Editor

As Bishop John Iffert’s 25th jubilee as a priest approaches, the Messenger sat down with him to learn more about his vocation story, his understanding of the priesthood and what wisdom he has learned about people.

After graduating from Illinois State University in 1988 and earning a Bachelor’s degree in political science, he accepted a fellowship with the State of Illinois and worked for four years as an analyst in Illinois’ Bureau of the Budget. In August 1992 he entered Mundelein Seminary discerning a vocation to the priesthood for the Diocese of Belleville.

His decision to enter seminary was one that had been developing over time. As a young person, during a retreat, Bishop Iffert said he had a “strong conversion moment,” which spurred him to become more active and involved in his parish.

He was a reader and server at Sunday Mass at his child- hood parish, Sacred Heart Parish, DuQuoin, Il. As a young adult, he was a catechist preparing young Catholics for the sacrament of Confirmation at St. Joseph Parish, Springfield, Il. Through small encounters with others — listening to their life stories, their joys and sorrows and through small acts of kindness, like carrying an elderly women’s groceries — Bishop Iffert came to “a moment when I just realized I want to do a lot more of that and a lot less of what I had been doing professionally,” he said. “There was no big dramatic moment for me … it was a quiet little moment.”

When it came time to talk to his dad about his decision to enter seminary, Bishop Iffert remembers two hesita- tions: “I wasn’t at all certain when I entered seminary … it was something I thought maybe I’m having this call and I’m open to seeing if there’s something there,” but wasn’t sure if he would complete seminary and didn’t want to let down or embarrass his family.

“I was afraid my dad would be disappointed that he wasn’t going to have grandchildren with his own last name,” to which his dad replied, “Don’t be stupid, I have grandchildren, it doesn’t matter what their names are.”

His dad’s response to his doubts about his vocation still impresses him. Mr. Iffert explained that the last time he had checked the tax filing, over 30,000 occupations were listed. “If a guy was kind of clever and could do pretty much whatever he set his mind to, he said, how would you ever decide from 30,000 things which one of them you were going to do?,” Bishop Iffert said his dad told him. “And then he said, ‘John, if you become a priest, we’re going to be proud of you. If you go there and you spend one night in the seminary and you decide it’s not

for you, we’re going to be proud of you. We’re proud to have a son who would even think about this.’ That just really helped take away a lot of the stress,” Bishop Iffert said.

Bishop Iffert earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology and Master of Divinity degrees from Mundelein Seminary and on June 7, 1997, Cardinal Wilton Gregory (then Bishop of Belleville) ordained Bishop Iffert a priest for the Diocese of Belleville.

His first parish assignment was as parochial vicar at the Cathedral of St. Peter, Belleville, (1997-2000). He has been pastor of several Illinois parish- es: Immaculate Conception Parish, Columbia (2000-20003); St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Parish, Mt. Vernon (2008–2021); St. Barbara Parish, Scheller (2016–2021); and St. Stephen Parish, Caseyville (Jan. 2021– July 2021).

During his priesthood, Bishop Iffert has served on many boards and councils. For 10 years (2010–2020) he served as vicar forane of first the East and then the North Central Vicariates in Belleville and as co-vicar for priests. He has served the Diocese of Belleville as a member of the College of Consultors, the Presbyteral Council, the Priest Personnel Board, the Diocesan Finance Council, the Catholic Service and Ministry Appeal Board, and the Board of Directors of Camp Ondessonk.

In Oct. 2020, Bishop Michael McGovern appointed him vicar general and moderator of the Curia for Belleville. In July 2021, Pope Francis appointed him Bishop of Covington; he was consecrated and installed Sept. 30, 2021 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption.

“Of course, one of the highlights (of my priesthood) was coming here; coming to Covington as your bishop is a huge grace and a huge gift, and so that, of course, stands out in an incredible way,” Bishop Iffert said when asked about any moments that stand out.

Also as bishop, Bishop Iffert believes he has come to a greater understanding of what it means to be a “spiritual father” to his priests and people. “Whenever I hear someone speaking well of our priests … I love it when I hear people brag on their priests … there’s just something inside of me where I just feel so happy and proud for that priest and for the Church … that’s a marvelous thing,” he said.

But mostly what really touches his heart and stands out are the very type of moments that brought him to the priestly vocation in the first place — small encounters with others, listening to their life stories, their joys and sorrows and accompany- ing people on their faith journey.

“I’d say the things that affect me most deeply are those extraordinary moments of healing and con- version. When you get to walk with someone through something and you see them come out the other side stronger, kinder, more loving, more whole, understanding the limitations of themselves and the people around them. That’s amazing,” Bishop Iffert said.

During his 25 years as a pastor Bishop Iffert has “come to believe that in every community, there’s a local genius … every person has an intelligence that I don’t have, has a giftedness that I don’t have, has an experience that I don’t have. And if I can remain kind and curious and approach that with the respect for the sacred that is in them … if we can journey together and I can learn something from their intelligence, from their genius; in other words in every Christian is the Holy Spirit and in every person are traces of God’s creation that are helpful and unique — I just love that; I love encountering that.”

Bishop Iffert said that his thoughts on the priesthood has also evolved over time. “Early on, I thought priesthood was much more about me and what I could do for the community. Now I see it much more about the life of the Church. I see priesthood as a vocation that is in the context of the Church. It is a vocation of leadership, but it’s leadership in the context of the Body of Christ … I can’t separate my understanding of priesthood from my understanding of what it means to be Church and with the dignity of all the baptized, all of God’s children … There’s much more of a sense of connectedness and leading from the middle, from in the midst of the life of the people, leading from there. It’s much easier to be happier that way.”

And one thing that Bishop Iffert said he is “convinced” of is, “God calls us to happiness.”

Bishop Iffert invites young men and young women to really think about what is making them happy, to discern whether or not God is calling them to the priesthood or religious life. “If you can be happy in your life serving others, serving God, being in prayer and that relationship with God and inviting others to that. If you’re that person who could be happy with that, I would consider that a call to the priesthood and religious life,” he said.

Father Verne Hogan, 65 years

Father Verne Hogan’s 65 years as a priest is built on a foundation of love for Christ

Tom Ziegler, Staff Writer

“I was ordained on the feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul and if you look at my vocation, I was just an ordinary person very much like Peter and Paul … I looked to both of them for inspiration because they were so human … but their love for God was never questioned,” said Father Verne Hogan, summarizing his 65 years of priesthood.

Father Hogan’s journey into the priesthood started at Holy Cross High School, Latonia. Father Hogan and his classmates were joking around with their school’s priest. All laughing and joking until the priest pointed directly at Father Hogan and said, “Why don’t you go on down to the Diocese and be a missionary priest.” Father Hogan said he looked around and pointed to himself saying “Me?”

“That challenge must have stuck with me, because when I graduated (high school) I went down and saw the Bishop about being a missionary priest, and so I did and here I am 65 years later,” Father Hogan said.

Father Hogan began his studies at St. Mary’s College in Kentucky, for two years ofc ollege and two years of philosophy. After Father Hogan graduated from St. Mary’s, it was onto the American College in Louvain, Belgium for four years of theology. One of the big challenges Father Hogan faced while studying in Louvain was the language barrier. Father Hogan said he was never really sure what language they were speaking.

“It was a very difficult language to comprehend. To this day I am not sure if they were speaking French-English, or some kind of a combination of French-Belgium or Dutch … I wasn’t sure how I ever survived,” Father Hogan said.

In the summer months, when the seminarians had free time, Father Hogan went to explore other parts of Europe.

“I had many wonderful experiences traveling to the different parts of France, Spain, and Italy on a motorcycle I bought from another seminarian when he left for home,” Father Hogan said.

After “surviving” his four years in Belgium, Father Hogan was not sure if he would make it home. Father Hogan returned to the United States by boat during the peak of the cold war and rumors of Russian subs. “There were rumors of a Russian sub following our boat home, but it never came up, so we didn’t get to see it,” Father Hogan said with a smile.

Upon his return, the first parish Father Hogan served was St. Patrick in Mt. Sterling, Father Hogan spent four years before being moved to Blessed Sacrament, Ft. Mitchell for a short time.

Father Hogan served at about 10 different parishes during his time as an active priest. During this time Father Hogan took up the craft of making stained glass windows for churches and parishioners. Father Hogan estimated he made over 60 stained glass windows over this time. A highlight of his work are the stained glass windows at St. Rose Church, Mays Lick, where he created new stained glass windows representing a timeline of St. Rose’s life. Father Hogan returned to Covington for some time as well, serving St. John’s Parish on Pike Street. It was a big change from the “mountain/southern” parish he served in Middlesboro on the Tennessee line for about 15-20 years, but, he said, that big change was the location, not the people.

“The strength of faith and willingness to be witnesses of the Catholic faith established here by these priests and parishes in the diocese of Covington is really strong,” Father Hogan said.

While pastor at St. Mary Parish, Alexandria, Father Hogan was also a teacher for Bishop Brossart High School when the school first opened.

“I spent about nine years there and it was a lot of fun … it was good parish. The high school was just beginning and had just changed from St. Mary’s to Bishop Brossart. It is amazing to see how much they’ve grown out there … when I was there the school was just an old building bought from Campbell County (public schools),” Father Hogan said.

Father Hogan taught Religion and Latin. “I guess they thought if you’ve been over in Europe you ought to know it (Latin),” Father Hogan said.

Instead of reflecting on the life he has lived to this point, Father Hogan says he likes to keep moving forward. He thanks the St. Charles Community for being such a friendly and welcoming place. “Of 65 years I don’t go back and reminisce much, but all the parishes I served at are still standing … so I guess I didn’t destroy them … but in all seriousness every parish I served at was wonderful and I had a great time with all the people I came to know,” Father Hogan said.

Father Hogan still goes to Mass provided at St. Charles three days a week. “The life here is very peaceful and orderly. There is some time of prayer, play, and many times, much of the time, time for sleep,” Father Hogan said with a chuckle. Father Hogan returned to his reflection on the inspiration of Saints Peter and Paul.

“I’m sure Peter had a lot of problems. You know, Jesus was usually questioning or encouraging him, but when Peter was asked ‘do you love me?’ He always told Jesus ‘you know it.’ The same with Paul and his short comings, his love for Jesus was never questioned … When I look at myself, my life, all the faults and mistakes I’ve made, I really have always told Jesus when it came to my love for Him, you know I do,” Father Hogan said.

Father David Bernard Gamm, 50 years

Celebrating 50 years of service — the jubilee of Father David Bernard Gamm

Maura Baker, Staff Writer

Father David Bernard Gamm was ordained May 20, 1972 — a time when liturgical changes installed by the Second Vatican Council were still new. Now, in the year 2022, Father Gamm celebrates 50 years since his ordination to the priesthood.

“The Council had commissioned the revival of the rights of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and I thought that was one of the greatest things that ever happened in the Church,” said Father Gamm in an interview with the Messenger as he reflected on Vatican II and the early days of his priesthood, “Now we get to pray in a language we understand, we respond to the prayers and are even asked to sing hymns.”

Much has changed to Catholic liturgies in the past 50 years, but Father Gamm recalls when all of the prayer responses and hymns were recited by the servers and choirs. “People would sit, stand and kneel in the church at the appropriate times … but the Mass was all in Latin, and if you wanted to follow along, you had to bury your face in a missal and could not see what was happening at the altar. So, I thought this was one of the greatest things — that we can actually participate and be a real live part of our worship experience,” said Father Gamm.

Father Gamm recalls his first assignment, June 15, 1972, as associate pastor at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, Ky. “We asked if there would be any men who’d volunteer to do the readings, to be a lector at Mass,” said Father Gamm. “We got no response, so, I said to a canon lawyer, is there anything that pre- vented a woman from doing the readings? And he got back to me and he said no … so we advertised for men or women who would like to be lectors, and we had three women lectors! … I guess that was the first instance of a woman actually taking part in the ministries and the liturgy, and I think that set it up for what would come later down the pike.”

Father Gamm also expressed fond memories of establishing children’s liturgies. “I got really involved in, and I enjoyed that … I’m thinking that, if you start our participating when you’re little, you’re gonna do it when you get older.”

Father Gamm noticed a lack of publications of homilies and liturgies for children, and would submit 24 liturgies, complete with homilies, to Ave Maria press in Indiana, and they published that in a book titled “On Cloud Nine.” Father Gamm would also continue, during his service to the priesthood, to publish liturgies for children with Ave Maria press, such as “Childsplay” — 15 scriptural dramas intended to engage children with Scripture by offering them the opportunity to act out biblical stories.

During his active priesthood, Father Gamm was assigned to 12 different parishes, serving as pastor or asso- ciate pastor at some, or parochial vicar at others. He actively served the Church and his community for more than 42 years before joyfully retiring in 2016 after serving as parochial vicar at St. Paul Parish, Florence, Ky., for 7 years.

Gone But Not Forgotten: MLB Unmarked Graves pitches next project at St. Joseph Cemetery, Wilder

Tom Ziegler, Staff Writer

About four years ago, Reds fan David Shannon discovered a pitcher Theodore “Huck” Conover, that played in one game for the 1889 Cincinnati Red Stockings as a pitcher, buried with an unmarked grave in Lexington. Mr. Shannon visited Major League Baseball players graves as a hobby at the time, but when he found that Theodore “Huck” Conover was buried in an unmarked grave, he decided to do something about it.

That was the beginning of “Gone But Not Forgotten,” a project where Mr. Shannon and his fellow “baseball buffs” regularly visit graves of former MLB players. At times, when visiting these players’ graves some will be unmarked. Mr.Shannon helps lead the group in gaining permission from the family, funeral home and/or cemetery and raising the funding for a tombstone.

“It’s kind of a small project that gained a little momentum, we are just a bunch of baseball history guys that like to go to cemeteries and locate graves of former ball players,” Mr. Shannon said.

When these baseball history buffs arrive to an occasional unmarked grave Mr. Shannon said it can be a “disappointment.”

“You think these guys at least deserve that much recognition,” Mr. Shannon said.

The first unmarked grave in Lexington stuck with Shannon for two or three years before he finally decided to look into what it would take to mark the grave. Mr. Shannon said his first call to the cemetery “was not a very good one.” In fact, he was given a stern no, but as Mr. Shannon said he likes to get a good reason. Although, once the cemetery understood Mr. Shannon’s genuine and serious inquiry, he was able to learn how to go about marking the grave.

Mr. Shannon said there are three people that are mainly doing the work for these unmarked grave projects.

“I do all of the leg work and background, finding the family, raising the money, and all that. A good friend of mine is a funeral director out of the Nashville area … and he has a good friend in the granite business for tombstones and helps bring down the cost quite a bit,” Mr. Shannon said.

This “Gone But Not Forgotten” work, for which Mr. Shannon now has a YouTube channel and private Facebook group with over 150 members, brought Mr. Shannon to St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Wilder, and the unmarked grave of former MLB pitcher Hank Gastright. Mr. Gastright was born in Covington Kentucky in 1865, played seven major league seasons, and pitched in one game for the Reds near the end of his major league career.

“I have known about Hank Gastright for several months … went through the process of locating family members, I have full support from them, but it takes a while,” Mr. Shannon said.

Mr. Shannon has gone through some of the preliminary steps of what Hank Gastright’s grave may look like. The process of creating these granite tombstones takes a few months.

“It looks like late July, maybe mid-August for Mr. Gastright’s grave,” Mr. Shannon said.

The “Gone But Not Forgotten” group is not an official charity. “We are just some baseball fans who are doing this … and we honor that money, keep track of it and use it for the next grave,” Mr. Shannon said.

Currently, Mr. Shannon and his group work on the unmarked graves specifically for former Reds players.

“Our criteria is three things: they have to have played at least one game for the Cincinnati Reds, they have to be buried in an unmarked grave, and it has to be within a local geographical location (keeping Cincinnati as the cen- ter point),” Mr. Shannon said.

The private Facebook group is titled “Gone But Not Forgotten: MLB Unmarked Graves Project” and Mr. Shannon also has a YouTube page that can be found under “David Shannon.”

Photo courtesy of “Gone but Not Forgotten: MLB Unmarked Graves Project” Facebook

‘Maes:107 Years’—an exhibit honoring the Diocese of Covington’s third bishop

Father Jordan Hainsey, Messenger Contributor

Wednesday, May 11, 2022 marks 107 years since the passing of Bishop Camillus Paul Maes, the longest-serving Bishop of Covington (1885-1915.) To commemorate this anniversary, St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption is hosting a temporary exhibit in the Maes Crypt Chapel entitled “Maes: 107 Years.” Drawn from the Cathedral Collection, the exhibit brings together vesture and liturgical objects associated with Bishop Maes.

Born in Belgium on March 13, 1846 in the old Flemish city of Courtrai, Maes was orphaned at age 12 and entered the seminary in 1865. Ordained in Louvain, Belgium on Dec. 19, 1868 and desiring to become a missionary in America, he came to the Diocese of Detroit in 1869 and served there for 16 years before being appointed Bishop of Covington in 1885 by Pope St. Leo XIII.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is a cope from the French province of Porcelette made in 1791 which would have been worn by Bishop Maes for Cathedral liturgies. Made of handwoven silk damask with gilt thread, the cope predates the founding of the diocese by 62 years. While it may have been brought to the United States in the early 19th century, it is possible that it was brought to Covington by Bishop Maes after one of his many trips to Europe where he acquired vestments for the newly expanding Covington diocese. At a time when cloth was expensive, the exquisite craftsmanship and labor involved in making the cope would have set it apart for use at the Cathedral’s most solemn liturgies — liturgies like Christmas, Easter, and Corpus Christi. As part of the Cathedral Collection and given its age, as well as the possibility of predating Bishop Maes, it may have been worn by Bishops Carrell and Toebbe before it was retired because of its delicate condition. A precious miter once used by Covington’s seventh Bishop, Richard H. Ackerman, compliments the cope and helps to show how it was worn in relation to other vesture at a pontifical ceremony.

A crozier used by Bishop Maes is also on view. While the crozier has long been held in the Cathedral Collection, its history was previously unknown until it was clearly identified in a photograph of the cornerstone laying at St. Patrick Church, Maysville, in 1903. In the photograph, Bishop Maes is shown presiding over the ceremony with the same crozier.

Other items on view were retained from the translation of Bishop Maes’ remains from St. Mary’s Cemetery to the Cathedral in 2019. While water had permeated the grave, numerous items survived. These include: a pontifical amethyst ring, the name plate from the top of the coffin, and the casket’s six handlebars with accompanying wood-pole fragments.

Together, items from Bishop Maes’ life and death have been brought together to bring Covington’s saintly bishop back to life for the faithful today.

As bishop, he was a striking figure — tall, finely built, of florid complexion and black curling hair. He spoke seven languages fluently and possessed a perfect command of English, enhanced only by a slight Belgian accent. He loved young people and had a special affection for children — especially orphans.

When he first arrived in Covington, he found the old St. Mary’s Cathedral in a state of disrepair and his growing flock in need of a new house of worship. He began the present Cathedral in April 1894, completing the main struc- ture in 1901 and the façade in 1910. This magnificent and timeless gothic Cathedral Basilica stands as a testament to the vision of a Bishop who wished to give the people of Covington a monument of the love of Christ for souls. In his own words, “indeed, the message of the Cathedral is the message of Christ himself.”

When Camillus Paul Maes died on 11 May 1915, the sound of tolling church bells echoed across every city and town in Northern Kentucky, bidding farewell to the man who gave the people a gothic masterpiece that would speak to them for centuries to come.

The exhibit “Maes: 107 Years” runs May 7–31, 2022 and is on view in the Maes Crypt Chapel at St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. For Cathedral hours, visit covcathedral.com.

Photos courtesy Father Jordan Hainsey


Cross the Bridge for Life returns to Newport

Tom Ziegler, Staff Writer.

Cross the bridge for life is a 1.57 mile walk, at your own pace, to honor and recognize the sanctity of life. This pro-life event has taken place since 2005 and was started by a coalition of local pregnancy centers and pro-life organizations to celebrate the gift of life, creating a family friendly event.

“This event was developed to celebrate the gift of life and to create an event where families can gather and help spread awareness,” said Faye Roch, director, diocesan Pro-Life Office.

The idea with the original planning team was to bring togeth- er both sides of the river — Cincinnati and Covington — to unify the local community and celebrate life. Cross the Bridge for Life is more than just a walk. Before the 2 p.m. walk, which begins in Newport’s Festival Park, an event with face painting, food, and more is hosted by the life coalition members.

“Our life coalition members are a lot of pregnancy care cen- ters and ministries, they usually come with stands set up for food and to show the work they do,” said Peggy Piccola, assistant director, diocesan Pro-Life Office.

Mrs. Roch encourages everyone, including members of other churches or faiths, to come and participate in the Cross the Bridge for Life.

“This is not just a Catholic event, it is an ecumenical event, and we really welcome all faiths to be a part of this. We would love for people in our diocesan community to invite people of other faiths to participate in this,” Mrs. Roch said. “We all have the same goal in wanting to promote our pregnancy resource centers and life affirming agencies.”

There are about 15 agencies involved in the Cross the Bridge for Life campaign — from Lawrenceburg, Indiana, to the greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky area.

“These agencies range from pregnancy care centers to adoption agencies, so you get a nice mixture of multiple pro-life agencies,” Mrs. Piccola said.

The event is completely free to families, with free t-shirts, and food available for purchase. This is made possible by the event’s sponsors. Sponsorship levels range from $250.00 to $5000.00.

If your organization is interested in becoming a sponsor for Cross the Bridge for Life, contact the Pro-Life Office, (859) 392-1500, for more information.

Father Raymond Enzweiler awarded at Josephinum fundraising dinner

Maura Baker, Staff Writer.

The Good Shepherd Dinner is the Pontifical College Josephinum’s signature fundraising event, with $130,000 raised in support of the college this year alone. The dinner, held this year on the 25th of April, was attended by over 200 guests in support of the Josephinum, including honored guest His Excellency, The Most Rev. Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States and chancel- lor of the Josephinum.

Of the awards granted at the dinner, the first, known as the Pope Leo XIII award was presented to John Erwin, a parishioner of St. Paul Parish, Westerville, Oh., for his service in support of priestly vocations. Also during the dinner, Mr. Erwin was appointed a Knight of The Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great by Archbishop Pierre — a knighthood of the Holy See estab- lished in 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI.

The dinner’s namesake award, the Good Shepherd Award, was awarded to Father Raymond Enzweiler, resident priest of St. Thomas Parish, Ft. Thomas, Ky., and faculty of Thomas More University. Father Enzweiler was recognized for his contributions to the seminary and his dedication to Catholic higher education, having served the Josephinum as faculty from 2011–2019, and as Vice Rector and dean, 2016–2019.

Father Steven Beseau, rector and president of the Josephinum, fondly regards Father Enzweiler’s service to the Josephinum and the Church, saying, “he never gave up his most important job, that of being a shepherd for

Christ’s sheep. He is fully present to those who need him, and helps to guide them closer to Christ and the peace, love, and joy our faith offers.”

Thomas More University breaks ground for new academic center

Maura Baker, Staff Writer.

In 2021, Thomas More University was able to celebrate its 100th year annniversary since its humble roots as Villa Madonna College in 1921. The campus has moved, changed, and grown considerably since then, with plans to expand its campus and community further in celebration of Thomas More’s bicentennial. A fundraising campaign starting in September of 2021 secured $15 million in gifts and donations, with an additional $6 million since the public launch. This commendable total of $21 million dollars has been secured to fund the university’s bicentennial signature project- a brand new academic center. A ground-breaking ceremony was held for the construction of this new building on the 23rd of April, with speeches from President Chillo and chairs of the bicentennial campaign, followed by the ceremonial shoveling of soil in the space where the new building will be constructed.

The 34,000 square feet academic center will be built right across from the Mary Seat of Wisdom chapel, with facilities to accommodate and inspire both a growing campus and community. Among these facilities is a 375-seat auditorium named for Wilbert L. Ziegler, class of 1953, and honorary chair of the capital campaign committee. Dr. Joseph L. Chillo, president of Thomas More University, states that the auditorium will “allow (Thomas More University) to become a center of community, certainly for our folks here in the city.”

Other aspects of the new academic center include the Brenda Hoskin Memorial Reflection Gardens, which will be home to a 9-foot tall bronze statue of the university’s patron saint, St. Thomas More and the Dr. Anthony ’65 & Geraldine ’66 Zembrodt Center for Leadership, Entrepreneurship, & Innovation. The Zembrodt Center aims to achieve Thomas More University’s goal to become an “innovation destination” for inspiring students that will be moving to the new center. The Zembrodt Center will also serve as a space for the University’s upcoming scholarship program, which will recognize the achievements of high school students with potential in entrepreneurship and innovation.

The importance of promoting Catholic education will also be a key aspect of the academic center, with implementation of the Center for Faith, Mission, and Catholic Education and the William T. Robinson, the Third Institute for Religious Liberty. President Chillo stresses the importance of positioning faith and values, and serving Catholic education, as the forefront of this new building, regarding the university’s continual dedication to Catholic education and identity “a critical element as (Thomas More University) looks to their second century.”

A contractor for the construction project will be selected at the June Board of Trustees meeting, and the academic center is projected to open Fall 2024.

‘Proclaiming the goodness and care of God to people of many lands’

Tom Ziegler, Staff Writer.

At an all-school Mass at St. Augustine School, April 13, Father Daniel Schomaker, pastor, presented a check for over $1,200 to Notre Dame Sister Mary Margaret Droege. The funds were the proceeds of a Lenten Penny War held at St. Augustine School, Covington. In gratitude and recognition for the many years of devoted teaching at St. Augustine School by the Sisters of Notre Dame, the students chose to donate the proceeds from the Penny War to the Sisters of Notre Dame Uganda mission to support the educational needs there.

The St. Julie Mission in Uganda, East Africa, adds another chapter in the Sisters of Notre Dame’s story of proclaiming the goodness and care of God to people of many lands. The St. Julie Uganda mission began in 1990 when the African bishops sent out a request for the Sisters of Notre Dame. The Messenger sat down with some of the founding Uganda mission Sisters Mary Margaret Droege, Delrita Glaser, Joell Overman and Janet Stamm to learn their impressions on the thriving Uganda mission and the East Africa Sisters of Notre Dame religious community. Additionally, Sister Mary Margaret is the author of the book “Approaching Holy Ground: The First Twenty Years of the Sisters of Notre Dame Uganda Mission.”

“In 1990 we received the first request from the African Bishops and made our first official visit to Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique before going to Uganda about a year later,” said Sister Joell.

This was in response to Pope John Paul II’s request to religious orders to make more of a missionary effort. The primary request of the bishop in Uganda to the sisters was for help with the development of education. The sisters selected the area of Buseesa in the Ugandan Diocese to begin their mission work.

“It was a rural area … the public school there had parts of the walls missing, no desks and maybe two or three books for a 70- or 80- person class,” said Sister Mary Margaret.

Sister Janet said a “mud building was the government school,” which was located across the street from where the sisters would eventually develop their convent, church and schools.

The Sisters of Notre Dame from Covington traveled together with Sisters from their California province to begin the mission. Many children in the Buseesa area did not go to school and most people were living in mud huts. The sisters decided to build a school when they arrived in 1995. The sisters met the builders, architect, and contractor discussing every phase of the building plans. These building projects included a rectory for the priest, a convent for the sisters and the school. In 1998, three years after beginning this mission, the St. Julie Primary Boarding School was established.

“Looking back on this whole endeavor, it is so obvious that God and loving providence was directing this whole thing,” Sister Janet said, reflecting on the events that took place on their original mission trip to Buseesa.

The sisters faced many challenges and obstacles during the first three years as missionaries, but, Sister Mary Margaret said, “each time there were obstacles, their needs were met and these obstacles became less important.”

Some of these obstacles included unfinished buildings, sisters dealing with sickness, no garden for food, lack of clean and fresh water and insufficient medical supplies. The sisters’ faith in God’s providence and goodness helped them overcome these challenges.

While the sisters developed wonderful facilities for the St. Julie mission, the main focus was education. Education was the key factor in creating opportunities for young children. The sisters were driven by faith to carry out their mission work. Having the ability to celebrate the Eucharist was something that Sister Janet said, “was inspiring.”

Sister Mary Margaret said it was very encouraging to see how many parents wanted education for their children. “They were willing to make any sacrifice … and sometimes when they would come, they would tell us what sacrifice they had made to help pay any part of the fees for the school.”

Because of the school’s remote location, “every student had to be a boarder, it was not come and go back home every night,” Sister Delrita said.

Which was a leap of faith for many parents leaving their children with these, “white women, because many parents had never seen someone like us before,” said Sister Janet.

The primary school started with P3, pre-school age three, and went up to seventh grade. The sisters said it was eye opening to see some of the cultural differences in the students during their school day.

For example, the sisters said that many of the students had no idea what to do at recess, because they had always worked, helping their families at home and never had the opportunity to play before. The sisters also taught the students English, while trying to learn the local tribal language, which was only spoken orally and had no written translations at the time.

Sister Mary Margaret said the students did learn English very fast. English is the official language of Uganda and its capital city of Kampala. Sister Janet said, “without English, there is virtually no way out of poverty.”

The sisters said it has been a blessing to see the fruits of their work, now some of their very first students are finishing Universities, several students have joined the priesthood, other students are now surgeons, nurses, and more.

“The goal that we set for our school was to train for Catholic leadership, so that someday when they finish their education and come back, they can lift up their area and be the leaders,” Sister Janet said.

Today St. Julie’s Mission has two nursery schools for ages three to five with over 100 students, a high school with students scoring in the top 20 of the 300 local schools, the original primary schools and a convent that is now run by over 70 African Sisters of Notre Dame. While the original sisters have not returned for missionary work, they are still in regular contact with the sisters in Uganda and send funds from the support of our local parishes here in the Diocese of Covington.

For information on the Uganda mission visit www.sndusa.org. The book, “Approaching Holy Ground,” is available on Amazon.

DPAA leadership gifts solicitors begin work to ‘Stand Firm in the Lord’

Laura Keener, Editor.

Diocesan Parish Annual Appeal (DPAA) chairs — Karen Riegler, general chair, and Matthew Hollenkamp, leadership gifts chair — welcomed leadership gifts solicitors to the annual Diocesan Parish Annual Appeal luncheon, Feb. 1. The annual luncheon was hosted by Bishop John Iffert and organized by Mike Murray and the staff of the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Mission Services.

Mrs. Riegler, parishioner, St. Barbara Parish, Erlanger, introduced this year’s DPAA goal of $2.65 million and the theme, “Stand Firm in the Lord.”

“I find this theme very fitting especially during these times when the culture seems to be throwing everything at us to knock us off course … the DPAA is our way of standing firm in support of all the ministries, programs and services of our diocese,” Mrs. Riegler said.

In addition to the ministries and programs, the DPAA also assists parishes with its rebate program, Mrs. Riegler pointed out. With the rebate program, 100 percent of funds collected over a parish’s goal is rebated back to the parish to support parish projects and ministries.

The DPAA also assists those in need in the community by providing service grants to local organizations that provide material goods and services to the most vulnerable – organizations like Be Concerned, the Parish Kitchen and the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky.

“The DPAA provides outstanding examples of standing firm through you, our volunteers, and the generosity of our faithful in the Diocese of Covington — the people in the pews — as we witnessed last year when we exceeded our goal of $2.6 million to raise more than $3.9 million,” Mrs. Riegler said.

Mr. Hollenkamp, vice president, Marketing and Communications, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, said he was looking forward to working with the leadership gifts solicitors during this first and critical part of the campaign. From Feb. 10 through Feb. 24, each of the gifts solicitors will be reaching out to five of the top 200 donors from previous campaigns, asking for their support this year. The results of the leadership gifts phase will be announced at the DPAA kick-off dinners, Feb. 28 in Maysville and March 3 in Erlanger.

“One of the most critical messages to give is the tremendous ministries that we are supporting,” Mr. Hollenkamp said.

These ministries support adoption and foster care programs, parenting programs and pregnancy counseling, care for retired priests and the formation of seminarians.

He also asked solicitors to encourage donors to give at one of the Leadership Gift Club’s levels: Lux Christi Guild, $10,000 or above; Bishop’s Society, $5,000–$9,999; Mitre Society, $2,500–$4,999; Monsignors Society, $1,500–2,499 and Crosier Society, $1,000–$1,499.

In his closing remarks Bishop Iffert thanked the gift solicitors for their willingness to be part of the DPAA.

“I can’t think of anything harder than going to somebody and asking them for money,” Bishop Iffert said. “Thank you for doing that hard thing and inviting people to invest themselves in the life and mission of the Church.”

Bishop Iffert told the gift solicitors that during confirmations, he talks to the confirmandi about how to be defenders of the faith.

“We always mean it by works of prayer and charity … It’s also the way we practice stewardship,” Bishop Iffert said. “We enter into prayer, giving our gift of time. We become invested in the programs that we love, giving our gift of talent. We fund those programs and services and people’s needs with our gift of treasure. That’s how this works for us. This is what it means for us to be a disciple, to be a crusader for the faith, to be the defender of the faith. It means that we invest our whole selves. I thank you for your doing that in this process.”

After reversed ruling, schools to continue remote learning due to executive order

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

Schools in the Diocese of Covington are continuing with Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) after a Thanksgiving weekend surrounded with changes in COVID-19 school policies. Despite an injunction giving private Christian schools an exception from Governor Andy Beshear’s executive order, the Sixth Circuit Court prevented the Diocese of Covington from returning students to in-person instruction any earlier than Dec. 7.

After the executive order from Governor Beshear, Nov. 18, ordering the cessation of in-person instruction beginning Nov. 23, diocesan schools spent the weekend preparing for a complete transition to NTI. According to the order, elementary schools may return to in-person instruction Dec. 7, provided their schools are not in Red Zone counties, while middle and high schools may resume in-person instruction Jan. 4, 2021. The only county not currently identified as red in the diocese is Owen County.

The schools received hope of returning to the classroom sooner when U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove filed a 22-page order granting a preliminary injunction to 17 private Christian schools that filed a lawsuit against the emergency restriction. Attorney General Daniel Cameron joined the plaintiffs in the suit, and on Nov. 25, the district court granted the motion for preliminary injunctive relief and prohibited the Governor from enforcing the order against any private, religious school in the Commonwealth.

Kendra McGuire, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Covington, sent a letter to parents Nov. 25, saying schools would resume in-person Dec. 2, with after-school extracurricular activities and winter sports suspended until the week of Dec. 14 in an exercise of caution. She clarified that as of Nov. 19, 24 out of 37 schools had zero COVID-19 cases.

“Overall, our data over the last 14 weeks has shown that COVID cases are not originating in our schools and it is not spreading in the school setting when the protocols are followed,” she wrote. “We also found that the quarantine periods for cases and close contacts were effective at mitigating spread. Therefore, despite the rising cases in our counties, we had decided our Catholic schools would remain open and we would continue monitoring each case and school community individually.”

However, over the weekend, Governor Beshear appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court with a request to stay his executive order, making it applicable to all despite the injunction. The Sixth Circuit Court granted Governor Beshear’s request Nov. 29.

Mrs. McGuire followed up with a second letter to parents Nov. 30, explaining that NTI will continue as previously planned. Expressing her sorrow over what the students will miss during the Advent season, she encouraged families to lead their children in the Advent traditions that their schools would have used to help them prepare for Christmas.

“We have just started the Advent season,” Mrs. McGuire said. “During this time our children would have attended Mass, spent time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and had the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Penance. We would have prayed and taught the lessons of Advent as a faith community to help prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas. While I know firsthand that NTI adds stress to families, I do hope you will be able to help your child(ren) participate in these Advent traditions.”

Meanwhile, in-person “targeted services,” including school counseling and academic support, may continue.

December 7 remains the target date for reopening elementary schools, but only if counties are no longer in the Red Zone. Middle and high schools will continue using NTI until at least Jan. 4.

Virus cases rise in diocesan schools due to small gatherings

Messenger staff report

Halloween weekend brought more tricks than treats to the Diocese of Covington, as cases of COVID-19 greatly increased, sending hundreds of students into quarantine. Additionally, cases are being reported in parishes and parish schools of religion.

Since the last report, two priests have tested positive for COVID-19 and two priests are self-quarantined —one is waiting on results of a COVID-19 test and the other is a close contact of a priest who has tested positive. At one of the parishes affected — Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Burlington — weekday Mass and all parish activities have been suspended until December 1. Due to an increased number of cases among faculty and staff, Immaculate Heart of Mary School has transitioned to remote learning and the Parish School of Religion has suspended classes until Nov. 30, affecting a combined 548 students. Divine Mercy Parish, Bellevue and St. Bernard Parish, Dayton were able to continue with Mass as scheduled due to the availability of a resident religious priest.

At St. Pius X School, Edgewood, cases among the eighth-grade class exposed an even greater number of students to the virus, resulting in all three eighth-grade classes quarantining until Nov. 19, affecting 86 students. This exposure and resulting cases appeared to come primarily from a single Halloween gathering.

“If we are going to be able to continue with in-person instruction we will need the cooperation of everyone —teachers, students and parents — to make the necessary sacrifices of staying home and not gathering,” said Laura Keener, COVID coordinator.

While the numbers of cases and quarantines are rising in the school, it is still evident that students are not contracting the illness at school and bringing it home; but rather students are being exposed to the virus at home and bringing it to their classmates.

“Based on the details, many of these cases could have been avoided,” said Mrs. Keener. “Small gatherings, including participation in sports outside of school, weddings, funerals and prayer groups, appear to be the source of most of these cases. Even small visits with grandparents are likely to expose students to the virus. When considering leaving the home, parents are encouraged to ask themselves, ‘Is this trip or event worth my child missing 14 or 24 days or more of instruction at school and possibly sending the entire class into quarantine?’”

While a small number of schools are being hit hard by the virus, many others are seeing no or small number of cases and exposures. These experiences suggest that the protocols put in place can work if everyone commits to following the protocols and making the necessary sacrifices both in school and at home.

“We simply have to work together and choose the education of children as a number one priority,” Mrs. Keener said.