Virus spikes in hot spots causing disruptions at more schools and parishes

Messenger Staff Report

As the Thanksgiving Day holiday approaches, the coronavirus is continuing to spread in the Diocese of Covington. This week, Holy Cross District High School, Notre Dame Academy and Newport Central Catholic High School have transitioned to remote learning. NCCHS plans to reconvene in-person instruction on Nov. 20, while NDA will resume Nov. 23 and HCDHS will stay remote until after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Curia office saw its first positive case and several quarantines this week.

Also this week, two priests have tested positive for COVID-19 and two priests are quarantined because they were determined to be close contacts to a case. Additionally, three deacons have tested positive for COVID-19. Due to these cases and quarantines, weekday Mass and all services and activities have been suspended at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Ft. Mitchell; St. Barbara Parish, Erlanger; St. John Mission, Dividing Ridge; St. Timothy Parish, Union and St. William Parish, Williamstown. Weekend Masses will be celebrated as scheduled.

Based on the details of each of the parish cases, parishioners are not determined to be close contacts, according to Laura Keener, diocesan COVID coordinator. Parishioners have been advised of the exposure at the parish and are encouraged to monitor for symptoms.

The diocese is reporting its highest number — 71 — of COVID positive cases in its schools. An additional 1,280 students are in quarantine because they are determined to be close contacts to a COVID case either at school, an activity outside of school or at home.

“With the increase of COVID-19 cases in the community the spike in cases and quarantines in the Curia, schools and parishes was expected,” said Mrs. Keener.

Despite the rise in quarantines many of the diocese’s nine high schools and 32 elementary schools are faring well. Of the cases and quarantines reported, 65 percent are from five of the hardest hit schools — Holy Cross District High School, Immaculate Heart of Mary School, St. Mary School, St. Pius X School and Villa Madonna Academy. At those schools, most of the quarantines are close contacts and not positive cases of COVID-19. For example: HCDHS has 109 students in quarantine, with nine positive cases of COVID-19. All but one of HCDHS’ positive cases could trace exposure to the virus to a family member or friend outside of school.

“It’s not uncommon for one positive case of COVID-19 in the school to affect dozens of students. Our goal is to mitigate the spread of the virus whenever a case is reported and our schools are quarantining all students who are close contacts,” Mrs. Keener said.

A high point for the week came Monday, November 16, when Holy Trinity School, Bellevue, resumed in-person instruction. All students, faculty and staff who were cleared to return that day, did make it back to the classroom.

“We want to remind parishioners — especially our school families — that in order to sustain in-person instruction in our schools and uninterrupted celebration of Mass at our parishes, everyone needs to make the necessary sacrifice of staying home to the greatest extent possible. Even during the Thanksgiving holiday families are encouraged to meet and say a prayer of thanksgiving together virtually,” Mrs. Keener said.

Turkeyfoot Trot adds fun challenge to include local businesses

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

The 13th annual Turkeyfoot Trot 5K Run/Walk from St. Vincent de Paul Northern Kentucky is, like many events this year, going virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The running and walking is still happening, however, with a scavenger hunt along the way.

Karen Zengel, executive director, said she and her team have created 5K routes throughout Northern Kentucky that pass by the event’s business sponsors. Participants can walk or run the 5K anytime between Nov. 12 and 22.

The scavenger hunt challenges participants to find the local businesses along the different routes and take pictures with the Turkeyfoot Trot sign placed at each sponsor to earn prizes that are normally awarded at the event after party. For every picture taken with St. Vincent de Paul tagged on social media, the person will be entered to win a prize. Ms. Zengel also said that finishing the 5K route also makes you eligible to win a prize.

“We wanted to make it a virtual event but still preserve some of the parts of the event that set us apart from others,” said Ms. Zengel. The local business focus keeps the community-oriented aspect of the event that an after-party would have provided.

Ms. Zengel said, “I’m excited about seeing people get out in the community in a safe way and supporting our ministry but also supporting local businesses, who are showing compassion by being part of this event with us.”

The event is presented by Commonwealth Bank and Trust and Payroll Partners. All funds raised are given back to individual parish conferences of St. Vincent de Paul.

Registration is available online only through the svdpnky.org home page. The price to register is $30 for adults and $25 for children 14 years or younger. For more information or to donate, contact Lou Settle at 446-7727 or [email protected]

Veterans Day

The role of a military chaplain a year marked by COVID-19

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

While the world hunkered down and waited out the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, the members of military were doing what they always do — sacrificing their time and energy to be ready to defend the United States.

Father Bill Appel, chaplain with the Archdiocese for the Military Services who calls the Diocese of Covington home, has served in three branches of the military and witnessed to what kind of year it’s been for the sailors in the U.S. Navy.

A military chaplain since 2017, Father Appel was an active duty marine officer, with experience as a helicopter pilot and a special forces officer, before being ordained to the priesthood. After serving the required three years in the Diocese of Covington, he offered himself for the service of the military and has served the Navy and the Coast Guard.

“A lot of the priestly call is akin to the military: selflessness, giving yourself for a higher cause, obedience…” Father Appel said. “You’re at your best when you’ve died to yourself in both cases.”

Father Appel said the military uses Catholic chaplains very heavily because they’re rare, so he gets scant time between assignments. This year, however, it’s been even less than usual. After a month of intensive training and seven months deployed in 2019, he and the sailors spent six months on the waterfront of Paris, prepared to answer needs. Then after a deployment overseas, they had to pick up for another ship.

“It was taxing in terms of always being up and ready to go,” he said. “We had just come back from a deployment to the Middle East, we were tasked with a very rigorous schedule, and then just when we were looking at a break, they tasked us with a five month deployment because a member of another ship had caught COVID-19 and spread it to the ship.”

In the Navy, said Father Appel, the sacrifice is really day to day, behind the scenes. “What you see on the outside is a ship at sea that’s floating, and they might not appear to be doing anything, but inside that ship people are getting very little sleep, some guys were getting three hours of sleep for three weeks straight, there’s a lot of inspections to keep the ship up running, qualifications… it’s a force in readiness. Whether we see something or not, we always have to be ready.”

Amid the strain of constant preparation, the pandemic brought a new kind of worry for the sailors about their families at home. “For us, it meant taking our time that we were going to spend home with our families and absolutely erasing that,” said Father Appel. “It stressed out the sailors because their family was at home and they had to consider their family.”

The operation of the ship remained largely the same, he said, in regard to the rhythm of daily life. In the midst of it all, his presence was able to bring some peace to the sailors.

“It’s more of a witness than I thought it was. As a priest, you’re always a priest and you never expect a break. So when I got on board, I’m just being a priest to the people. I bring with me some prior service (to the military) so I can (get) through a little bit (better)… but in terms of being a priest I don’t feel like I’m doing a whole lot above that and I don’t always see how good that is. Then after the deployment, so many people come up to me, — atheists, Protestants, Catholics and Muslims — who have said, ‘I don’t think I could have made it without you.’ So really we’re just out there being a priest like we do every day, and to us it’s just that, but to them it’s extraordinary, and it IS extraordinary, the priesthood itself. But even we need the reminder. It’s what we were ordained to do.”

Since Father Appel came home from his last Navy deployment in September, he’s been with the Coast Guard. Here, he’s found yet another group of dedicated men and women to serve. He compared it once again to his own work because of the incredibly rich mission of service of the future officers.

“I’m blown away by the future officers,” he said. “They’re young, they’re searching, they’re excited about their faith, they’re questioning their faith, they’re prepared to do something extraordinary and they’re interested in service. It has been an incredibly rich environment. It’s draining but in a very good way.”

During this month of thanksgiving, the United States celebrated Veterans Day Nov. 11, a day to honor the men and women who have served and continue to serve, protecting the nation and its families. God bless the soldiers, their families and the United States.

Emergency Shelter opens doors for winter, begins work on new location

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

With winter quickly approaching, the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky (ESNKY) has opened its doors to sheltering for the season — with new restrictions bringing some welcome and some unwelcome guidelines.

Kim Webb, executive director, said the winter shelter opened Nov. 1 for adult men and women, with 24 beds in the facility. Safe sheltering guidelines have been changed by the Center for Disease Control, reducing occupancy because of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to practice social distancing.

Mrs. Webb said they’re still providing much the same services, including showers, beds and food, but the set-up looks much different. There are no congregant areas for guests, so when they come in they are each assigned to a bed and a room, with shower curtains in the doorways and required face masks at all times. Father Michael Comer and parishioners from Mother of God continue to provide meals, but they’re brought to the rooms rather than shared in the communal space.

The Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky opened its doors for winter sheltering with 24 available beds on Nov. 1 at its Scott Street location.

“It’s going well… it’s not an ideal situation and I know we’re not the only ones dealing with it,” said Mrs. Webb. “Our volunteering is down, because there’s a level of concern… people are afraid to come, but we’re hopeful that volunteering picks up… when COVID goes down.”

Mrs. Webb and the shelter have been consistently providing services since March, though they did shut down for two weeks during the shelter-in-place order, because it was determined to be safer for guests to be outside than in. They creatively used the Northern Kentucky Convention Center to provide beds until the weather warmed up for the summer. It was also a location where people could wash their hands and perform basic hygiene when the world was shut down.

“The need is great, and more and more people are facing homelessness, not because of a choice that they made, but because of COVID — loss of jobs, medical bills, unable to work because they have to care for a family member… all these things. It’s really going to be a challenging time in our community regarding being able to provide a safe place for people to sleep,” said Mrs. Webb.

Now that the shelter is back at the Scott Street location for this winter, Mrs. Webb is looking to the newly purchased location, a project that had to be put on hold this year due to COVID-19. She was also waiting for the city of Covington to update its zoning code, which gave the shelter greater permissions. When ESNKY signed the lease in late October, they received a conditional use permit — a type of permit newly allowed by the updated zoning code, called the Neighborhood Zoning Code.

“It’s a huge win, it really shows how forward-thinking Covington is… the hope is that other cities in Northern Kentucky will follow suit for that piece of that because it is a huge accomplishment,” said Mrs. Webb.

Demolition on the building currently on the property began Nov. 9, and construction will follow shortly after with the assistance of PCA Architecture and Furlong Building. Mrs. Webb and her staff plan for a September 2021 move-in date.

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.

Traditions honor namesake at St. Elizabeth Healthcare

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

November 17 will always be a special day at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, though celebrations have changed over the years. It’s the feast of their patron, St. Elizabeth of Hungary. The saint, a 13th century widowed princess who dedicated her life to the poor, is the patron of hospitals and bakers.

Joseph Bozzelli, vice president of Mission Services and Pastoral Care at St. Elizabeth, shared the story of St. Elizabeth while describing the hospital’s current practices.

“We used to collect bread because of the legend of her bringing bread to the poor at night,” said Mr. Bozzelli.

The story tells of a young woman who snuck out to give to the needy, but the members of the royal family began to prohibit her from doing that because she was using their resources and they thought she was concealing items and going out and selling them. Her husband, Ludwig, confronted her one evening when she was going out, and asked what was under her cloak, and when she opened up her cloak, the bread miraculously turned into roses. Because of this, she is often depicted with her veil open and roses. St. Elizabeth died before her 24th birthday.

In the past, St. Elizabeth Healthcare would collect bread on her feast day and give it to food banks and food pantries. Today, other traditions are celebrated.

A portrait of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, which formerly hung in the chapel at St. Elizabeth Hospital, Covington, has been reclaimed and hung at St. Anne Retreat Center, Melbourne.

This year looks a bit different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but typically on November 17, as a way to celebrate St. Elizabeth and acknowledge the associates and volunteers, there is a blessing of hands. Using oil that’s fragranced with lavender or frankincense, members of the pastoral care department and volunteer chaplains go throughout the hospital and bless the hands of the associates and volunteers if they want it, as a way to signify the gifts they bring to their ministry. Oil is often celebrated as having a healing property, and it’s a way of using oil to acknowledge the sanctity of the body. The chaplains even offer the blessing to employees in non-patient care, such as accounting and payroll.

“We’re all part of the mission and ministry of St. Elizabeth,” said Mr. Bozzelli. “It’s such a well-received annual event that people really look forward to because it acknowledges that their work is more than work — it’s a ministry of healing and we’re all contributing to it, whether we have direct patient care or if we’re in finance and we’re helping the hospital to stay financially stable to do this ministry. We celebrate our associates.”

This year, the hospital plans to pray blessing prayers over the intercom at the hospital, and the cafeteria nutrition services has Hungarian food as a specialty.

A portrait of St. Elizabeth, which formerly hung in the chapel at St. Elizabeth Hospital, Covington, has been reclaimed and hung at St. Anne Retreat Center, Melbourne. Though a bit worn, the portrait portrays St. Elizabeth giving help to the poor and needy.

The community is encouraged to pray for local healthcare workers on the feast of St. Elizabeth, Nov. 17, and to make an extra effort to honor their work by making the necessary sacrifices to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Especially during this year, healthcare workers have proven their dedication to the health and wellbeing of each individual in the community and to their ministry of healing.

Safety measures urged as more diocesan counties enter Ky. ‘red zone’

Messenger Staff Report

With 10 weeks of in-person instruction completed in the Diocese of Covington, one of its schools has had to transition to at-home instruction due to COVID-19 cases.

Holy Trinity School, Bellevue, reported a positive case of COVID-19 the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 27. That class began at-home instruction on Wednesday and by Friday, two more positive cases were reported in that class.

On Friday, Katie Jacobs, principal, asked all of her elementary teachers be tested for COVID-19 and three more positive cases were reported over the Halloween weekend. By Sunday night, Kendra McGuire, superintendent of Schools, and Mrs. Jacobs made the decision to transition the entire school to at-home instruction until Monday, Nov. 16. Mrs. Jacobs said that Wednesday would be a calamity day for students while she and teachers gather Chromebooks and other materials to be distributed to parents. Calamity days are off days already built-in the school calendar for unexpected school closings, typically for snow and other weather-related events.

“Since the beginning of this school year protocols were put in place with the anticipation that schools may have to transition to at-home instruction,” said Mrs. McGuire. “Our schools have planned accordingly and this is one of those cases. I am grateful to our principals and teachers for their hard work and commitment to their students and pray for a quick and healthy return of our students, teachers and staff at Holy Trinity School.”

At this time, three counties — Boone, Kenton and Campbell — where the majority of the Diocese of Covington schools are located are in the ‘red zone.’ The red zone is the “critical” level of a colored code system developed by Governor Andy Beshear to indicate the spread of the coronavirus in Kentucky.

The color system is based on the number of unique cases over a 7-day period. According to the Team KY website, the 7-day incidence is calculated by taking the total number of unique cases in each county over the past 7 days, divided by 7 to get a daily average, divided by the U.S. census bureau county population, and multiplied by 100,000 to get the incidence per 100,000 people. The green zone is the lowest level, indicating that counties are “On Track” with less than 1 case per 100k. The yellow zone indicates “Community Spread” (1 – 10 per 100K); orange zone indicates “Accelerated” spread (10 – 25 per 100K) and the red zone is “Critical” (25+ per 100K).

“Our counties are now in a critical stage and we need to make the necessary sacrifices — stay home to the greatest extent possible and wear a mask when in public, especially at Mass — so as to mitigate the spread of the virus and continue our top two priorities — the celebration of the Mass and in-person instruction for our students,” said Laura Keener, COVID coordinator.

Bill Blank: Enough music and stories to fill 90 years

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

He’s known as a piano tuner, an organist, a choir director and a lector. But few know him as a Korean war veteran, a member of the first graduating class from Covington Latin School, a proud father of six and a man who lost his wife too soon.

He might be the longest attending Mass-goer at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption (78 years), and yet he’s never officially been a member. He attended seminary before Vatican II and Thomas More University when it was still called Villa Madonna College. He wrote two Mass settings and didn’t even mention it during an interview.

And Bill Blank, now nearly 90 years old, still attends Mass every morning at the Cathedral Basilica and tunes pianos practically every day.

Not a composer by profession, Mr. Blank, whose full name is William, has composed two Mass settings — the Mass of All Saints and the Mass of the Holy Cross. A Mass setting is the words of the Mass Ordinary set to music. The Ordinary words of the Mass are the parts that do not change with the liturgical calendar — they are a part of every Mass. There are five parts to the Ordinary: Kyrie (Lord have mercy…), Gloria (Glory to God in the highest…), Credo (I believe in God the Father…), Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy…) and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God…).

In the 1960s after the Church changed the common liturgy to English, Mr. Blank said he looked at some of the Masses that were coming out in English, and said to himself, “I can do better than that.” They were quickly taken up by local churches and used “quite extensively” until about 30 years later, when the ‘Lord have mercy’ changed from three repetitions to two, which made the Masses unusable at the time.

“Having been a church organist for 50 years, I knew that the problem with congregational singing is that the people who write some of these songs and motets don’t realize that the ordinary person in the congregation isn’t a great musician and can’t sing this difficult stuff,” said Mr. Blank. “So I wrote Masses that are simple, easy to read and sing, yet devout and pleasing to God.”

Then in 2012, after the new translation of the Latin Missal was published, Mr. Blank rewrote his Masses so they would fit the new liturgies. On July 15, 2015 Bishop Roger Foys approved Mr. Blank’s Mass of All Saints and the Mass of the Holy Cross for use in the Diocese of Covington.

“They’re being used, people like them,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of comments about how good my Masses are. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I think they’re better than a lot of what’s out there.”

He’s not a well-known composer or musician, but as a choir director he often arranged old hymns for his choirs. “I’m not trying to make money off it, I’m just doing it for the honor and glory of God.”

His Mass of All Saints is in the process of being published for use outside the diocese, if family friend Rebecca Schaffer Wells has anything to do with it. Mrs. Wells’ father, Dr. Robert Schaffer, was good friends with Mr. Blank while the two of them were church musicians around the diocese. Dr. Schaffer was choirmaster and organist at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption for 62 years, a position his son, Dr. Gregory Schaffer, now holds. Dr. Schaffer also composed Masses, such as the Missa Pange Lingua and the Chorale Mass, published by the World Library of Sacred Music.

“Bill’s Mass of All Saints was one of the first ones approved for use in the diocese after the new translation in 2011,” Mrs. Wells said. She hopes to see it used across the nation soon.

Mr. Blank and her father met at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and remained friends for many years after, as they continued to run into each other across the musical circuit of the diocese. Mr. Blank even taught the younger Dr. Schaffer some of his piano technician skills, though Mrs. Wells laughed that she always calls Mr. Blank to tune her piano.

She has great admiration for Mr. Blank’s work as a piano technician. “It’s a very refined skill,” she said. “You have to hear the smallest beats, we call it, the smallest difference of pitch, and turn that hammer,” she said. Whenever he finishes tuning, she said he’ll sit down and start playing sing-along tunes from the 1920s to test the tuning.

Some of Mr. Blank’s best musical memories come from the 15 years he spent as an employee for Steinway. In that time, he tuned for about 90 percent of the music artists who came through Cincinnati’s Music Hall on tour, including celebrities such as Ruth Lyons, the Nippert family, Roger Williams and Peter Nero. He became the go-to man for any style: classical, rock or pop.
“They claim I’m a master tuner,” said Mr. Blank.

He started tuning and restoring pianos as a young man, working for friends to make extra money on the side. He spent four years in both the Navy, where he was drafted in the Korean War, and four years in seminary for the diocese, before discerning out. He attended college on the GI Bill, and eventually dated and married his wife in the 1960s.

Over those years of finding his vocation and his career, he never forgot the Cathedral Basilica, where he attended school 1942-1946 and was the first graduating class for the new building. Though he grew up attending Blessed Sacrament Parish, after his high school years he always somehow ended up back at the Cathedral.

While Mr. Blank and his wife were raising their six children, he worked as an organist and choir director for over 50 years at parishes such as St. John and St. Ann in Covington, Holy Cross in Latonia and Mary Queen of Heaven, Erlanger. It was during this time that he wrote his Mass parts. Since he retired 25 years ago, he has been playing organ at St. Charles Community nursing home free of charge for the Sisters of Notre Dame for the weekend Masses.

Mr. Blank has countless stories from his tuning years, “enough to write a book.” In 1970, he tuned for Van Cliburn when he played for the dedication of the Riverfront Stadium, with 30,000 people gathered. Mr. Blank has a sense of humor about it all, laughing as he recounted: “Clybourne looks down at me and he says, ‘I can’t wait to get … back to Texas,’ and I never did like that guy after that. I tuned for him two or three times 10 or 15 years later.”

He’s a man with gumption, unafraid to perform his job well, even when challenged. “I had a concert pianist from Spain who asked him to pull the two higher octaves up sharp, because it sounded better,” he said. “And I said yes ma’am, and I went ahead and tuned that piano for the next rehearsal and at the rehearsal she comes up and says, ‘That’s just the way I like it,’ and I didn’t tune it any different than I did the first time.”

“Then I had a concert pianist who called Steinway and complained,” he said. “So Henry Steinway, the president of Steinway and Sons, came to visit and check me out. He walked up and said, ‘Mr. Blank, this doesn’t sound right,’ and I was so nervous, but I said, ‘Mr. Steinway, it sounds fine to me.’ He nodded and walked away, and the next day I was called in after a sleepless night and thought I was going to be fired. Mr. Steinway said, ‘Keep up the good work.’ I was nervous but I was confident that I did a good job. He was just checking to see if I was confident.”

Mr. Blank’s family means everything to him, and he’s known his share of sorrow. Two of his children died at the age of 37: one of pancreatitis and one in a car accident with a drunk driver. His wife died a month later, out of grief.

Yet through it all, Mr. Blank keeps getting out of bed every morning and getting through each day. Now, Mr. Blank’s children live in Villa Hills, Ky., Frankfort, Ky., one in Tennessee and one in London, England. He has 13 grandchildren and six great grandchildren. His son Tom, who lives in Frankfort, has taken up the musical legacy and tunes pianos as well.

“The Lord has been good to me,” Mr. Blank said. “I have a wonderful family, a lot of grandkids.” He’s still tuning pianos, repairing and rebuilding them, and still playing golf.

Mrs. Wells said she’s seen a resiliency in Mr. Blank that is unparalleled. “With all the pain in his life, he’s always a bright spot,” she said.

In the last 10 years, Mr. Blank has been lectoring at the Cathedral for daily Mass. He also has been a server and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. “Even after 78 years, every time I walk in that place, I’m just overwhelmed and inspired by it,” he said. “This building is incredible. I’ve been all over it.”

As he approaches his 90th birthday Nov. 4, Mr. Blank said he’s had a good life. “I love what I do, the priests have been good to me, and here I am,” he said. “I just try to do the best I can. My kids all love me and I’m just very fortunate.”

Seminarian Education Fund

Messenger Staff Report

The Seminarian Education Fund for the Diocese of Covington will be held the weekend of Nov. 7-8 at all Masses across the diocese. All parishioners will receive a mailing before the weekend with brochures, prayer cards and response cards to facilitate donations either to be mailed or brought to Mass that weekend in the collection basket.

This year, the Diocese of Covington has 11 seminarians studying at St. Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, Penn., and the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. The cost to educate a seminarian is currently approximately $57,000.

“The future of our Church is our priests. It’s critical that people make a conscious decision to support our future,” said Michael Murray, director of Stewardship and Mission Services. “We have a very generous faith community that responds, so we’re looking forward to them responding again in a positive fashion, especially in these difficult times.”

Religious sisters offer virtual open houses for vocation discernment

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

To celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week Nov. 1-7, local religious orders are hosting virtual open houses via Zoom. In place of traditional meet and greets, the sisters are inviting young adults to drop in on calls to learn more about religious life and specific communities.

Of the 14 participating orders, three are from Northern Kentucky. The Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg, the Sisters of Divine Providence and the Sisters of Notre Dame are all taking part in the opportunity to share their spirituality, their ministries and their daily life with curious young adults.

Sister Leslie Keener, vocations director for the Sisters of Divine Providence said people often ask about the sisters’ prayer life, experience in ministry, what’s it like to live in community and about the vows they take. This is a new event, since their congregation usually hosts events like dinners in the spring.

“One of the gifts of being a vocation director is to go out and about and talk about this life that I love, and an event like this gives me an opportunity to do that and to interact with different people,” she said. “The gift of doing the program this way is that people don’t have to be local — anybody can be in on it and we get to meet all the different people.”

Sister Ruth Lubbers, assistant vocation director for the Sisters of Notre Dame, said their national vocation team members will be present for the events to share about their charism and mission and to address questions that participants may have.

“We are looking forward to meeting women through these events and sharing about the Sisters of Notre Dame. We are interested in seeing how this type of event works out, and if it fills the needs of those discerning religious life,” she said.

All the meet and greets are free but pre-registration is required. Registration can be found here.

Virtual open houses
Women discerning a vocation to religious life, mark your calendar to meet and greet the following religious communities:

Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg
Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 5, 12 p.m.

Sisters of Divine Providence
Nov. 1, 1 p.m.
Nov. 4, 7 p.m.

Sisters of Notre Dame
Nov. 4, 7 p.m.
Nov. 7, 10 a.m.