Traditional Parish Brings Catholic Identity to Town

by Anita Carey  •  •  August 15, 2017   

Misinformation and ancient rituals have residents concerned about a proposed grotto

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PARK HILLS, Ky. ( - Parishioners say that converting a former Lutheran church to a Roman Catholic church is miraculous enough, but a small number of residents are fearing the construction of a grotto would attract massive numbers of miracle-seeking pilgrims and create chaos in the process.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church celebrated Mass with 150 people on July 16, 2016, the anniversary of the last apparition of Mary to St. Bernadette at the grotto, and thus became home to the diocese of Covington's Traditional Latin Mass community. Bishop Roger J. Foys founded the parish to serve the growing number of Catholics wanting to observe the old rites of the Church.

Trouble began for the parish when they submitted plans to the city council to build an outdoor grotto to celebrate the Marian apparition for which their parish is named. Residents on both sides packed the city council meetings to discuss the grotto. Most supported the church while a few raised concerns that the town would become a mecca, attracting thousands of pilgrims that "will cause serious traffic and parking problems in the city."

Concerned residents cited an incident in Cold Spring, Kentucky, that happened 25 years ago when a priest who had visited Medjugorje nine times told his prayer group a "visionary" predicted the Virgin Mary would appear. Word of the prediction spread and around 8,000 people flocked to the small town.
The pilgrims spent the day in prayer and sang hymns, waiting for the midnight apparition. Some claimed to see images, others did not. In the end, the bishop of the diocese of Covington at the time, William A. Hughes, said, "I am convinced that nothing of a miraculous nature occurred" and apologized for the "inconvenience."

The area of Kentucky around Covington and just south of Cincinnati is a hub of Catholic identity. There are multiple Catholic churches, both an all boys' and an all girls' Catholic high school and the headquarters of the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Concept drawing of the grotto

Our Lady of Lourdes is served by priests from the Missionaries of Saint John the Baptist (MSJB). This is a new order, and priests are incardinated as diocesan priests and are faithful to the Church's rich liturgical traditions. They are striving to establish a community "in which common religious life is lived in a more disciplined and traditional way."

With the blessing and support of Bp. Foys, the MSJB moved their community from Dayton, Ohio, to the Park Hills location. Some parishioners drive about an hour to attend Mass there, while others have decided to move to the community to take advantage of the homeschooling co-operative and rich spiritual life provided by the MSJB.

The MSJB have responded to the concerns from residents, explaining the need to cut down diseased trees and refuting the grotto will be "Disney-like" or draw thousands to the site because of apparitions and miracles.

Media reports of the opposition and conflict have been greatly exaggerated, reporting that residents say the parishioners are "intolerant."

Steve Crites and Bob Ford, an openly homosexual couple, have spoken out against the church and even against the parishioners. They claim a car with an anti-gay bumper sticker reading "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" was intentionally parked in front of their house.

Our Lady of Lourdes Dress Policy

Church members disagreed, saying the sticker read "Male and Female He created them — Genesis 1:27" and that it belonged to someone who was renting the house across the street from Crites and Ford and was not an intentional jab at the men.

Sarah Froelich says she bought a gay pride flag after hearing of the bumper sticker because "that kind of intolerance is not acceptable."

The parish has grown to over 200 people and follows the usus antiquior of the Roman Rite allowed by Pope St. John Paul II in 1988 and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2007. They have strict rules for modest and appropriate dress when attending Mass and promote keeping Sunday as a day of rest. They also have resources dedicated to helping parishioners grow in virtue.

The differences in dress and the ancient traditions such as Eucharistic processions have residents curious about the parish. On the Feast of Corpus Christi this year, five residents waited outside before the procession to "see for themselves."

Thinking the church should have a permit for the procession, residents looked on in confusion as men in suits and women in long skirts and veils carried candles and sang hymns while the media reported, "A cotton canopy held aloft shaded the priest who was carrying an ornate vessel."

Completely unaware of the Real Presence, the reporter takes note of the "mystic quality" of the Latin and incense and says "the residents said their goodbyes and left without answers."

Perhaps they would find some answers if they went inside the church.

A donation can be made to help with the construction of the grotto here.


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