Father Schweitzer tells session guests faith best shared in truth, joy

WANATAH – People of faith, particularly Catholics, share profound Gospel truths that, in the age of instant messaging and fast food, can still be shared most effectively the old-fashioned way.

According to Senior Priest Father Gerald Schweitzer, who delivered a talk on July 7 as part of a re-started Pub Theology inspirational presentation series, at home, in church or on the road we invite others to journey with us in a spirit of thanksgiving and in unity of faith.

“The Lord will always take us further,” Father Schweitzer told dozens gathered at the American Legion Post 403 in Wanatah.

Citing the story in Luke 24 of Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on The Road to Emmaus, Father Schweitzer said a conscious recognition is also required by today’s Catholics of the Lord’s ongoing efforts to transform our lives.

"It is important to listen to the word and take time on the journey – with all of its challenges – (to be open) to a transformation to proclaim,” said Father Schweitzer.

The grassroots call to evangelism was presented in the talk entitled, “Messaging God: No Wi-Fi Required.” Mobile computers and smartphones were not key to the presentation, though Father Schweitzer occasionally referred to his laptop computer to view his notes.

Members of Sacred Heart parish, Wanatah, St. Martin of Tours mission, La Crosse, and St. Mary parish, Otis – collectively known as the Catholic Communities of U.S. 421 – gathered in the spacious American Legion banquet hall where water, beer, pop, pizza and other snacks were served during the return of the presentation series after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The meeting was characterized by Father Schweitzer’s theological narrative and personal anecdotes of which attentive audience members took notes and many shared a laugh, compliments of the speaker’s humor. He also entertained questions after the two-part presentation.

Expressing thanks for the large group in attendance and for the warmth of the gathering, Father Schweitzer said our Baptismal call encourages us to invite even more to fellowship. Welcoming family and friends to Mass is a start.

In Catholic liturgy, our worship of God is fortified by his Word and in the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ. Holy Communion is shared in a spirit of “thanksgiving,” which is the Greek meaning of Eucharist.

"Each one of us individually and collectively make up the Risen Body of Christ,” Father Schweitzer said. “Think about that seriously. Don’t (limit) the concept of sacraments to just the church, because we consume the intimacy of the Lord’s presence within us.”

He continued, “Ask yourself the question, ‘How intimate have I been with the Lord this past week … am I really thankful?’”

Father Schweitzer said there is no ideal time to be grateful for God's blessings. He reminded those assembled that the federal holiday of Thanksgiving was established during another difficult time in our nation’s history. In 1863 amid the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of thanks to be celebrated on the third Thursday of November.

The senior priest implored believers to joyfully “be of the same mind,” as St. Paul wrote to the Philippians about their faith in Christ Jesus, and “humbly regard each other in familiarity of belief.”

Such faith-affirming community expressions, he said, are the opposite of quick, or passive church experiences, especially those confined to a remote video screen. “Should our churches be drive-ins?" he asked.

Welcoming Father Schweitzer's personable style and inspiring words, Nancy Skalka of St. Mary said she often feels the priest’s reflections speak directly to her.

“After you receive the Eucharist and go out into the world are you (showing) the face of Christ?” Skalka said. “I think we all tend to think inside that we’re trying to be good but then when the challenges come around, how (do we act?)”

Skalka added, “I’ve had a recent challenge, and I’m thinking of all those questions Father Jerry asked – did I take the time to show my faith in labor and love? It’s what I needed to hear, so that next time when that challenge is there, there won’t be that wavering.”

St. Martin parishioners Andrew and Jill Hagenow, who were married by Father Schweitzer seven months ago, said they enjoyed his “Messaging God” presentation. Now with child, Jill sat near her husband, who farms thousands of acres of corn and soybean in LaPorte County.

“I took away from the presentation that we should be invested in the community, especially since we’re starting a family,” said Jill Hagenow, a Hospice care worker. “I also met some ladies that are from the Valparaiso and Porter area that I did not know before. They said they would come to the next presentation.”

Andrew said he appreciates Father Schweitzer’s sense of humor.

Thelma Fath, 86, remains an active senior. She said coming to the faith talk in Wanatah was “fun,” but that wasn’t the main reason she made the drive.

“What I really like is the way Father Jerry talks about St. Paul … This is like putting the icing on the cake for what we read at (our parish) Bible study,” said Fath, a Westville resident, who is a St. Mary, Otis parishioner.