July 20, 2012

Be Our Guest / Marcy Renken

Priest’s celebration of Mass is gift to family of campers

Over the past several years, members of my mother’s family and extended family have had a tradition of camping out over a long weekend in June at Versailles State Park. Each year, many families camp for two or three nights.

Others join in for the reunion day on Saturday. Last year, my cousin put on a silent auction for her Haiti mission. Also, last year, a local priest came out to the camp and celebrated Mass with more than 100 family members.

Having Mass at camp is a great way to spread God’s word to the world around us. Not everyone at camp attends Mass regularly so it is an opportunity to reach out to those who have fallen away from the Church.

This year, my mom arranged for a priest at her parish to come and celebrate Mass. Then, later on, the priest realized he had a prior commitment. The search was on to find another priest.

After several attempts, there were not any available priests to celebrate Mass with our family. We know it is a gift to have a priest available so we were OK with attending the local parish in Osgood.

Several of us were browsing the amazing selection of beautiful handcrafted items for the Haiti auction on Saturday evening when my cousin pointed out a camper across the street. She mentioned that the man had just been ordained as a priest. Father Jerry Byrd’s home parish is St. Louis Parish in Batesville. Father Byrd was visiting some friends at the camp.

My uncle walked over and asked him what he would be doing for the rest of the evening. He also explained that we had been searching for a priest to celebrate Mass with us at the camp.

Father Byrd was delighted and said he would certainly celebrate Mass. He was especially excited that it was the vigil of the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

A capella music was rehearsed with the small impromptu choir. I am a firm believer of music as a part of worship so I faced my fears of singing without accompaniment and led the family.

While we were waiting on Father Byrd to return with his Mass kit, we rehearsed the hymns. It was so amazing to watch as every little detail came together as if the Holy Spirit was guiding each one of us involved.

Father Byrd pulled out all the stops. From chanting to singing the Mass parts and hymns to the incense and bells, nothing was left out. It was an absolutely beautiful celebration. As I stood up front and peered out over my family, I was in awe of what blessings God has bestowed upon us.

I want to thank Father Byrd for inspiring and leading us in worship and celebration of the Eucharist that day. His message touched our hearts. We hope to continue the tradition and share our family’s love for our Catholic faith.

(Marcy Renken is a member of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood.)

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