By VONNIE FULMER
Ten members of the Guild of St. Mark’s in Newberry recently did something we had never done before. We embarked on a day trip April 24 that was for pleasure and fellowship. Like most church organizations, it is rare that you meet without work being involved. This trip was for our souls.
There was nothing deeply spiritual planned. We rode to St. John of the Cross in Batesburg for a tour and then to Corpus Christi in Lexington, a stop for lunch and then back to Newberry. However, what did happen was most remarkable.
We started off with Father James Crowley blessing the van, probably for the protection of the driver. We sounded like a group of teen-agers on their way to an outing. We arrived at St. John of the Cross in good order. Geri Marcavage was to be our guide. She and her family now attend St. Mary’s, but were very active in St. John of the Cross in the 1970s and 1980s. We learned some of the history of the little church in Batesburg. We listened to stories of many trials and many triumphs. We felt a kindred spirit with those whose faith and trust in God has kept the little church thriving. We learned about the relics of Mother Seton and St. John of the Cross; about the beautiful prints of the saints that were made in Assisi; about the black Madonna in the little garden. We were learning about how someone else has faced the same challenges that St. Mark’s has faced.
Carol Steigner and her daughter were busy painting the parish hall. They were both so gracious and welcoming. We chatted with them before we boarded the van for the short drive to Corpus Christi in Lexington.
Vicki Reese met us and gave a tour of their lovely church. From humble beginnings they have grown to a current seating capacity of 600 and additional future seating for 200 more. We learned about all the beautiful icons and stained glass windows, about the side altars, the special lighting for the huge cross at the main altar. Their original church building was now the education complex with two groups meeting there while we toured the church — a busy place.
We were reminded of old traditions being carried on by the Corpus Christi Legion of Mary. Dedicating children to Mary and marriages to Mary are practices that have somehow gotten put to the side in our busy lives. The beautiful grotto and outdoor Stations of the Cross were inspirational.
We had shared a day with each other. We actually talked to one another about our lives. Our conversations were personal and not about who was on what committee and when the next meeting was scheduled. First, we learned more about each other and got to know each other better. It was interesting and refreshing. Secondly, we were allowed to share some history and insights from two of our sister churches. We discovered that each church has had its humble beginnings and struggles. That each parish is held together by the faith, perseverance and trust in God of its people. We felt a kinship with the new friends we have met on our day trip. We were all brimming over with ideas formed by the things we had seen and eager to get back and see if we could incorporate them into St. Mark’s.
We all tend to sit in our spots and work so hard for that place that it is very easy to forget the bigger picture. We forget to learn about the places around us and meet the people who live there. On our short tour we suddenly realized that each church and its parishioners have seen their ups and downs just as we have. We are not alone. Someone else has gone through or is going through similar experiences, both good and bad. On this informal trip we were relaxed enough to stop and see and admire what was going on around us. There suddenly was a closeness to the two churches we visited that was not there before. The names of St. John of the Cross and Corpus Christi are not just names in The New Catholic Miscellany anymore. They are real places with real people, and we know new thoughts about how we can better St. Mark’s with our knowledge. Our day was filled with learning about lovely places, meeting new people, learning about old friends, inspiration, devotion and prayer. There will definitely be more road trips for our guild and hopefully we can offer our hospitality to others.
Vonnie Fulmer is secretary of the St. Mark’s Guild in Newberry.