(JASONVILLE) - The new bishop of the Diocese of Evansville will visit Jasonville's St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, celebrating Saturday's 5 p.m. mass with parishioners.
Mark Stalcup, of the Greene County Daily World reports, Bishop Charles C. Thompson also plans to stay after mass for light refreshments in the parish hall.
The bishop will be hosted by Rev. Frank Renner, who celebrates mass at St. Joan of Arc's as well as St. Mary's Catholic Church in Sullivan.
Thompson won't be able to attend mass celebrations at St. Mary's this weekend, although Renner hopes he will visit there soon, too.
"I'm very happy (the bishop's) coming up," Renner said. "We're glad he had an opportunity on his calendar this Saturday evening to come pray with us and celebrate with us."
The bishop's impending arrival thrilled parishioners of the small church, located at 327 W. McKinley St.
"I don't recall our having a bishop there before this new bishop came in," said Linda Hawkins, president of the Parish Council. "I know this is his first visit. It's kind of special to us. It's kind of nice he would come to our little church."
Founded in 1902, St. Joan of Arc was formerly a mission church whose first pastor once visited by motorcycle.
It formally became a parish in 1908.
Thompson's predecessor, Gerald Gettelfinger, did visit the parish during his 22-year tenure, while Gettelfinger's predecessor Francis Shea presented longtime parishioner Virginia Morris with a Brute Award, a parish honor given to those who offer time, treasure and talent to their parish and who are nominated by fellow churchgoers.
Both Hawkins and Renner expect a significant increase in attendance during Saturday's service at the church, which normally has 35 families and around 55 parishioners in regular attendance.
Similar jumps often occur due to groups gathering at Shakamak State Park.
Some members of surrounding Catholic churches have already let the parish know they will attend Saturday's services.
"There have been some St. Mary's people who signed up to attend the reception," said Renner, who'll also perform a baptism Saturday evening at St. Mary's.
While the church's ladies wanted to prepare a dinner for the bishop, Renner said Thompson preferred the light refreshments and a chance to meet parishioners.
"We plan for a short meeting afterwards and light refreshments, and anybody who hasn't yet had a chance to meet (the bishop) might want to stay," Hawkins said. "I didn't meet him until last summer. This is his first trip to this area I can recall. Also, for anyone wishing to participate in the Sacrament of Confession those are usually before Mass."
Bishop Thompson, 51, was formerly the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in his native Louisville. He was named the fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Evansville on April 26, 2011.
His installation as bishop, held June 29, 2011 at Roberts Municipal Stadium, followed.
The celebration at St. Joan of Arc continues Thompson's efforts to visit every parish in the diocese.
"He had made the comment after he was ordained as bishop that he wanted to visit all the parishes in the diocese, and now it's been a year and he is coming to visit ours," Renner said.
According to a press release from the diocese, Thompson has visited 47 of the 69 churches.
He succeeded Gettelfinger, 75, in 2011. Gettelfinger had served 22 years as head of the diocese.
Jasonville's church is part of the Vincennes Deanery of the Evansville Diocese. The diocese includes all of Greene County and covers 5,010 square miles with a population of 496,793 people. Of those, about 17 percent of the populace -- 86,000 people -- are Catholic.
Thompson was ordained as a priest in 1987. He formerly served as vicar general of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Over 24 years of service, Thompson's assignments have included: associate pastor, St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral, Bardstown, Ky., and chaplain of Bethlehem High School, Bardstown, 1987-90; part-time associate pastor, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Louisville, 1992-93; metropolitan judicial vicar and director of tribunals, 1993-98; administrator, St. Peter Claver Parish, Louisville, 1994-96; chaplain, Presentation Academy, Louisville, 1995-97; pastor, St. Augustine Parish, Lebanon, Ky., 1996-2002; defender of the bond and judge of the diocesan tribunal, 1998-2008; pastor, Holy Trinity Parish, 2002-present and vicar general, 2008-present.
Thompson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in accounting from Bellarmine College, a Master of Divinity degree from St. Meinrad School of Theology, and a Licentiate in Canon Law from Ottowa's St. Paul University.
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