ST FRANCIS DE SALES SPIRITUAL HISTORY (125th Anniversary of Diocese 2012)
St. Francis de Sales church is nestled high on a hill at the edge of town overlooking the small village of Stonefort. Although the original wooden building was constructed circa 1890 and later replaced by the present brick building in 1954, the spiritual journey of St. Francis de Sales began much earlier dating back to 1862. It was at this time that Father Louis Lambert, pastor of Cairo’s St. Patrick’s parish, would ride fifty-four miles to the Thomas McCabe residence in Reynoldsburg where families gathered from miles around including Stonefort to celebrate Mass. Father Lambert ministered to a congregation “who was devout and in deep contemplation” laying the foundation of a deep spirituality that would empower the parishioners to eventually construct their own church which they would name after St. Francis de Sales. St. Francis de Sales was most fitting as a patron saint considering that he was patient, humble, and persevering in creating an everyday spirituality through his pastoral example and work in a challenging environment much like the protestant environment in Stonefort. Surrounded by several protestant churches, the parishioners of St. Francis de Sales often had to defend their Catholic faith. One elderly widow in particular was often sent hate mail challenging her Catholic faith. She would patiently and meekly reply with kind words and a Bible reference to justify and validate her Catholic beliefs. Today there is still some prejudice and misconceptions amongst some of the protestant community, but the parishioners through example and faith still maintain a strong spirituality.
One of the priorities of St. Francis de Sales that enhances and augments its spiritual history is emulating the mission of Jesus. Keeping Christ, the Eucharist, and Scripture at the center of the faith community through attending and participating in Mass are key factors in practicing our faith as well as applying it in everyday life. Religious devotions such as praying the rosary before Mass each Sunday, attending first Saturday Masses, and attending special devotional activities during Lent and Advent all move our parish along its spiritual journey. Since our parish family is small, most everyone participates in helping with the Mass such as lectoring, ushering, providing the music, and serving. Sacramentals used in our church and at home, such as holy water, candles, crosses, rosaries, and many others remind us of God’s grace and goodness that he constantly bestows on us.
God’s grace and the many blessings we receive each day inspire us as a parish to extend those blessings to others by evangelizing our faith and reaching out to our neighbors. Welcoming visitors, collecting food for those less fortunate, raising money for special projects such as the local ministerial alliance, visiting the sick, volunteering at the VA hospital, taking the Eucharist to the shut-ins, encouraging fellowship through cook-outs and special parties, providing Bible studies, teaching catechetics, taking up special collections for those in need or victims of disasters such as hurricane Katrina when we collected furniture, clothing and food for a family who had lost everything, are a few of the ways in which we are following Christ’s command to “Love our neighbor.”
Throughout our long history, the parish has been blessed with folks with many gifts. We have produced a seminarian, a design engineer who helped design the first missile, several grade and high school educators who have left a positive mark in their schools and communities, and a college professor who was instrumental in bringing online teaching into her department. Equally important, we have members who work hard in maintaining the church property on a volunteer basis. Without their hard work and dedication, the church would not be cleaned nor the yards maintained. Even though our parish is small, we have been a very viable community of faith where the Holy Spirit is constantly helping us continue on our faith journey.
St Francis DeSales was officially merged with St Paul Church in Vienna on June 30, 2020. Mass will no longer be offered at Stonefort.