People came from near and far throughout the diocese to meet Bishop Edward K. Braxton at his residence Dec. 20 at his annual Christmas reception.
The people were invited so the bishop could greet them and thank them for the work they do in their parishes and their communities.
From St. Bruno in Pinckneyville, Catherine Dawson and Shirley Bigham came. Dawson said: “It’s quite a thrill” to meet the bishop and see all of the art work at his residence. “I just marvel at the art.”
Father Urban Osuji, CM invited Willie Wolf from his parish of St. Joseph in Benton. Wolf is a parish trustee and was happy to be invited to the reception.
“They’re helping me find my feet,” Father Osuji said of St. Joseph parishioners.
Scott Ruppel, Gibault campus minister and band/chorus director told Father Osuji everyone at the school missed him, but they were helping Father Felix Chukwuma, a fidei donum priest of the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Nigeria find his way as well. Father Felix took Father Osuji’s place as campus chaplain.
Andrew Loliss received an invitation to the reception. A sophomore at Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo, Andrew made an impression on the bishop when he made a recent visit to the school.
The school discussion centered on the bishop’s pastoral letter: “The Racial Divide in the United States: A Reflection for the World Day of Peace 2015.”
Andrew commented that he was unaware of the tragic confrontations between black youth and police officers. He said he believed that living in a rural community without much racial diversity contributed to that idea.
St. Augustine of Hippo parishioner, Jackie Akins said she is very active in her parish as a lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion as well as a long-time volunteer at Catholic Urban Programs and St. Vincent de Paul in East St. Louis.
“The bishop was very cordial, warm and friendly,” Akins said.
From St. Joseph Parish in Freeburg, David and Jennifer Helfrich waited in line to greet the bishop.
The couple has children attending the Catholic elementary school, and David is in the Knights of Columbus. Jennifer volunteers at the school.
John Young 94, spent many years at the bishop’s residence. He was born there. Living with his grandparents, he remembered the house a bit differently since the kitchen and present dining room were not part of the original home that was built around 1860.
After meeting the bishop, some folks toured the residence, and enjoyed hors d’oeuvres before leaving to return home.
Seminarians, home for the holidays, also spent time at the residence before returning to King’s House in Belleville where diocesan vocations director, Father Nicholas Junker, was hosting a discernment retreat for young men considering a vocation to the priesthood.