FROM CABBAGE TO TUBING, INNOVATIVE COMMITTEE EMERGES AT ST. MARY PARISH, ST. MARYS
ST. MARYS — As this edition of the Diocese of EriE-news is published, close to 1000 pounds of local cabbage have been grown, harvested, shredded, tamped down by hand with wooden mallets and sealed into buckets under heavy bags of water — the way it’s been done for generations — in St. Marys. The strong German heritage of families in the area, and the generosity of the parishioners who own Neubert Farm, makes the project a great fit for the St. Hubert Committee at St. Mary Parish. On November 12, they’ll host a sauerkraut and pork dinner to help support various needs of the parish, including their own organization.
The committee came into being in 2017 as the result of a conversation Luke Daghir — who is currently studying for the priesthood — had with his father, Joe.
“Dad brought up the idea of a men’s group focused on the outdoors, nature, fishing and hunting,” Luke says. After a few conversations, the two began calling men in the parish to gauge their interest.
“I remember being on the phone on one side of the kitchen while my father was on the other side, speaking on the phone with another parishioner,” Luke says. “Each time we hung up the phone we whispered to the other, ‘He said yes!’”
Then-pastor Father Peter Augustine Pierjok, OSB, a serious outdoorsman himself, understood the pastoral potential immediately. Such an organization could attract men of all ages, some of whom might not otherwise be involved in parish organizations. An immediate connection to several Catholic Social Teaching themes was evident including care for God’s creation, and the call to family, community and participation. The parish council got on board right away as well, providing start-up funds and ongoing support of the mission.
The committee, named for St. Hubert because he is the patron saint of hunters, has remained relatively low key, with seasonal outings including a spring hike, often in the Quehanna area; a summer tubing trip down the east branch of the Clarion River ending with a picnic at Bendingo State Park and an annual big-buck contest. As for the sauerkraut production, it’s arguably the star of the group’s annual fundraising dinner.
It wasn’t long before the doors were opened to the women of the parish.
“The idea began as a men’s group, but that was never really necessary,” says Shane Schneider, who currently serves as president of the St. Hubert Committee. “It just evolved, partly because many of the members’ wives came to help with some of the activities.”
Nearly 30 men and women have joined the committee, with about half that number attending most events.
“We always open and close our meetings with prayer,”
Schneider says. “I’ve made friends with people I wouldn’t normally have had a reason to talk to.” The group has also given him a deeper appreciation for the presence of God in the solitude of the woods.
“I think one gift of the St. Hubert story is that of inculturation of the Catholic faith,” says Luke Daghir. He points to the writing of Pope St. Paul VI:
“In the mind of the Lord, the church is universal by vocation and mission, but when she puts down her roots in a variety of cultural, social and human terrains, she takes on different external expressions and appearances in each part of the world.” (On Evangelization in the Modern World)
While he underscores that committee members have a great deal of fun together, celebrating the area’s German heritage, enjoying outdoor activities and serving the parish, Daghir also sees the committee as a manifestation of the “ever ancient, ever new” concept noted by St. Augustine.
“St. Mary Parish is very old, founded in 1842; the current church was built in 1852,” he says. “Yet new ideas emerge, even in a parish as old as St. Mary.”
All are welcome to partake in the delicious homemade sauerkraut and pork dinner that will result from the efforts the St. Hubert Committee put forth all summer and fall — enhanced with locally sourced buttery mashed potatoes, fresh buns and an assortment of homemade desserts. This year, the committee’s annual dinner will be served at St. Mary Church on Saturday, Nov. 12 beginning at 5 pm. Reservations for the meal or for picking up frozen sauerkraut by the bag can be made by calling the St. Mary Parish office at 814.781.1019.