By Jill Kruse
Witness Editorial Assistant
JESUP — “The family is the nearest hospital, the first school for the young, the best home for the elderly.” These words by Pope Francis, from a homily he gave while in Ecuador earlier this year, stress the importance of the family and the unique role it plays in society. This fall, the people of St. Athanasius Parish in Jesup became quite familiar with these words by the Holy Father — they were reminded of them each time they gathered for worship since the words appeared on a 7-foot-long banner that hung prominently from the ceiling of their church. The banner was one of seven with quotes by Pope Francis that went up in the parish shortly before the papal visit to the U.S. in September and remained on display until the beginning of Advent.
Msgr. Lyle Wilgenbusch, the pastor of St. Athanasius Parish, first proposed the idea of the banners. “I am a visual and environment kind of guy,” he said. “When I saw the quotes with Pope Francis’ picture in little boxes in an issue of Catholic Extension magazine, I thought these would make great banners, good environment for our church during the visit of Pope Francis. They would also support our parish focus this year which is on family.”
After consulting the liturgy committee, Msgr. Wilgenbusch had seven banners created and hung in the church, each one containing a different quote from Pope Francis on the family. The quotes that were chosen come from several of the Holy Father’s general audiences, as well as from his trip to Latin America this past summer.
“The quotes are typical Pope Francis … clear, succinct and challenging,” Msgr. Wilgenbusch said.
In one of the quotes, the Holy Father emphasizes the importance of using “thank you,” “pardon me” and other small, but courteous phrases in family life. In another, he calls family the “foundation” of society and says without it the “cultural survival of the human race would be at risk.” Families that communicate the “joy of faith,” he says in another quote, are the “salt of the earth and the light of the world.”
“I myself enjoyed worshipping in the space filled with his words and spirit,” Msgr. Wilgenbusch said.
Parishioners Gerry and Vicki Staebell, who have been members of St. Athanasius for more than 40 years, agreed. “We really enjoyed reading the quotes from Pope Francis that were displayed on banners in our church every Sunday. The banners were a reminder of the importance of faith in our many families — our personal family, parish family and our community family,” Vicki said.
As ordinary time in the liturgical calendar came to an end and Advent began, it was decided to take six of the banners down. “All good things do come to an end at some point,” said Msgr. Wilgenbusch. He’s not sure what the parish will do with the banners next, but said he’s thinking about ways they might still be put to good use. “Currently I am trying to find a way to use them on standards throughout the parish facilities, i.e., the school, etc.”
It was decided to keep one of the banners up in the vestibule of the church even on into Advent. That banner is from Pope Francis’ general audience last Dec. 17. It says: “The great mission of the family (is) to make room for Jesus who is coming, to welcome Jesus in the family, in each member: children, husband, wife, grandparents … Jesus is there.” “This is a good Advent type banner, I think,” Msgr. Wilgenbusch said. “It reminds us that we are all waiting for Jesus.”.
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