October 25, 2022 // Bishop

Grotto at St. Francis Xavier Parish Honors Beloved Late Pastor 

Jesus often withdrew to places of solitude and silence to rest and pray. The new grotto at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Pierceton provides such a place for parish members, visitors, and anyone in the community.

The grotto is a memorial to the late Father Charles Herman, a beloved former Pastor of St. Francis Xavier, who passed into eternal life on Dec. 11, 2020. Assigned by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades to the small but faithful parish in 2014, Father Herman was the first full-time priest in residence in more than 50 years, the parish having been served by a series of shared priests during that time. “Father Chuck” was known by his parishioners as a pastor who loved Jesus and cared deeply for the people of his parish.

Provided by Rick Zydek
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and Father Daniel Chukwuleta, Pastor at St. Francis Xavier in Pierceton, bless the new grotto at the church on Oct. 2. The grotto is a memorial to the late Father Charles Herman, pastor of the church from 2014 until his passing in December of 2020.

“In the summers, when our parish size swells due to many visitors who spend time on the lakes in the surrounding area, Father Chuck celebrated Mass at the nearby Jellystone Park campground until he had to undergo two foot surgeries,” said Dulcie Stevens, Parish Secretary at St. Francis Xavier. “Father Chuck worked tirelessly to build our parish into a special community, and we believe he did just that.”

Although Father Herman battled Parkinson’s disease in his later years, he didn’t allow his physical ailments to deter him from serving his flock. During his time as pastor, the first-ever parish rectory was built a few blocks from the church, as well as a new sacristy behind the church building, and other improvements, all with the aim to better serve both the physical and spiritual needs of the parish and help it continue to grow.

After Father Herman’s passing, the St. Francis Xavier Parish Council and Financial Council conceived of the idea of a memorial grotto, to both honor their beloved former pastor and to continue his legacy of building and improving spaces on the church grounds.

The grotto was blessed by Bishop Rhoades on Oct. 2 following holy Mass. Joining Bishop Rhoades in the blessing was current Pastor Father Daniel Chukwuleta. Attending the blessing were Father Herman’s brother, Tom, and his wife Amy, as well as many members of the Parish and Financial Council.

The space currently features a statue of St. Joseph, Father Herman’s favorite saint, and includes a small bench beneath a young tree where visitors can sit for moments of quiet prayer. Stevens explained that construction of the space was paused when the builder suffered a death in his family, but the grotto will eventually include decorative landscaping rock, grass, and a statue of a guardian angel to complement the statue of St. Joseph.

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