February 17, 2016 // Uncategorized

St. Mary of the Lake Parish partners with Culver Military Academy to serve community

By Kay Cozad

CULVER — St. Mary of the Lake Parish is a thriving Catholic community tucked in the southwestern corner of Marshall County in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Established in 1948, now with close to 400 families, Father Jeffery Largent, pastor, shepherds his flock with foresight and faith. The sacraments are celebrated regularly and other ministries include RCIA and religious education for children. Associations of lay faithful supported within the parish include Knights of Columbus, the Fatima Group and Youth and Adult Formation.

Area teens from St. Mary of the Lake and St. Michael Parish in Plymouth participate in YDisciple, a grant funded pilot program centered around small groups of teens emphasizing intentional discipleship, as well as strong parent support and participation. “Beginning with only three teens, St. Mary’s small groups have grown in discipling 11 teens in just a short year; a big step for a small parish trying to grow roots in youth ministry,” noted Jannie Zehner, office administrator of St. Mary of the Lake. Beyond discipleship groups, teens engage in “fun-fellowship” activities, as well as local community service projects, and also volunteer cleaning St. Mary Church once a month as a group.

St. Mary of the Lake Parish has built a strong and enduring relationship with the students of Culver Military Academy, a college preparatory boarding school and summer camp located in the same area. Of the 290 Catholic students on campus, nearly 70 volunteer as lay ministers during St. Mary/Academy Masses and several are volunteering their time by teaching the fifth-grade religious education class at the parish. “The children absolutely adore this arrangement. The students from the academy feel self-fulfilled and also earned their community service hours,” said Zehner, who added that there are many opportunities for service for these students.

Father Largent’s official title at Culver Academies is “Defender of the Faith,” and said, “Most people in the diocese do not realize how large a part of the community the Culver Military and Culver Girls Academy truly is. One half of the winter students are Catholic, which is roughly 400 plus and three quarters of the summer school students are Catholic numbering at times 1,100 plus. Most might think of Culver, and St. Mary of the Lake as a resort parish and not realize the permanent Catholic influence our parish has at the academies. The priest at St. Mary of the Lake is one who has a shared assignment with the academy and is responsible not only for the parishioners of St. Mary but those of Catholic faith, and those desiring to be Catholic at the academies as well. When we are able, we encourage the two communities to come together and celebrate services and events, but due to limited space that is not always a possibility.”

Each year St. Mary of the Lake and the Culver Military Academy come together to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. This year, six students from the eighth-grade Confirmation class of St. Mary and 25 Culver Academy students in grades 9-12 will receive the sacrament of Confirmation together at the Culver Military Academy Chapel in April as the academy and St. Mary alternates each year for venue for Confirmation.

Cultivating community relationships and deepening roots, St. Mary, in the past, has joined other area churches in taking a turn to host a community meal. Each month St. Mary would host a free dinner open to the community made possible by the dedicated parishioners and Culver Academy students who would volunteer providing, preparing and serving food, and cleaning up before and after the meals.

St. Mary parishioners and Culver Academy students also have joined in community service by volunteering at Our Lady of the Road located on Main Street in South Bend — one of the Catholic Worker houses closest to the parish. Parishioners of St. Mary have also donated socks, hats and gloves for its “winter closest.” Several parishioners continue to volunteer their time each month at Our Lady of the Road. Confirmation and religious education students have also volunteered their time for local area and county projects such as Blessing in a Backpack and the Marshall County Christmas Basket/Gift Programs.

St. Mary of the Lake parishioners have also been one of the largest donors for the local area food bank. Food and personal items are donated every week for those in need. Each year money is donated by parishioners to help with the county Christmas Basket Program. Children are also selected by only knowing the age, gender and a gift idea by members to buy something for children who are less fortunate. These gifts then are accompanied with the food baskets and distributed to local families. St. Mary of the Lake Parish also works every year with the Cross Catholic organization and others like it, to donate monies for its charitable causes such as No Room at the Inn, which builds homes for those still without places to live in Haiti.


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