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Posted March 5, 2007

A Success Story Worth Pondering and Reduplicating

Tennessee parishioners on a mission
to supply Mass kits to world

By Kim Bastone
Catholic News Service

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (CNS) -- While the United States may be at war against terror, a small grass-roots group of individuals at St. Catherine's Catholic Church in Columbia is waging peace by sending out Mass kits rather than mess kits, hosts instead of hostilities.

"These Mass kits contain everything a priest needs," said parishioner Gale Wheaton, "and where there is a priest, all seven sacraments are available to the people."

Tucked inside a case the size of a child's lunchbox are a paten, chalice, stole, basic linens, a purificator, crucifix, two candles, a pyx and reliquary, a rosary, wine and water cruets, and an oil supply. There is also an image of the Divine Mercy.

The Mass kits came out of an idea Wheaton had during adoration, that it would be simple to send unconsecrated hosts to priests in need. "Originally I had Sudan in mind," she told the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Nashville Diocese. Then hurricanes devastated the Philippines and Haiti.

She was discussing this idea with another parishioner when Pat Jakubisin, the owner of Yahweh's Garden, a Catholic bookstore in Columbia, approached them, explained she had a box of hosts with a broken seal, and asked, "Can you do something with these?"

At the same time Father Rebecca Valery of Haiti visited the parish and asked, "Can I get a box of those? We haven't had fresh hosts in more than a year." Father Valery returned home with 3,000 hosts.

Hosts are not expensive. A box of 1,000 costs $14.95 plus shipping costs. The hosts can be sent anywhere in the world within 30 days, Wheaton noted.

Jakubisin also placed a donation basket in her store. Since then Yahweh's Garden, in conjunction with St. Catherine's Scripture study group, has sent out 22,000 hosts to missionary priests as near as Louisiana and as far away as the Philippines, Haiti, Jamaica and India.

"In the Philippines," Wheaton explained, "they are forced to break their hosts, so a shipment of 4,000 hosts actually serves 16,000 people. Talk about the multiplication of loaves and fishes."

Later, again while in adoration, Wheaton realized that St. Catherine could offer priests more than just hosts. "It happened bit by bit, slowly, but around the same time Father Davis (Chackaleckel) came here, there was enough money for a Mass kit.

Father Chackaleckel, St. Catherine's pastor and a member of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, knows well the importance of having small, portable Mass implements. As a missionary priest in India he served 30 to 40 villages, traveling on foot from place to place.

"A Mass kit makes a priest much more mobile," he said. "There are so many (missionary) priests in India, I can think of at least 10 who could use one. It can be a source of great joy and help in the apostolic mission."

Father Chackaleckel said he was "sent out as a missionary 30 days after I was ordained. It is impossible to carry a big backpack, as we have to trek several miles -- all hilly terrains. The roads are trace paths originally made from wild elephants' routes."

Wheaton praised the fact that "money just keeps coming in at Yahweh's." An Italian company is supplying the Mass kits for $175; however, the reliquary is separate and costs $39.

The first Mass kit was sent to Father Joy Lukose, a priest in the far region of northeast India bordering China. And, while Father Valery loved receiving the hosts, he said he would like getting a Mass kit even more.

As parishes in the Diocese of Nashville continue to raise funds for the Haiti Visitation Hospital, Wheaton noted that these gifts add a spiritual dimension to supporting Haitians hungry for physical and spiritual assistance.

"Jesus commands us to go and proclaim the message," Father Chackaleckel said. "This attempt by a small group is to be seen as a commendable step to participate in the global mission of the church."