First Mass for Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos Parish draws more than 400 people to Prodisee Pantry
By ROB HERBST
The Catholic Week
SPANISH FORT — Upon being reassigned from St. Dominic Parish in Mobile to pastor of newly-established Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos Parish, Fr. James Cink received a journal as a going-away gift from a former parishioner.
The journal entry for July 22, 2018, will have words to remember.
More than 400 people crammed into Prodisee Pantry in Spanish Fort at 8 a.m. Sunday for the parish’s first Mass.
“(The journal entry will have) a great big ‘wow!’ and praise God for His goodness,” Fr. Cink said following Mass. “We had over 400 people at Mass today and we (thought) 200 would be a good crowd. … God is so good and this parish is going to be an awesome place to be. People are excited. I’m excited. It’s just a magnificent moment of grace. It truly is.”
The 8 a.m. Mass was the lone Sunday Mass at Prodisee Pantry as Fr. Cink had planned to add a 10:30 a.m. Mass after Labor Day once the parish got more established.
But after seeing the crowd for the first Mass, Fr. Cink immediately bumped up that timeline and added the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass to the schedule for week two.
“With a turnout like this, we kind of had to retool,” parishioner Bill Donaldson smiled and said. “I think you saw something special today.”
It was only two months ago that Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi announced the establishment of the new parish and Donaldson was immediately on board. He and his wife, Monde, live in Spanish Fort and quickly emailed Fr. Cink to inform him they were there to help in any way possible.
Bill Donaldson said he had long hoped for a parish in Spanish Fort as it and Baldwin County continue to grow.
To see that become reality on July 22 was something special.
“Quite frankly it was overwhelming,” he said.
“Having a parish here is something I think we dreamed about for a long time. We were excited about it and we hoped for a nice turnout, but this was beyond our wildest expectations. You can feel the enthusiasm and I think it’s going to continue for a long time to come.”
Donaldson said volunteers were at Prodisee Pantry by 6 a.m. to set up. He explained that 200 chairs were initially set up, but ushers and volunteers had to do extra duty and set up more chairs as people continued to file through the doors before 8 a.m.
“I thought maybe we’ll have a huge turnout and 200 people will show up,” he said. “There were 400 available chairs and almost every one of them was used for Mass today. Not bad for a first Mass.”
The parish has received about 26 acres of land for use off Highway 131 in Spanish Fort for eventual permanent parish facilities, but there’s no timetable for construction.
For now, nonprofit ministry Prodisee Pantry will be home for the parish’s Masses.
It can’t provide certain aesthetics of a traditional Catholic Church, but it served as an ample space to pray.
Fr. Cink also reminded those in attendance that the Church is about the people.
“The Church is nothing other than you and me,” Fr. Cink said in his homily. “This is never so evident as we sit here in a warehouse. … This ain’t Christ the King, it ain’t St. Dominic, it ain’t the Cathedral, but it is the Church, His body, tasked, commissioned and sent to bring about the reign of God, to proclaim Good News and to call all to repentance.”
He later added that the work for Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos Parish has just begun.
“Get ready brothers and sisters, we are beginning a great race … for souls and for God,”
July 22 was just the beginning for Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos Parish, but it will be a day long to be remembered.
“There was one young woman about 20 years old and I said ‘listen, this is going to take off,’” Donaldson said. “Remember everything here that’s happening. These are the seeds of a brand new Church. Fifty years from now, you’ll be the only one around to tell everybody about it.”