The Holy Spirit has been front-and-center in St. John Parish of Imperial’s quest to put on a “Life in the Spirit Seminar.”
How else to explain the rapid and surprising growth of the seminar’s organizing committee? The movie “Field of Dreams” comes close, but even then, only the influence of the Holy Spirit fully explains it.
Similar to Field of Dreams, “if you offer it they will come,” pastor Richard Coerver said, quickly describing how the Holy Spirit took it up a notch. “People will come beforehand (to volunteer) because the Spirit moves them to be there.”
Discussions for St. John’s Life in the Spirit Seminar began in April, just after Easter. LISS lead Stephanie Hill attended a seminar at St. Joan of Arc Parish in St. Louis, then the seminar was “go” by mid-May for St. John. But by the end of June, the organizing committee consisted only of Hill, Father Coerver, Mary Lou Kopp and Terry Eversole, the parish’s spiritual formation team leader.
“There were some really serious thoughts, ‘Can we pull this thing off? Do we have enough (volunteers) to do this?’” Father Coerver said.
Almost overnight in early July, the four-person organizing committee grew by 350 percent. Organizers recruited volunteers at an ACTS retreat in collaboration with Assumption Parish (Mattese) in south St. Louis County, and the parish announced plans for the seminar in the July 1 bulletin.
“Then, things went from small to ‘Woh!’” Father Coerver said. “All of a sudden, we had 14 people (at the July 3 meeting) and then 24 the next week”
Or as volunteer Sheila Meresak put it, “more than I ever remember at a Life in the Spirit Seminar.”
Father Coerver described the quick growth as “amazing. We weren’t anticipating that; it was beginning to look like it’d be difficult getting people (to volunteer), but all of a sudden, it was like, ‘Boom,’ they were there. We’re on a roll, let’s keep on rolling.”
For the past six weeks, the organizing group has been meeting every Tuesday to plan the seminar, which runs for seven consecutive Tuesdays, starting Aug. 21. The St. John seminar is among five seven-week Life in the Spirit Seminars upcoming in the archdiocese, in addition to a one-day program. Others are in the works.
In the planning stage, the St. John’s group has contended with a few “devil darts,” as Eversole calls them. A day-long power outage at the Catholic Renewal Center in Crestwood prevented communication with a key stakeholder; glitches on the registration website prohibited online registrations.
But the Holy Spirit has things under control, remember? With old-school email, phone calls and, gasp, pen-to-paper written registration, about 50 people so far have registered for the seminar, which is free, though a free-will donation may be made to help cover expenses. St. John’s eighth-grade PSR students and their parents will attend the seminar in preparation for Confirmation in the spring.
The seminar will be held in the church, which has a seating capacity of 300, though volunteer Gary Przygoda said the seminar will accommodate “as many as the Holy Spirit wants to send us.”
>>Life in the Spirit Seminars, fall schedule
St. John the Beloved Disciple, Imperial: Tuesdays, Aug. 21-Oct. 2, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Stephanie Hill (314) 596-8779
St. Charles Borromeo, St. Charles: Tuesdays, Sept. 4-Oct. 23 (exc. Sept. 25), 7-9 p.m.; Cathy Espinoza (636) 947-6067
Catholic Renewal Center, Crestwood: Thursdays, Sept. 6-Oct. 18, 10 a.m.-noon; Jane Guenther (314) 792-7734,
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Mehlville: Sundays, Sept. 9-Oct. 21, 5-7 p.m.; Patti Hovis (314) 221-6400,
St. Simon the Apostle, south St. Louis County: Wednesdays, Sept. 26-Nov. 7, 7-9 p.m.; Beverly Simmerman [email protected], or Deacon Dave Camden (314) 842-3848
Our Lady of Lourdes in Washington: Saturday, Nov. 3, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.; Mary Beth Kincaid (314) 922-4918, [email protected].
For registration, call the parish contact, or reach the Catholic Renewal Center at (314) 731-6100 or [email protected].
For Life in the Spirit Seminars assistance, contact Gary Whitlock at (636) 296-2903 or [email protected].