Monday, June 03, 2019 - Updated: 3:46 pm
The grounds of St. Thomas More Parish in Bethel Park are among the most beautiful in the diocese. Highlights of the grounds are six statues of saints that are placed throughout the campus.
There is St. Francis of Assisi, Archangel Michael, St. Joseph, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Thomas More and the Blessed Mother.
The statues came alive recently with a “Walk with the Saints” presentation by Christopher Reibold — known to many as “the Saint Story Guy.” He led a walking tour that informed the students about the saints using a mix of storytelling, trivia and humor.
In a session for sixth-grade students, Reibold spoke of St. Francis’ great singing voice and how he strived to have people see the nature of God in the beauty of the world. He described the saint as a street performer who was serious in his message, but not always in his methods. His statue has him holding a cross, he noted, as a sign of his taking up the cross to follow God.
St. Michael holds a sword, Reibold said, because he is one of the military saints. Of seven archangels, Michael is one of three named — along with St. Gabriel and St. Raphael. He is the patron saint of law enforcement and the military.
Reibold told the story of an unknown craftsman who built a staircase in New Mexico that was thought impossible. Many claimed that the builder was St. Joseph.
The statue of St. Anthony of Padua is shown holding a baby because it represents the Christ Child.
Reibold told the students about St. Thomas More, the lawyer and statesman who became an adviser to King Henry VIII. He was ultimately imprisoned and executed for not taking the king’s side against the Catholic Church.
The storyteller finished his tour with the Virgin Mary, the most important saint, he noted, whose unique role in salvation history is depicted by her standing on a snake.
The tour was put together with help from parents and with the support from Knights of Columbus South Hills Council 3084.
A number of the statues came from the grounds of the former Sisters of the St. Francis of the Providence of God motherhouse in Whitehall. “What a gem for the Catholic faith and for our children,” said Dave Barone, who was part of the organizing committee.
Interim Principal Lynne Lynch said the tour was just another example of the dedication of parents and the vitality of the parish, adding, “It’s a gift that’s been given to us, and we’ve graciously embraced it.”
Plans are in the works to create a permanent walking tour of the grounds in which visitors will be able to learn more about each of the saints.
Reibold’s own faith journey is interesting. At 13, he refused to make his confirmation and, by age 17, he wasn’t going to Mass. To him, a virgin birth or people rising from the dead was folklore or fairytales.
He had a lot of questions, but he didn’t get good answers, and Reibold ended up being away from the church for 30 years.
But it was the saints who brought him back, he said. An avid reader, the stories of saints taught him without him thinking about it.
“You learn the faith by hearing the stories,” said Reibold, a member of St. Louise de Marillac Parish. It is how the faith has been carried on for many generations, he continued, and he wants to continue it through old-fashioned storytelling.
Reibold doesn’t have a theology degree or wear a Roman collar, he said. He’s just “a pop-culture guy” who tells stories about the saints. While the church is blessed to have great apologists who write impressive books, Reibold said, millions of people aren’t reading them. We need something on the front end, a pop culture element to help pass on the faith.
“What will be left in 15 years if we don’t catechize?” he asked.
The key, Reibold said, is to start the conversation. He wants to get the attention of the faithful so they can become interested in the works of authors such as Dr. Scott Hahn.
Reibold has appeared on various radio shows and has been a writer and reader for audio theater on WAOB radio. He has authored a book on St. Anthony’s Chapel in Pittsburgh’s Troy Hill neighborhood, “The Saints at the Chapel: Thrilling Tales of History’s Holiest Heroes.”
He does much of his research through books that he has found on eBay. In doing so, Reibold noted, he has compiled a personal library on the saints.
Reibold pointed out that he began compiling material shortly after he finally made his confirmation six years ago after returning to the church. He took the confirmation name of St. Brendan, he noted, because the saint also changed his life rather drastically at an older age, just as Reibold had done when he took a huge risk and left his corporate job to come back to Pittsburgh.
“The idea of somebody who also walked off the cliff was a saint who really appealed to me,” he said.
Reibold added that he is “not perfect,” and that people who read his material will find him to be a competent writer, but “not Flannery O’Connor.” He is, however, someone who stands up and talks about saints because he loves them and they are important to him.
Information on Reibold’s ministry is available by calling 412-737-3597, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or going to Facebook and searching for “The Saints Story Guy.”