St. John Neumann has rich tradition of service

Friday, December 20, 2002 - Updated: 12:01 am
Patricia Bartos, Senior Staff Writer
St. John Neumann in Franklin Park has built a rich
history of service and community involvement in its 23
years of existence.

Father William Bovard has headed the parish since its
founding. ?I look back with a great deal of joy,? he said.
?People of the parish always respond. We?re very

?Service is a very important part of who we are,? he said.

The parish sits in the midst of a fast-growing area and
was among the ?donating? parishes when nearby SS.
John and Paul Parish was established in 1994,
contributing 350 families.

?The demographics are changing,? Father Bovard said
of the parish. Today, a third of its population is young,
another third are of middle age and the others over age

All ages join in the parish?s many social outreach
efforts, and Father Bovard wants to insure that children
become aware of needs in the real world. ?We do live in
a bit of a rarefied atmosphere here,? he said.

The parish?s efforts range from supporting area food
banks and helping in Habitat for Humanity projects to
traveling to help the poor in Appalachia.

?They?re certain to help those who have less than we
do,? he said of such efforts, ?but it?s also a valuable
lesson for our young people.?

The parish has more than 800 children in its religious
education program.

?God bless Andy James, Barb Stokes and Grace
Ghirardi for the excellent job they do,? he said of the
parish?s religious educators.

The parish is readying a Web site ?
www.stjohnneumannpgh.org ? that should be up and
running within a month, and he is enthusiastic about
the possibility of putting religious education materials

?We have a lot more people who are home-schooling,?
Father Bovard said. ?It?s an opportunity to have this for
your people, at the same time still with the expectation
that they will come back to the parish for large group

Barbara Stokes, director of family and sacramental
ministries for the parish, directs sacramental
preparation programs.

?The family is always incorporated into every aspect of
Catholic formation,? she said. ?We gather the families
together several times a year.?

She worked with the recent confirmation class of 78
young people.

In preparation for the sacrament, each student
completed a a personal journal, volunteered at Holy
Family Institute and Light of Life Mission, and attended
several retreats at the Martina Center in West View.

?We hope they come to see how big the world is, and
how much they?re needed and how much the Spirit can
help them,? she said.

Stokes also directs the Good Shepherd program, a
Montessori method of Catholic formation for children
ages 3 to 12. The students meet weekly for a class that
involves presentation of materials, meditation and ?lots
of hands-on materials.?

?The children move through them at their own pace,?
she said. ?We?re very much pleased with it. The parents
are, too, and the children are totally enjoying it.?

She also serves on the parish worship committee. ?It?s
a good contact for liturgical celebrations in the parish
and a good way to integrate programs for the children,?
she said.

This year?s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program
involves eight candidates and four catechumens.

The parish also has had Renew communities for six
years. After confirmation, the children are given the
option of joining either a Renew community or the
Micah social justice class.

Service and social outreach are a way of life at the
?People of all ages participate in service programs,?
said Sarah Schneider, community outreach
coordinator, who oversees the parish?s many volunteer

Currently volunteers are packing sandwiches and
collecting white socks for distribution to the homeless.
Groups go regularly to help at the Greater Pittsburgh
Community Food Bank in Duquesne and Miryam?s
Women?s Shelter.

They are active with Habitat for Humanity and have
been traveling to Preston County, W. Va., each summer
for 16 years.
?We always have teens with us,? she said. ?Kids tell me
they can hardly wait till they?re old enough to go.?

After the parish?s Advent penance service on Dec. 12,
volunteers gathered to fill some 400 Christmas candy
bags. In addition to the Sharing Tree, ?We always
prepare Christmas packets for our Appalachian
families,? she said.

?This a great time of the year here,? Father Bovard said
of the Advent season. The generosity of people?s time
is matched in this season by their generosity of giving
to the needy through the Christmas Sharing Tree.

?It?s always a great witness to the faith seeing people
bring in their presents,? Father Bovard said. Last year,
they distributed more than 2,500 gifts, plus food
certificates to the needy.

He makes space in the church to accommodate all of
the gifts. ?It?s a great witness to the generosity of the
people of the parish,? he said.

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