St. Aloysius Shandon: Steadfast in life and faith
By Walt Schaefer
Over its 150-year history, St. Aloysius Parish in Shandon has grown in size and moved from a small church in the Butler County hamlet to a large one on a hillside out of town.
But, parishioners agree, one thing has remained steadfast over the years – the character of its parishioners.
“Our parish will always have people who will roll up their sleeves and put sweat equity into it,” said Katie Zboril, a member since 1984, when she was a young child. “It seems to draw that kind of person – a down-to-earth, involved, devout Catholic. They are very humble. I don’t think that would change in our future.
“It’s an incredibly welcoming parish and that’s why it draws all of these people”. Zboril said. “There are so many opportunities for volunteering. You build relationships with people. You can make friends.”
Zboril’s reflection of the parish’s character is well illustrated by Jack and Wilma Broering, who are retired and in their mid-sixties. The Mercer County natives grew up on dairy farms. The Broerings moved to Butler County from north of Ann Arbor, Mich., to be closer to their daughter, Julie Fogt, and her family.
“There are more churches in Mercer County than, I think, anywhere the U.S.,” Jack said. “You can see five church steeples at any given place, and it’s very German Catholic. The focus is family and faith.”
On their return to Ohio, the Broerings first attended a large suburban parish, but found the atmostphere too foreign. So they moved to St. Aloysius.
“It’s more agricultural out here — what we’re used to. It’s a farming family community, where people appeared to us to be a little more farm friendly,” Wilma said. “We fit in better. If you came into our house right now, we’re in T-shirts and shorts. We are not dressed up. I don’t get my nails done. You’re talking to folks who just came in from outside gardening,”
Jack noted he was drawn to St. Al’s “by the fact people come up to you and ask about you – so welcoming. There are so many activities here, as well: the summer festival, the fall festival, fish fries, Men’s Society. We do projects around church. It’s been so easy to get involved here, and for me, it was the fact people would come up to me and say, ‘Jack, what’s your story?’
“It’s more like Mercer County – a good family and faithful kind of place.”
Terrie Meyer, who chaired the 175th anniversary committee, credits pastor Father Jim Wedig for continuing parish traditions.
“Looking ahead into St. Al’s future, I see much of what I see in the present,” Father Wedig said. “Sure, technology will advance. There will be growth in some of our neighborhoods, but the family will remain much the same. We will still be frying chicken! We will still be proud of the way we work together. Most importantly, we will still be sharing the same faith.
“Our family will grow. There will be new families. We will continue to build our family with Queen of Peace, our regional sister, and in outreach with the Comboni Missionaries and with Healthy Moms and Babes. There will be other efforts, but still the same family — always growing, always in faith.”
For its first 60 years, the parish had only about 20 families, but grew to 25 by 1934, and to 150 in 1968. In 1956, the parish had its first resident priest. The existing church was dedicated in January 1985 and today serves 720 families. Many of their children attend St. Joseph consolidated school in Hamilton.
“We need to continue to provide a good Catholic education for good Catholic families and continue sending that message to our parishioners, too,” Zboril said.
Much of the focus at St. Aloysius is church family, and that means organizations such as the Catholic Order of Foresters thrive and provide volunteer and social opportunities for young and old.
“St. Al’s has a very vibrant youth group,” said parishioner Jennifer Riesenberg. “It illustrates that this it is a very tight-knit community with everyone helping each other – young and old. It’s still a farming community and the farmers all know each other. It’s not changing a lot, but a little. It’s still the same group I grew up with, and now they’re having kids.”
St. Aloysius has two large events, a chicken dinner on the first Sunday of August, and a festival on the first Sunday in November, that date back to the early and mid 1900s.. “Last year we served 4,700 dinners,” Meyer said. “We also have a car and tractor show and that brings a lot of people. We have all kinds of booths, too. It’s packed.
The festival, she said, “has lots of foods and booths. We have it in the shelter so we don’t have to stand in the muck as we did in the past. It’s great and it is not as big,” she said.
“When you look to the future, I see more people, more kids, and hope that the traditions of St. Al’s live on and thrive,” she said. “Although the festivals and the other events are a lot of work, we have a lot of fun. Our friends from St. Al’s are our family. Most of us grew up in the same type of environment, with our parents being involved in their church and now us in ours. All of our kids see this, as well.”
Sunday Masses at St. Aloysius are celebrated at 8 and 9:30 a.m.; Saturday Masses are at 5 p.m. Daily Masses and Communion services as scheduled.