Father Chad VanHoose, St. Jude of the Lake, Mahtomedi, MN
Submitted by: Laura Stierman
It's not every day that you see a priest on the front lawn of his small town Church, blessing palms, mothers, fathers, and creating opportunities for evangelization in the middle of a pandemic, but we have a #heropriest who is doing just that. Fr Chad VanHoose, a newbie pastor at St. Jude of the Lake, took to the streets of Mahtomedi via the front lawn of our quaint Church, to let the good people of town know that he and his staff - and the Lord - are working to keep the faith alive. At the beginning of the Church closures he created a "drive-through" mentality: If our parishioners can't come inside to encounter the Lord and community, then we would go outside to them... to meet them where we could.
His first endeavor was a Palm Sunday drive through. Cars would swing through our circle drive in the front and receive a palm, bulletin, Easter swag bag, and the pièces de résistance, a blessing for their Easter dinner and everyone who would be at the table. His second go-round was a Mother's Day drive-through, resplendent with flowers and blessings for all Moms. Not be outdone, our Father's Day 'drive through' included single-packaged donuts in the back parking lot; by then Church was open, but he was on a sweet roll (pun intended!). Through it all, a smile was on his face and never a complaint was heard!
Not only were the drive-throughs highly successful, but so was his "lawn visits" to our parishioners in nearby elderly communities. We gathered a few of our volunteer musicians who needed an outlet, and sang songs for the residents indoors. He even gave them an Easter-season blessing as they prayed the Easter-tide creed (reciting their Baptismal vows) while sprinkling holy water on all.
Lastly, he held adoration during Lent from our back parking lot window and would pray benediction outside, regardless of the chill in the air. We held a Divine Mercy Sunday event in the parking lot; Fr. Chad brought out the speakers and cars filled the parking lot and spilled over into the lawn to partake of God's mercy.
In addition, if this wasn't worthy of #heropriest already, he went online to continue "lunch with Fr. Chad" with the day school students. Students used their parents' Facebook accounts to have conversations about most anything - lots of sports talk - over lunch. He walked into his usual spot at the school front desk and live streamed his weekly rosary and 'sporting news' with the school children too.
He is not shy about opening our doors and celebrating the sacraments (masks and social distancing observed, naturally). We've been live-streaming Masses six days a week since the closure (and reopening) of our church; his motto is 'how can we make this happen' and his staff responds. He celebrated small group First Communions and Confirmations. We've had four weddings this summer and fall with more to come.
There are many other stories that one could tell about Fr. Chad VanHoose and the ways that he embodies a #heropriest but those can wait for another time. For now, this little piece will need to suffice.
#nofear #prudence and #trust are qualities of the faith. Jesus asks us to act without fear, to be clever as serpents and gentle as doves, and to trust in the will and the work of God. I believe that Fr. Chad embodies these qualities and is an authentic witness to the Gospel message and the priesthood. The good people of St. Jude of the Lake notice these things and we receive 'new parishioner' forms all the time. When I meet up with them they often say, "A friend told us to listen to Fr. Chad's homilies and we just love them." Or "We feel so welcome here. You are an active parish and Fr. Chad is everywhere." It's good to work for - and be a part of - a community whose faith means something and who embodies faith in action, as did our Lord. Fr. Chad is a good man and even better priest. It's not just his example of the Lord's work in community, it's the way he embodies the Lord. People notice that.
Fr. Chad VanHoose is a holy and active priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. While St. Jude of the Lake is his first parish of his 'pastorship' he has led with compassion and grace to all who seek his advice and direction. Amidst all of the struggles [and please do not think we have not had struggles as an 'old staff' with a 'new pastor' - we are a normal parish and are normal people!], Fr. Chad acts with charity and clarity, in service to the greater good.