Religion

Featured faith blog: Small-town parish known for big ideas

The Rev. Jim Sichko, 42, a native of Orange, Texas, is the pastor of St. Mark Roman Catholic Church in Richmond.

With more than 700 member families, the church is best known for its annual fund-raising event, An Evening Among Stars, which has brought icons such as Bill Cosby and Regis Philbin to the small-town parish. This year, the event will feature singer Patti LaBelle on Dec. 19. The event is the brainchild of Sichko, who came up with the idea as a way to pay down $2 million in debt he inherited when he became the leader of St. Mark, which includes an elementary and middle school, a Hispanic ministry and a Newman Center at Eastern Kentucky University.

Sichko makes use of his storytelling skills in his new blog, Padre's Pen: Thoughts of a Catholic Priest, at www.kentucky.com/faithblogs.

For more about St. Mark, visit www.saintmarkcatholicchurch.net.

Here is an excerpt from our Faith Blogger of the Week questionnaire. For a complete list of questions and answers, see Sichko's blog.

Question: What is your favorite thing about your church?

Answer: The diversity of ministries available and the participation and excitement of our people.

Q: What was the last book you read?

A: By Way of the Heart, by Wilkie Au.

Q: What is your favorite Bible verse?

A: Chapter 19, verse 26 of Matthew's Gospel: "With God, all things are possible."

A: Who is your favorite Bible character, and why?

It's a toss-up between Thomas, the one who was "labeled" incorrectly and who allowed his own strengths to become his weakness, and Peter, who jumped out of the boat and was willing to risk for Jesus. Even though he sank, he was willing to try!

Q: Give the title and artist of the last three music CDs you purchased or borrowed.

A: Dolly Parton's Backwoods Barbie, Natalie Cole's Still Unforgettable and Lion King, the musical.

Q: Which of your values would you most like to pass on to people closest to you?

A: To recognize that we must respect all forms of life from the womb to the tomb — and all those in between.

Q: Who is your hero, mentor or person you'd most like to emulate, and why?

A: My mom. She has a fervor, passion, commitment, dedication, love, strong will and is an unending prayer warrior for me and so many. She also is the topic of many of my stories and "lead-ins" to my preaching.

Q: If you could have the whole world as your audience, what would be your sermon title and topic?

A: Love God, love self, love others: Easier said than done!

Q: What do you believe are the biggest faith issues in the world today, and what role does the religious community have in impacting those issues?

A: Life issues including but not limited to: respect of all human life, poverty, dignity of the human person, the economy. It is our role as Christians, and particularly to the Catholics for whom I pastor, to realize that we have a duty and an obligation by our baptism to be challenged by the teachings of the Church and to do all in our power to live by these teachings. And when we fail to do so, to humble ourselves, through the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) and restore ourselves.

Q: Describe the biggest spiritual challenge of your life and how you overcome it.

A: Before I was ordained, my family and I encountered those within our church, namely a few within the clerical state, who were less than what I would consider "priestly." However, it was also at that time that a great realization occurred to me: It is not the priest who makes up my relationship with Christ and it is not the priest who is the church and that priests are human, with human flaws and failures just as everyone else.

Q: If God were to visit your church, what ministry or outreach effort would you most want him to know about and why?

A: St. Mark Catholic School. One of the greatest gifts that we give to the people of God, as Catholics, besides the Eucharist and the Sacraments, is the great heritage of our education of people throughout their life span.

Q: If you could go anyplace in the world and do something to make a difference, where would you go and what would you do?

A: This (question) implies that I am not doing this now! I am fine with being in Richmond and with my community, striving to make a difference!

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