December 9, 2013 | Volume 89 Number 3
St. Pius X Catholic Church in Norfolk
St. Pius X, Norfolk: Personal invitation made to recruit volunteers
The close-knit community and abundance of ministries at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Norfolk help parishioners find a niche where they can live out their Catholic faith.
Although the parish has about 950 registered families, it continues to be “close-knit,” according to Ishya Adams, a parishioner and coordinator of social/youth ministries at the church.
As Deacon Walker King expounded, “The people are just wonderful. They reach out; they are supportive, and they are involved.”
With more than 50 ways to volunteer in the parish community, each parishioner is bound to find a good fit. Volunteer opportunities range from serving as a lector to serving the greater community through missions for migrant workers and homeless persons.
Father Francis X. Toner, a Trinitarian priest, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the church in 1968. (FILE PHOTO)
“There are a lot of good things going on in our parish,” said Marisa Clemente, parish secretary and former member of the parish pastoral council.
Father Nixon Negparanon, St. Pius X pastor, said he uses both pulpit announcements and personal invitations to recruit volunteers.
“When you approach people personally, they feel like they belong and like they are important,” Father Nixon said. “It makes them feel part of a church mission, part of a church ministry.”
The pastoral care ministries bring the Eucharist to parishioners in the hospital and to those who are homebound.
Through bereavement ministries, individuals help families plan the funeral Mass or service for a loved one, and they provide food and manpower for the ensuing reception. A bereavement support group helps people cope with the loss of a loved one.
Parishioners Ishya Adams, parish coordinator of social/youth ministries, left, and Carol Novisk, a fourth grade teacher at St. Pius X School, chat.
Social ministry reaches out to the community and to the world at large with the Heifer Project and ministries to the poor and to migrants.
The goal of the Heifer Project is to help families in developing countries become more self-sufficient by purchasing livestock to provide such products as milk and eggs.
The parish helps homeless individuals and those in financial need by providing food, sometimes directly by stocking a parish food pantry and sometimes indirectly by donating food to area food banks. It also provides holiday food baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to those in need.
Through the Norfolk Emergency Shelter Team (NEST), St. Pius X parish joins other churches in the area to offer food and overnight shelter to homeless people in the winter. Churches involved in NEST take turns hosting the homeless for one week.
“This is a very giving and loving parish,” proclaimed Ms. Adams. “When families are in need, our parish wholeheartedly helps out. Our parish will come together to support each other. It’s just amazing.”
Echoing this sentiment, Miss Clemente, added: “People here are very warm. They are very friendly. You gain a good sense of community in this parish.”
Deacon Walker King and St. Pius X parishioner John Thomas talk while enjoying coffee and donuts.
To foster that sense of community, the parish sponsors social events, including periodic pancake breakfasts and the opportunity to socialize over coffee and donuts Sundays between Masses.
Father Nixon said he believes this weekly get-together helps parishioners “develop a good relationship among each other so we can develop a good spirit, a good relationship among us.”
Miss Clemente agreed that a good social life in the parish can be essential.
“It’s good for Catholics to not only celebrate Mass together but also to celebrate life together,” she said. “Social activities can be more enjoyable when you share them with people who have similar values. You build closer relationships on common ground.”
Parish life organizations such as the women’s club and young adult ministry also offer a way for parishioners to bond as does Fil-Am St. Pius X, a fellowship group for Filipino-American parishioners.
FAt St. Pius X’s Simbang Gabi in 2012 are, from left, Julia Bailosis, Father Nixon Negparanon, pastor; Deacon Walker King, Marisa P. Clemente, church secretary, and Leighton Remias.
The parish, which was established in 1955 in response to a sprawling population in Norfolk, began as a mission served by the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity. The parish gathered for Mass at Little Creek Elementary school for several months before moving in 1956 to the church’s grounds and into its new building which provided a temporary worship place and four classrooms.
Today, St. Pius X Catholic Church has a church, school, convent, parish office and a multi-purpose meeting room on its grounds, and a rectory is in a nearby neighborhood.
Because many members of the parish are middle-aged or senior citizens, several parishioners voiced concerns about the sustainability of the church when asked what challenges the parish faces. They said they hope the younger members embrace their faith and become more active in the parish.
“The young people of the church are the future of the church,” said Juan Gonzalez who has been a St. Pius X parishioner for five years. “They need to volunteer, and I think it’s important that someone provides guidance to them.”
Similarly, Deacon Walker said, “I hope we can just get people to allow God to be the center of their lives and for the youth to find Him important in their lives.”
First-graders at St. Pius X Catholic School sing “Happy Birthday” Jesus vocally as well as in sign language. From left are Sabrina Baker, Sarah Lock, James Riemer and Chloe Mingin.
St. Pius X Catholic School opened in September 1956 with an enrollment of 189 children in kindergarten and first grade. In 1958 the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) agreed to staff the school, and today IHM sisters continue to serve in the school’s administration. The school now has approximately 300 students ranging from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.
In addition to strong academics, the school emphasizes the Catholic faith, both through religion classes and by weaving religious values through all subjects.
“Catholic education is important because it offers the opportunity in every class, in every aspect of the day, to teach the Gospel mission,” explained the school’s principal. Sister Linda Taber, IHM.
Eighth-graders Bobby Tillman and Caitlin McKay said they appreciate the learning environment.
“I love it!” said Bobby. “It’s very interactive and loving.”
Describing the teachers as understanding, Caitlin added that they are available to help them with academic or personal issues.
“It’s always like your family,” she said.
Mass is celebrated at 5 p.m. on Saturday, 8 and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, and at 7 a.m. Tuesday through Friday. There is also a 7 a.m. communion service Monday, Holy Hour at 11 a.m. Wednesdays, and Mass at 8 a.m. the first Saturday of each month.