By Tony DeGol
Along Colonel Drake Highway in the beautiful community of Chest Springs sits an apartment building just a stone’s throw away from Saint Monica Parish.
Years ago, it was the launching pad for life-long friendships and an enduring love for Jesus Christ and the Church.
You see, the building once housed the former Saint Monica School.
Paul Burke and brothers Jack and Leonard Rieg have fond memories of their time there.
“We had the Mercy nuns, and they were pretty strict – a little harder on the boys than the girls,” Jack said with a chuckle. “We had good times.”
Now decades later, the three are still having good times in the shadow of that former school house.
Paul, Jack, and Len are among a small group of retired men who regularly volunteer their time and talent to maintain the parish grounds – including the cemetery and rectory – not far from where they learned reading, writing, and arithmetic, and were also grounded in their Catholic faith and dedication to their parish.
“In the spring, we clean up all the shale that the state throws into the yard and all the shale that’s in the parking lot, and we go into the graveyard and fix any grave that is sunk – anything that’s needed to clean the place up nice,” Paul outlined.
Their work continues in the summer with shrubbery trimming and all the other manicuring needed for stellar-looking landscaping, not to mention any other handyman projects that pop up.
In short, this trio cares for the parish property as lovingly as they care for their own homes.
“We’re proud of the church, and we’re proud of the area,” noted Len. “I don’t help as much as I used to. I’m getting tired, but we have some really good help here.”
It’s a tradition that dates back a long time, and one the guys are happy to continue.
“I can remember as a little kid coming up with my father,” Paul recalled. “There would be a whole gang of men here in the evening working on different projects.”
For the pastor of Saint Monica Parish, Paul, Jack, Len, and the other guys who help them are a blessing.
“I am very impressed by their faith and commitment to this community,” stated Father Jerzy Auguscik, OFM Conv. “When I look at them, I see my father – a great example to me of faith and Catholic identity. They are beacons to the young people in the parish. I hope our young people follow in their footsteps to be responsible and be open to sharing the gift of faith.”
So on this Labor Day weekend, as the country salutes the American worker and the spirit of good, honest work, the Church is grateful to the many individuals who so generously labor in our parishes – good people like Paul Burke, Jack Rieg, and Leonard Rieg.
Editor’s Note: See more of this story on Proclaim! TV on September 5 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.
[Photo: (left to right) Len Rieg, Paul Burke, and Jack Rieg.]