By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
The Rev. Charles Edwards might be the new priest for St. Anthony of Padua Parish, but he is very familiar with the community.
Father Edwards, who prefers to be called “Father Chuck,” served as a priest at St. Anthony Church from 1987-89. He was impressed with Effingham then, and his assistance with Masses in recent weeks after Father Chris Brey left the priesthood to be married, renewed his appreciation of the Effingham parish.
Fr. Edwards was appointed by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki.
“I found Effingham to be a very big small town. It was very active. There was so much going on all at once,” said the priest, who officially became parochial administrator of St. Anthony parish on Saturday when his appointment took effect. He comes from the small town of Gillespie, whose population is equal to the number of parishioners at St. Anthony.
Some good memories for Father Chuck during his previous service in Effingham included working with clergy from other denominations. That work built some lasting memories and he wants to continue those efforts.
“I loved working together with ministers of different faiths here back then. I remember Rev. Lawrence Beebe and also some of the clergy at the Methodist Church here as well. So I need to reacquaint myself,” Father Chuck said.
He is also impressed with the current clergy at St. Anthony and Sacred Heart, as well as the parish office staff and others involved with the church.
“I feel very blessed to be working with Father Ron (Lorilla) and Father Mike (Rosa of Sacred Heart Parish). Of course, I will also be working with the parish at St. Mary (Annunciation) at Shumway, too. I’ve known Father Mike since he came here from Poland,” Father Chuck explained during an interview at his office Friday afternoon in the St. Anthony Parish Center.
He also loves the chance to be working with a Catholic school system. It is an opportuity to focus his work in discipleship in a special way with young people. He will continue his work in discipleship through the Diocese of Springfield.
“It’s amazing to have two Catholic schools in a town this size. The mission of the school is faith development and handing down the gospel of Jesus,” he said.
On Friday night, Father Chuck had a chance to enjoy one of the benefits of coming back to work at St. Anthony. He was on the front row with other St. Anthony basketball fans during the Dieterich game. Though the Movin’ Maroons won over the Bulldogs, the priest had a chance to watch a great basketball game.
“I love sports. I love the St. Anthony and Teutopolis rivalry and going to the National Trail Conference Tournament,” he said.
And if you weren’t sure, he answered the question for St. Anthony and many Effingham County residents regarding major league baseball.
“I am a total Cubs fan!” he said without hesitation. That might make for some interesting homilies come springtime.
After serving in several communities in Illinois – Carrollton, White Hall, Quincy, Pittsfield, Barry and Liberty, Camp Point, Springfield, Highland and Marine, Pierron and Pocahontas — after his ordination in 1978, Father Chuck takes a basic approach to his preaching.
“I try to tie the human experience and the ways of today’s world to the scriptures. When you can connect it to life experience, it can relate to the parishioners,” he explained.
He also likes to walk when delivering his homilies. He does realize that might throw some parishioners for a loop at Masses.
“They might think I’m going to ask them questions,” he said with a wide grin.
The reaction of the congregation has been very welcoming, he said. In some cases, he is reaching across a generation.
“There are children of kids when I helped at the school. So I feel very welcomed,” he said.
Last Thursday, he had as many as 20 people helping him move into the rectory by the church. He encourages
“Discipleship is a way of life and the idea of helping our parishioners. Jesus called on his disciples to follow him. That’s what he’s asking of us; to take a deeper walk,” he said.