By Christy Porter
St. John the Baptist Mission held a dual celebration and farewell event the afternoon of Sunday, June 24 at the fellowship hall.
The celebration was in honor of the Feast and Nativity of St. John the Baptizer, patron saint of St. John’s. The farewell was for much-loved Father Matthew J. Rehrauer. Fr. Matt has been assigned a new appointment as Pastor of St. Mary Parish in Pierce City and St. Agnes Parish in Sarcoxie.
Fr. Matt has been the pastor of St. John’s in Licking, St. Mark Parish in Houston, and St. Vincent de Paul Mission in Roby for the past 12 years. He has also served as the Catholic Chaplain at SCCC (South Central Correctional Center) in Licking. Fr. Matt will complete his assignment here the weekend of July 14-15.
The celebration was opened by Fr. Matt with a prayer and a short commentary. Recognizing both the Feast of St. John the Baptizer and the potluck farewell, he said, “St. John ate locusts and wild honey-perhaps today he would be jealous of the bountiful spread by parishioners and friends. Let’s dig in!”
Sadness was expressed by over 70 participants on Fr. Matt’s transfer, both parishioners and friends from the community. As well many wonderful remembrances were shared.
Says Fr. Matt, “I can get into sermons very easily.” He also easily shares jokes, stories and has been known to break into song.
Margaret Heithold shared several memories; among them, “I hate to see him go. I attended a funeral service by Fr. Matt and he spoke about God’s love, you had to leave knowing God is love unless you were deaf, dumb and blind. He has a wonderful sense of humor, he could have been one of my kids.” Being transferred is difficult for Fr. Matt as well.
“I’m sad too, this is family. I hold the longevity record here at St. John’s. When Bishop Rice came to the Springfield/Cape Girardeau Diocese, he said that tenure beyond 10 years in a parish would result in a transfer. A kindness on his part was allowing me to celebrate my 25th anniversary in the priesthood with my people in this territory last year. About half of my service has been here.”
Originally from West De Pere, Wisconsin, Fr. Matt says, “Coming to the Springfield/Cape Girardeau Diocese was God’s providence. It was absolutely for the best.”
Regarding the local communities he serves, “God’s providential care, not only for me but for my people, these are my people, all of them, everyone. The men at SCCC are my men. The people in my parish, in town, in the community, wider than simply just the parish in many ways. People have come and gone, I’ve buried a lot of my friends, my loved ones. I’ve had a couple of heart surgeries. A body learns to trust that God is in charge. God is going to take care of things.”
Naturally he will miss the people most, as he reiterates, “Everybody, everybody here. The people. Throughout the territory my people. I will miss them, but they’re always with me. One of the greatest and most consoling teachings of the Catholic church is communion of saints, which basically says, all God’s people, are one in Christ, we may have physical separation but there is no separation in the body of Christ. Reality is whether I’m in Pierce City or here, wherever, it’s one body in Christ. Since announcing the transfer, I’ve told folks, someday in the future, should we see each other, due to senility or whatever, I will say, ‘I know you’re mine, but I can’t remember your name.’”
Fr. Matt will be missed for his spiritual guidance. As well, he will be missed for his mechanical inclinations. He was taught practical applications by his religious brothers at the seminary. He has effectively fixed everything from the churches heating and cooling to the churches Bunn coffee maker. “Ministry doing the work of the Lord, within the grace of God, includes all jobs, whatever they may be. Love of God, love of neighbor, is doing God’s work,” says Fr. Matt. Even the mundane becomes spiritual for Fr. Matt and practically it has saved money allowing resources to be directed towards the spiritual work of the church.
Fr. Matt leaves with these words, “Over time our spirituality comes to maturity, our spirituality ripens, the past 12 years here have helped ripen the reality that love never fails, love never dies, love is of God, God is love. It is the love that I have for my people, truth that is eternal, that I take with me wherever I go, and in some ways I leave with folks as well. Nothing that is good is lost.”