How a small church in St. Amant is inspiring inclusivity amidst isolation

Searching history for a saint who led an easy life is like finding dry floorboards in a flooded house—tactically unlikely, and most definitely a miracle.

Father Josh Johnson, the young priest of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in St. Amant, understands this more literally than most, having been assigned to the small Ascension Parish church in the wake of 2016’s devastating floods, responsible for mitigating a disaster which saw 85% of parishioners’ homes destroyed and families unmoored by loss.

Only four years later, the plague of COVID-19 would test his parishioners once again, shuttering social services and all but banning public worship. A bad time to be a priest, perhaps. And yet the sun-yellow church campus on Highway 429 proved otherwise, churning out new and unexpected community-building services for the homeless, poor and pious—all by way of an inviting communal courtyard and the calming atmosphere of a café. 

Originating as an old, unused rectory adjacent to the main building, and combined with the idea to bring the campus’ food pantry into a more visible location (in Johnson’s words, “Jesus said that the poor are the body of Christ, so why was Jesus having to walk to the back of campus?”), Full of Grace Café opened in 2019 as a multi-faceted vision of food, faith and fellowship—and not in the ways you might attribute to an old Catholic church built in 1905.

Read on for more about how Holy Rosary is reinventing itself to be a more inclusive and inviting space for the community, in this story from inRegister‘s March 2021 issue.

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