Home Diocesan News Local group boosts foreign missions with 200 boxes of religious articles
Local group boosts foreign missions with 200 boxes of religious articles Print E-mail
Written by Marly Kosinski, Special to the Exponent   
Friday, 17 November 2017 15:39

YOUNGSTOWN – Nearly 200 boxes of religious articles – including two altars, tabernacles and baptismal fonts – are making their way from St. Columba Cathedral to the Diocese of Maiduguri, Nigeria.

Their journey began five years ago, when Anthony and Julie Kobak of Liberty, with the help of Father Edward Brienz, director of the diocesan Office of Missions, started the Religious Articles for Missions program in 2012.

The Kobaks were cleaning out the homes of their parents and grandparents and came across religious items such as rosaries and statues and didn’t know what to do with them. At the time, they were members of the old Holy Family Parish in Poland. They are now members of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Austintown, where Anthony Kobak is parish leader.

Father Brienz , who is also administrator of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, McDonald, suggested sending the items to missionaries overseas. Eventually, the Kobaks started repairing, repainting and restoring items that needed to be fixed as well as collecting the items.

“Over the past five years, I have probably personally touched 10,000 items, from large items like altars and tabernacles to small items like rosaries and prayer cards,” Julie Kobak said.

She has had help from her daughters, Josie, 16, and Ella, 14, students from the art program at Youngstown State University, Betty Paul from Our Lady of the Lakes Parish, North Jackson, and Michael Irwin of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in McDonald, who has done sculpting and plaster work.

Previously, the items were taken overseas in suitcases by Catholics from the diocese, including T.O. Bennett of Little Flower Parish, Canton, who has visited Tanzania about a dozen times, and others who have visited overseas missions.

Now, nearly 100 boxes packed during a “packing party” Oct. 20 and 21 at the St. Columba hall are heading to the Diocese of Maiduguri in Borno State, Nigeria.

Julia Kobak successfully applied for a grant from the Koch Foundation, founded in 1979 by Carl and Paula Koch to support Catholic evangelization efforts worldwide, according to its website. The grant will be used to cover shipping costs.

“Without the grant, these items would have continued to sit under the rectory and in the garage at St. Columba,” she said.

Instead, the Diocese of Maiduguri will receive the items to replace ones burned, stolen or vandalized in the insurgency by Boko Haram and other ISIS-sponsored forces.

Father David Bridling, associate pastor at Our Lady of Peace Parish, Ashtabula, came to the Youngstown Diocese from the Diocese of Maiduguri in June 2016.

Father Bridling said 200 Catholic churches and missions have been burned or vandalized by terrorist forces. Also targeted have been schools, rectories, convents and hospitals.

These items donated from the United States will give new life to the churches there. “It means the world to us,” Father Bridling said.

When he arrived at the packing party, tears filled his eyes when he saw how many items were being shipped, he said. He even pitched in to help.

“It’s like I’m dreaming,” he said.

Among the items was an altar from the old Holy Family Church in Poland.

Also in the shipment were three complete Stations of the Cross sets, monstrances, patens, altar cloths, vestments, statues, candles, crosses, crucifixes, rosaries, prayer cards and hymnals.

Father Bridling said once his evangelization work in the Youngstown Diocese is complete, he will go back to his home diocese, where he was ordained in 1995. There, he will get to use the items being shipped.

In addition to the 95 boxes prepared at the packing party by about a dozen volunteers, Julia Kobak said there were 65 or 70 more boxes packed later.

Yet, she noted, the benefits are not only for those in the Diocese of Maiduguri. “This program has deepened my family’s faith and has brought me so much joy.”


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