Community, Endings, Beginnings

By Eric Brooks

Two things struck me regarding Msgr. Cody and his tenure with us this weekend. The first was in his farewell letter when I suddenly realized our parish has been in flux for fourteen months regarding a permanent pastor. And, in reality, had been for somewhat more than fourteen months. Compounding that was the minor issue of a global pandemic, Ohio being locked down, the parish being closed and then incrementally reopened. Masks, social distancing, essential industries; lions, tigers, and bears, oh my. And let’s never forget toilet paper. 

The second was Msgr. Cody’s closing remarks this morning at his final Sunday as our administer pro-tem. In that statement, Msgr. Cody mentioned, among many other things regarding our parish, the strong sense of community at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Despite fourteen months of unprecedented changes and restrictions throughout our society, the parish has maintained that sense of community. Our community has adapted to and overcome every test we have been challenged with. 

No in-person services… we’ll broadcast them online. No in-person small groups (i.e. bible study, Parish Women’s Association, Men’s Faith Formation, Saint Vincent DePaul Society, etc.) … we’ll Zoom those meetings. Incidentally, I have developed a deep hatred of Zoom over these past fourteen months. No Holy Water, no Precious Blood at Communion, folding metal chairs in the chapel, the church locked down outside services. No problem, we’ve got this. 

It was our community that allowed us to survive through these challenges. Supportive comments on the OLPH Facebook page, participating in those broadcast Masses and Zoom meetings, doing whatever was required in order to return to Mass in-person as a community. I would certainly not equate the past fourteen months to forty years wandering the desert, but they were certainly dark times for our parish, our nation, and our world. 

And we overcame them as a parish community.

I have the utmost respect for Msgr. Cody for being dragged out of retirement and shepherding OLPH through those dark times. (And it seems he will continue to be dragged out of retirement at St. Joan of Arc. They are fortunate to have him, and I already emailed my cousin where she and her family are members of that parish to look forward to him helping with weekend masses.) However, Our Lady has come to an ending with Msgr. Cody and now face a new beginning. 

Sometime on Tuesday, July 13th Fr. Yokum arrived at our parish and became our new pastor. We will welcome him, the Parish Women’s Association will host a reception for him this Sunday afternoon, and then the real work begins as a community. A new beginning.

But what does community mean in these strange and evolving circumstances? 

For me it was defined by dropping off cookies for Msgr. Cody’s reception last Saturday afternoon. It was a host of familiar faces, heartfelt greetings, and hugs… yes, hugs despite the waning pandemic. It was walking into a room and being recognized as a fellow brother in Christ and immediately welcomed. It was “Hey, have you ever met Eric? Let me introduce him.” 

I do understand the cookies may have influenced these positive reactions. In my experience, no one bearing a few dozen cookies ever receives a poor reception. 

It is these individual and very personal interactions that define us as a parish; define us as a community. Fours. We have not walked in the desert for forty years “For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness…” (Josh 5:6) nor we have been tempted in the desert for forty days. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights…” (Mt 4:1) But we have made it through fourteen months as a community and a parish, united together in our love of Christ and each other. 

I am very much looking forward to all of us showing Fr. Yokum that community. 

For anyone who is a fan of Robin Williams, John Lithgow, or Glen Close, I will leave you with, “You only grow by coming to the end of something and by beginning something else.”

Festival News 07.18.2021

This weekend, in conjunction with the arrival of our new pastor, Fr. Joe Yokum, the pitch for the festival will become more visible, as well as vocal. He is not shy about asking for your help in making this event a wonderful parish activity, as well as rolling up his sleeves in lending a helping hand. In the gathering space, there will be festival volunteers staffing tables and having clipboards on which you sign up to volunteer in a particular area. You can also sign up on the parish website. It’s a special way to extend a spirit of hospitality to the Grove City Community 

Also, at the tables you will be able to turn in your raffle tickets that you should have received. There’s also a good supply of extra tickets that are yours for the asking. The first Early Bird drawing of $100 will take place Monday. 

In your festival packet there was a Sponsorship Brochure. There is still time to get on board as a sponsor at different levels. Thus far, we have received over $25,000 in sponsorship commitment. We are very grateful for their support that will make this event more presentable and contribute to its financial success. The list and level of sponsorship is as follows:

Premier & above Level: Knights of Columbus Council #4603, Anonymous, & Beulah Place

Diamond Level: Kimball Midwest

Platinum Level: Jan & Michael Baumann & Family

Gold Level: Dan & Trish Benedik, Frank Courtney & Peg Gill, Ernie & Mary Spahia Carducci, Mike & Kelli Lagando, Ron Sabatino, & Anonymous

Silver Level: Zamarelli’s Pizza Place, Schoedinger’s Grove City, & Caldwell Tax

Bronze Level: Kathleen Estep, Maeder Quint Tiberi Funeral Home, Kirk Williams Co.,Susan & Richard Jarden

Bench Sponsors: Planks of Broadway (2), Buckeye Cement Contractors, Westmoor Dental Center, & Belford Properties

Lastly, Silent Auction items are arriving, and a sample of them are on display. Tickets to sports and entertainment venues, like the new Columbus Crew stadium, or playing golf at the various courses in the area can be displayed separately, or items like gift cards can be packaged. There will be a great variety of items on display. 

The festival will be held on Friday, August 20, and Saturday, August 21, from 6pm to midnight. Come one, and come all! 

A Letter from Our New Pastor

To my new Family of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church,

If you want to know more about me as a priest and person, you have to understand this one thing: I believe that the parish is THE SCHOOL OF PRAYER. I want said of every parish that I have the care of, “When I go to that parish for Sunday Mass, I can feel that the people of that parish really pray.”

The parish is THE school of prayer; the pastor is the teacher; and the encounter between God and man – prayer – is the subject taught. It is a vision that I have received from countless priests whom I have encountered and believe to have true priestly hearts after the Heart of Jesus. 

Pope Saint John Paul II said, “Our Christian communities must become genuine ‘schools’ of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, Adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly falls in love.” 

Pope Benedict XVI sets forth the encouragement for pastors with these words, “Your first duty as pastors is not projects or organization, but to lead your people to a deep intimacy with the Trinity. The faithful only expect one thing from their priests: that they be the specialists in promoting the encounter between God and man. The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, construction, or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life.” 

You will also learn that my vision and philosophy for parish life revolves around the acronym R-I-M. That stands for Relationship, Identity and Mission. First, how does the parish foster the relationship between Jesus and the individual parishioner? Second, does that relationship foster a person’s identity as being a beloved son or daughter of God? Third, how does (the parish activity, school, organization) relate to the overall mission of evangelization and our call to be saints through discipleship? 

My philosophy on handling problems and issues that arise in parish life comes from my background as a respiratory therapist. I have literally held many lives in my hands from newborn infants to the very elderly and dying. The most important life is the one that I hold in my hands; that’s yours. As a pastor, I am responsible for your eternal life. There is not one thing that we can’t work through, as along as we are both ready to accept and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth of the Gospel is the light to shine on every situation that might arise in the future. 

I strongly believe in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confession is THE opportunity to begin again as many times as necessary in this life. There is nothing that cannot be solved by a good examination of conscience, an act of contrition, penance and absolution. I know this to be true because it is the formula I rely upon to keep me on the path to sainthood. Once you begin to know me personally, you will realize I take great comfort in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; not only will I offer it regularly as a priest, but I also take advantage of it regularly as a sinner. 

I love being invited out to dinner and to family homes. I enjoy getting to know families on a more personal level, and that is going to be a challenge with almost 2800 families in OLPH. I enjoy hunting, especially upland game bird hunting like pheasant and grouse. I play golf, fish and enjoy the regular bourbon and cigar. I have a dog named Finbar. It is an unusual name, but Saint Finbar was the monk who founded the monastery that became Cork, Ireland. He is a mix between a Great Dane and Airedale Terrier.

I am the oldest of five children of Dr. Harry and Mary Lynne Yokum. I grew up in London, Ohio, and I attended St. Patrick Church and grade school. I attended London High School and then off to The Ohio State University. My seminary studies were completed at the Josephinum and Mount Saint Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland. I was ordained in 2007 by Bishop Campbell. My first assignment was at St. Andrew with Fr. Watson. In 2009, I was named pastor of St. Monica and St. Peter in Chains in Scioto County. Over the past 12 years, I have served as the pastor of nine parishes and three schools over Scioto and Jackson counties. 

“The dignity of man rests, above all, on the fact that he is called to communion with God.” (Fr. Scott Traynor, JCL) God has called us into communion with each other in this parish of Our Lady as pastor and flock. Please pray for me that I may always be a priest of true prayer and witness to the mysteries of Christ in the way that I administer the parish, pray and celebrate the sacraments; and may you always be a flock ready to respond to the grace that is being afforded through the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, through the dignified celebration of the Sacramental Life. 

Fr. Joe

Save the Date! Feast Day 2021

The Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is June 27! This year we are especially blessed that June 27 falls on a Sunday, so we get to hold our celebration on the actual Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help this year!

We will hold our traditional outdoor “Mass in the Grass” at 10 am. Join us for a beautiful Mass, and we encourage you to bring your own picnic for yourself and your family to enjoy after Mass. We will be providing ice cream!

Join us for Mass: Pentecost

Join us for the celebration of Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost!

Due to the availability of volunteers, beginning this weekend and continuing indefinitely, we will switch from streaming the 10 am Mass on Sunday to the 8 am Mass on Sunday. We will continue to stream the 5 pm Vigil Mass on Saturday whenever we have a volunteer sign up. 

If you are interested in helping run the live streams for our Masses and other events, please email us at

This weekend, we will be streaming the 5 pm Mass on Saturday, and the 8 am Mass on Sunday. You can join the live streams at the buttons below. Both will also be saved to our Youtube Channel for later viewing.

Staff Profile: Deacon Michael Kopczewski | Beauty

By Eric Brooks

One of Deacon Michael Kopczewski’s strongest principles is to, “Seek truth, goodness, and beauty and the ultimate end of these is God.” 

He was ordained as a permanent deacon in 2016, a process requiring almost a decade of formation, prayer, and study. According to Deacon Michael, he did not wake up one morning and decide on his vocation, it was a lifelong “drawing and feeling that became more intense over time.” He further describes it as a series “nudges” from Jesus to go deeper.

Deacon Michael further describes that, while feeling Jesus’ call, he used every dodge and excuse to stave off the inevitable. In fact, he states that he went through every one of the excuses used by the Old Testament prophets. It was also clear to those close to him that Deacon Michael was being called. While dating his future wife Camille while they were students at Ohio State, she once asked him if he needed to enter seminary. However, that was not the path God had chosen for Deacon Michael and the two of them would marry at St. Andrews in Upper Arlington. It was not his home parish, but the parish he was a part of while attending college. Camille, at the time a Methodist, so he describes it as “neutral ground.”

There were a handful of pivotal “nudges” for Deacon Michael and one of his favorite stories involves our former pastor Fr. Swickard. The deacon describes himself as an introvert and “painfully shy.” Shortly after our future deacon was married, Fr. Swickard approached him and admitted there were no lectors available for that Mass, asking him to volunteer. Following the example of those ancient prophets Deacon Michael produced a litany of excuses why he could not and Father went on to choose another volunteer for the readings. 

Throughout the Mass Michael felt a growing sense that he should have said “yes” to the opportunity and following the service approached Fr. Swickard to apologize for not agreeing to answer yes. Fr. Swickard promptly replied that “I wasn’t the one asking you.” He stated, “Fr. Swickard probably didn’t think anything of it, but it made me realize that simple small opportunities and invitations to say “yes” to loving and serving Jesus are placed before us every day, many times by those people in our everyday lives”

Other nudges came from Deacon Michael’s involvement with Camille in Pre-Cana, RCIA and his work training altar servers. “My wife Camille has an enthusiasm and passion for caring for people that is inspiring. Working with her in RCIA was a joy and also a gift.” A pivotal nudge came when he became involved with Disciples for Life. He explains that “Jesus was relentless in the pursuit of me to go deeper in my faith and prayer, and I could feel a longing to serve the People of God.” Formation with the Disciples for Life Retreat team and its retreats themselves gave him an opportunity to reflect upon God’s call. The humility, service, and the witness of faith of those on the retreat team was, and still is, inspiring. They most definitely demonstrate in real actions saying yes to being disciples. 

What followed was contacting the Diaconate Office at the diocese and a series of Saturday courses at the Josephinum on history, philosophy, and theology specific to the permanent deaconate over the next three or four years. Next was a serious assessment from the diocese and a year as an Aspirant. At this point Michael had to petition to the Candidacy, a serious undertaking that also involved a letter of permission from Camille. He received the call from the bishop and over the next three years undertook an intense period of contemplation, formation, prayer, and study. This candidacy lasts for three years and involves reaffirming your desire to remain in the process on a yearly basis. Michael progressed from Lector to Acolyte and was then ordained to the clergy on November 26th, 2016 along with eleven of his fellow permanent deacons. 

Deacons are the first of three groups or orders of ordained clergy. During their time in seminary priests are ordained as “transitional deacons” who are then later ordained into the presbyterate or priesthood. However permanent deacons remain in that vocation; permanently. All ordained ministers are called to functions of Word, Sacrament, and Charity and exercise these in different ways. According to the USCCB “As ministers of Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of Sacrament, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of Charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the Church’s resources to meet those needs.” For anyone interested or considering the deaconate, more information regarding deacons can be found at the USCCB website: Deacons.

Deacon Michael enjoys drawing, painting, and sculpting both professionally and as a hobby as well as being outdoors. Doing so has given him an eye for recognizing the beauty of a perfect sunrise or an exquisitely formed leaf on a tree, recognizing that God created that beauty. Our parishioners also provide him with beauty, and he describes himself as “being among living saints.” Deacon Michael is particularly humbled by all the works our parishioners are quietly performing without any recognition or need of recognition. “I am so grateful to those who quietly go about giving of themselves in service to the Church.”

If he could have one wish, Deacon Michael would like to share that sense of the beauty of God’s love with the entire world and that God will always love them. “People are attracted to true beauty, beauty that is more than just appearance. It is more than just a superficial or exterior thing. True beauty is the love of God, or in other words God Himself, He seeks us out and we are drawn to Him.”

Michael also appreciates how permanent deacons “straddle two worlds” between the secular and the religious. In the workplace Deacon Michael views himself as “being a witness and humble servant.” It is not through loudly proclaiming fire and brimstone, but by simply living his faith that he hopes to influence our increasingly secular and post-Christian world. “Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 5:15 – 16) It takes a special kind of courage, a special beauty to proudly live our Catholic faith when it is seemingly attacked from all quarters. 

There is also a beauty in surrendering to God’s will and Deacon Michael regularly does this. Being that introvert, every time he accepts the blessing and walks to the ambo for a gospel reading or homily he prays, “Holy Spirit, work through me, that your people may hear your words not mine. I need your help with this.” It also does not help that his wife Camille is an extraordinarily gifted, passionate lector and he sometimes has to follow her. Deacon Michael readily admits that she is integral to his calling and working together in the parish has deepened their faith both as a couple and as individuals. 

In addition to art, Deacon Michael loves spending time with his family. The time he gets to spend with his wife Camille and two daughters Michaela and Melina is truly precious. “I am truly blessed to have such an amazing family and be able to spend time with each other.” Perhaps surprisingly, Deacon Michael also has a passion for motorcycles in his spare time. “Riding a motorcycle is the closest you can be to flying without being in an airplane.” He started out as a child with dirt bikes and then went on to rebuilding larger bikes. Deacon Michael currently most often rides a BWM all road. While it may seem counterintuitive, riding bikes gives him “a time of peace and reflection.” He humorously adds, “Even deacons ride motorcycles.” Deacon Michael also enjoys cooking, giving him yet another opportunity to help prepare a time to gather and be together.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind…” (Eccles. 3:11)

New Statement from the Ohio Bishops – Obligation to Attend Mass Resumes June 5/6

The Ohio Conference of Catholic Bishops have released a statement reimposing the obligation to attend Sunday Mass beginning the weekend of June 5-6. “Together, the Bishops of Ohio have decided that the general obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation (including the Saturday/Vigil Mass) is to be reinstated (CIC, can. 1247). This will take effect in each of the Dioceses of Ohio the weekend of June 5-6, 2021. As has always been the case, those who have a serious reason are exempt from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2181). This includes those who are ill, have significant health risk factors or care for someone who is immuno-compromised or ill, as well as those who have significant fear or anxiety of contracting the coronavirus in a large group of persons.” We encourage everyone to read the entire statement, which is attached to this email.

In addition, the Diocese has requested that we allow all pews in the church to be used in order to accommodate more people as they return to Mass. The ropes currently blocking off every other pew will therefore be removed before this weekend’s Masses. We ask that you still try to maintain at least 3 feet between households if possible. As of right now, the health order in Ohio to wear masks will be in place until June 2, so we will keep our mask requirement in place until then. 

We thank you all for following the guidance of our Bishop throughout this pandemic, and we are excited for another big step in a return to normalcy. We will release any additional information or updates to guidelines from the Diocese as they are made known to us. See you at Mass!

The Office of Compline

Compline, or night prayer, is the final prayer of the day according to the Liturgy of the Hours. The tone of the office is meditative and peaceful, inviting a thoughtful completion to the day and calling us to rest in God’s peace. Like all the prayers of the Divine Office, Compline consists of prayers, psalms, and scripture readings. All prayers of the Divine Office can be prayed as a group or individually, making the practice a wonderful addition to one’s devotional life. While most of the office contains prescribed psalms and prayers for each day, rotating on a four-week cycle; the texts for Compline repeat every week, and the Church even allows the text for Sunday’s Compline to be prayed on every night of the week. This makes Compline an excellent entry-point into the Liturgy of the Hours, because it can be easily memorized and prayed nightly. Said individually, the office takes only 15-20 minutes to say. 

At 9 pm on the third Sunday of each month, Compline is sung by a small choir in the nave at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Candles are lit in an otherwise dark church, and the complete office is prayed by the singers on behalf of those gathered, and all of our Parish community. I pray that you’ll come (or tune in online), sit with us in the night’s darkness, and offer whatever may be on your heart into God’s loving hands. We hope that the service will lead you to a deeper sense of God’s peace as you finish the day and prepare for the week ahead. It is enough to simply come, sit, and pray. If you’d like to familiarize yourself with the prayers of this office, you’ll find the full text below, or you can download the text as a printable PDF here. 

The text begins with an Invocation, praying to God for assistance and a restful night. An examination of conscience (Confiteor, Kyrie eleison) follows. Then, a hymn is sung, and varies according to the liturgical season. At the conclusion of the hymn, the psalmody begins. For Compline, we sing Psalms 91 and 134. Psalm 91 speaks to confidence in God, trusting in His protection (He will conceal you with his wings; you will not fear the terror of the night). Psalm 134 calls us to prayer (Lift up your hands to the holy place and praise the Lord throughout the night). After the Psalms, a brief responsory (Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit) and a reading from the Book of Revelation. The Gospel Canticle (Song of Simeon) is sung, followed by closing prayers and an antiphon to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which concludes the office. 


Lord almighty, grant us a quiet night and a peaceful death.
Our help is in the name of the Lord.
The maker of heaven and earth. 
O God, make speed to save us. 
O Lord, make haste to help us. 
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, 
Is now, and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen. Alleluia.


I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy)
Christe eleison (Christ, have mercy)
Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy)


He will conceal you with his wings; you will not fear the terror of the night. 

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shade of the Almighty,
Say to the LORD, “My refuge and fortress,
my God in whom I trust.”

He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare,
from the destroying plague,
He will shelter you with his pinions,
and under his wings you may take refuge;
his faithfulness is a protecting shield.

You shall not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness,
nor the plague that ravages at noon.

Though a thousand fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
near you it shall not come.
You need simply watch;
the punishment of the wicked you will see.

Because you have the LORD for your refuge
and have made the Most High your stronghold,
No evil shall befall you,
no affliction come near your tent.

For he commands his angels with regard to you,
to guard you wherever you go.
With their hands they shall support you,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.

You can tread upon the asp and the viper,
trample the lion and the dragon.
Because he clings to me I will deliver him;
because he knows my name I will set him on high.

He will call upon me and I will answer;
I will be with him in distress;
I will deliver him and give him honor.
With length of days I will satisfy him,
and fill him with my saving power.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, 
Is now, and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen.

He will conceal you with his wings; you will not fear the terror of the night. 


Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord throughout the night. 

O come, bless the Lord, all you who serve the lord;
Who stand in the house of the Lord
In the courts of the house of our God.

Lift up your hands to the holy place
And bless the Lord throughout the night. 
May the Lord bless you from Zion.
He who made both heaven and earth. 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, 
Is now, and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen.

Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord throughout the night. 

READING (Revelation 22:4-6)

They shall see the Lord face to face
And bear His name on their foreheads. 
The night shall be no more. 
They shall need no light from lamps or the sun
For the Lord God shall give them light
And they shall reign forever. 


Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. 
You have redeemed us Lord, God of truth. 
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. 
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, 
Is now, and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen.
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. 


Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake. Watch over us as we sleep. 
That awake we may keep watch with Christ.
And asleep, rest in his peace. 

Lord, now let your servant go in peace.
Your word has been fulfilled. 

My own eyes have seen the salvation
Which you have prepared in the sight of every people. 

A light to reveal you to the nations
And the glory of your people Israel


Lord, we have celebrated today the mystery of the rising of Christ to new life.
Let us now rest in your peace, safe from all that can harm us,
And rise again, refreshed and joyful, 
To praise you throughout another day. 
We ask this through Christ our Lord. 

The Lord almighty grant us a quiet night and a peaceful death. 


Ave Regina Caelorum

Ave, Regina caelorum,
Ave, Domina Angelorum: 
Salve, radix, salve, porta
Ex qua mundo lux est orta:

Gaude, Virgo gloriosa, 
Super omnes speciosa, 
Vale, o valde decora, 
Et pro nobis Christum exora.
Hail, O Queen of Heaven.
Hail, O Lady of Angels
Hail! Thou root, hail! Thou gate
from whom unto the world, a light has arisen:

Rejoice, O glorious Virgin,
Lovely beyond all others,
Farewell, most beautiful maiden,
And pray for us to Christ.

Staff Profile: Camille Kopczewski | Gifts and Talents

Camille Kopczewski is grounded by her upbringing, her faith, and the Our Lady parish community. She was raised in Pickaway County on a working farm and as she explains, “My dad worked incredibly hard and soybeans paid for his daughters’ college education.” As a student in high school, Camille promised herself she would never be a teacher after watching a classroom of particularly antagonistic students reduce a particularly kindhearted teacher to tears. Given her farming background, she obtained a master’s degree in Agriculture Communication and then worked for Ohio State in Extension. Her goal was to work in agricultural publications; perhaps as a magazine editor, radio host, or something similar. 

At the same time, she was teaching dance in Mt. Sterling and realized this was giving her talents a natural outlet and that she was being called to education, despite her promise never to pursue it. Camille taught in South-Western Public Schools for five years, but then wanted to spend more time with her own daughter. As a result, she accepted a part-time position at Our Lady of Perpetual Help as the Director of Religious Education, a role she would serve in for ten years. 

Directing the Parish School of Religion allowed Camille to embrace her talents and she stated, “The PSR families added such beautiful threads into the fabric of the parish.” At PSR’s height during her tenure, she was responsible for approximately 380 students and over eighty volunteer teachers and instructors. She pauses and then adds, “I really do miss that.” 

During the same time, her own daughters were very much a part of her gifts to the parish. From her classroom, Camille gestures towards the church and recalls her toddler daughters in fleece sleepers playing while she was running Thursday night RCIA sessions and how one of them had her own “Office Kid” identification badge because she spent so much time in the church office. 

After ten years as Religious Education Director, Camille needed a change and Julie Freeman offered her a teaching position at the school. For the past eight years she has taught various classes and grade levels. She currently teaches religion and social studies to the middle schoolers and is an 8th grade homeroom teacher. Having previously taught in public schools and being a product of public education herself, Camille is very impressed by the involvement of Our Lady’s school families. “I always remember what a blessing it is that when I’m talking to a student, I know I’m talking to that student’s entire family.” 

Camille also loves how she is able to integrate our shared Catholic faith into all of her lessons, not simply the religion classes. She explained how in social studies her students are currently studying ancient Rome and how she can incorporate the infancy of Christianity into those lessons. This allows Camille to focus on the kids, not simply educating them, but as she states, “I am preparing our future followers of Jesus as well as our future leaders.” Continuing that preparation of leaders, she was happy to introduce me to her current student teacher who was forgoing his own Spring Break to continuing working with her. 

While Camille expressed some reservations regarding my interview and this article because she does not want to be considered “special,” that same student teacher immediately quipped, “Can I tell you how special she is so that would circumvent her not wanting to be considered special?” 

Perhaps Camille’s greatest challenge as a teacher at Our Lady is individualizing her lessons to recognize the “gifts, talents, needs” of her students. She pointed to an empty desk in her classroom and added, “He is so gifted, I just need to bring it out.” Camille added, “I am so blessed when my students challenge me to challenge them.” However, her greatest joy as a teacher is the depth of respect the students and teachers have for each other and that “I get to know their stories.” 

Camille is a fierce advocate for her family, particularly her husband our own Deacon Michael. Despite my eclectic taste in music, I have never been drawn towards country music (I apologize to both my wife and father who attended a Garth Brooks concert a few years ago… no, we’re not related to Garth Brooks) but Camille jokes about a song regarding a preacher husband and teacher wife. She also jokes, “I don’t know how he puts up with me as a wife.” 

However, Camille knows that, “the whole [parish] community loves us and we’re part of their lives and they’ve essentially fostered our kids.” She is also part of the lives of entire generations of students and they are equally a part of her life. “This church is my home.”

A common thread I have observed when speaking with school staff is the level of anxiety of our youngest parishioners. If Camille had one wish, it would be to eliminate that anxiety. Given her history in public and religious education, I asked Camille if she felt that student anxiety has increased over the past years. She responded yes, and that some of it is due to increased awareness of emotional issues, but also placed considerable blame on the rise of social media. It is something the two of us are in vehement agreement on. Camille further explains, “Social media can be so damaging.”

Being the “deacon’s wife” and a teacher with her own children at the school, Camille has learned to develop a careful balancing act. She passionately advocates for her children and husband’s gifts and talents. However, being a part of the larger parish community, she tries hard to not promote them above others. That explains her reticence to be interviewed, but she also explains, “We figured it out.” Camille laughs, “Our family is actually very normal.” 

Having spoken with Deacon Michael several times and now having an opportunity to interview Camille, I am struck by how they compliment each other. And in doing so, add immeasurable value to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Both are completely dedicated to our parish but offer very different gifts and talents. Camille is most definitely intense and passionate, while our Deacon focuses on dedication and humility. Both are certainly devoted to service. 

Camille’s eyes smile above her mask when she recounts a family joke. She is an extraordinarily gifted lector, and her “painfully introverted” husband hates to read after her, given her talent in that particular charism. When she sits down in the pew after proclaiming the second reading, she likes to tell her daughters, “Okay, Deacon, your turn.” 

By Eric Brooks