Parish History 1990-1999

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Joyful Noise Kitchen Band:   A Kitchen Band was formed in 1991, lead by Mel Hettinger.  It was composed of mostly St. Michael’s parishioners, but later others in the community joined in.  They participated in many annual Christmas Parades in Hardy and Ash Flat and put on 35 performances a year for various groups.  There were no tryouts to join, the purpose was to just have fun and make people laugh with them.  They stayed together until 1997.























New Organ;  A new organ was purchased and dedicated in October 1991.  We still have this organ today (2018).



Mortgage Paid in Full:  In May of 1992, the loan for the new church was paid in full and plans were made to put a new roof on the church and rectory.



Fr. Esposito’s 25th Anniversary of Ordination:  On May 17, 1992, Bishop McDonald came to offer a Silver Anniversary Mass for Fr. Ralph.  He also ceremoniously burned the original mortgage with the parish.

Silver Jubilee Mass  1992
Bishop McDonald with Fr. Esposito – 1992









Assisted by Dc. Bob Clark, Bishop McDonald burns the original mortgage (1992).












On May 30th, after the Vigil Mass, a reception was held to say farewell to Fr. Ralph; on June 1st we welcomed our interim pastor,  Fr. Laval Couture.

June 1992 – Jan 1993   Rev. Laval Couture












Rev. Laval Couture:  Fr. Couture was here for only 7 months until a more permanent pastor could be assigned.  He left in January of 1993.  Dc. Bob Clark and various visiting priests provided services for our Parish each Sunday until a new pastor could be assigned the following June.


Fr. Couture at Parish Picnic in 1992









New Railings Inside and Out:  In 1992, new handrails were added along the walkway from the handicapped parking into the side door.  New handrails were also added at the altar steps for the safety of Eucharistic Ministers and Lectors.



New Director of Religious Education:  In the summer of 1992, Sr. Cecilia Shannon was reassigned from Jonesboro, and Cecilia Orosz took over as our new DRE.


Christmas Decorations 1992:

Indoor Nativity
Outdoor Nativity










St. Michael’s Memorial Gardens:  In April of 1993, a “Columbarium” was added to the outside of the building with the help of Trustees:  Howard Gibbon, George Glass, and Ernst Wege.  A St. Francis Statue was purchased and placed inside the walls.  When the Columbarium was expanded in November of 1997, St. Francis was moved to the front lawn during construction, where he remains today (2019).  A Sacred Heart Statue was then purchased for the Memorial Gardens.

4/23/93 – Bishop McDonald Dedicated the Memorial Gardens










St. Francis Statue 1993
St. Francis Statue 2018











In June of 1993, we welcomed our new pastor, Fr. Earl Johnson.

June 1993 – June 1997 Rev. Earl Johnson, SJ













Rev. Earl Johnson, SJ:  Fr. Earl, a Jesuit from Shreveport, LA; served in a couple of parishes in AR in the 1990s before returning to LA.  He developed Alzheimer’s and was cared for at an Ignatian Community in New Orleans.  Fr. Earl was a rescuee from Hurricane Katrina in 2005; however, he developed pneumonia and died.


Feast of Corpus Christi 1993:  We celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi with a beautiful new canopy made by Ruth Zuercher and Mary Lorence. The Canopy is still used today for Eucharistic Processions.    Dc. Bob Clark lead the Procession this year.








Corpus Christi Celebration 1993 (Fr. Earl)










Christmas 1993 with the new pastor:

1993 – Fr. Earl
Christmas Party 1993










St. Michael’s Rosary Makers:  In 1949, Br. Sylvan Mattingly, CFX, from Louisville, KY, founded Our Lady’s Rosary Makers, after being hounded by the words of Mary at Fatima.  There are now Rosary Makers Guilds in all 50 states and many foreign countries answering the call of the missionaries to send Rosaries to them.  In February of 1994, Fran Pentengell saw a request for Rosaries for the Missions in our Sunday bulletin and brought this request to the April 1994 Altar Society meeting.  It was voted on and approved to start a Guild here at St. Michael’s with 13 of the Altar Society members agreeing to be part of it.  With no funding for supplies, the Altar Society agreed to give them a monthly donation.  Later a Memorial Fund was started which then helped pay for supplies.  (For a $5 donation, 10 Rosaries would be sent to the missions with the name of the donor’s deceased loved one.  With these Rosaries, a letter was included with the request to pray for this deceased person while using the Rosary.)  St. Michael’s Rosary Makers officially joined Our Lady’s Rosary Makers, and with their annual dues of $2, they received a monthly newsletter listing the Missions who are requesting Rosaries, along with their mailing addresses.  At their monthly Guild meeting, the members would decide which Mission they would send their rosaries to, usually mailing packages of 200 at a time.  Today (2019) there remain a few parishioners who are still making rosaries to be mailed to the Missions.

St. Michael’s Rosary Makers  – 1994









Sesquicentennial Celebration:  In 1993, the Diocese of Little Rock celebrated 150 years (1843 – 1993).  To honor this sesquicentennial, St. Michael’s planned a week of events.  On Sunday morning, September 18, 1994, Fr. Earl Johnson and Fr. Venantius Preske, assisted by Dc. Bob Clark, offered a Mass of Thanksgiving.  At 1pm, an Open House was held in the Parish Hall with a traveling exhibit of pictures and memorabilia from the Diocese.  Copies of a book with the history of St. Michael’s Parish, compiled by Virginia Clark and Imelda Hettinger for this occasion, were distributed.  The Open House concluded with a free concert with Dennis Holt of St. Paul’s Church in Pocahontas.  On Thursday, September 22nd, Mass was offered at 11am; in the afternoon, all enjoyed entertainment by the “Joyful Noise Kitchen Band” followed by Benediction in the main Sanctuary.  The week was concluded on Saturday, September 24th, with a Parish Picnic a 1pm, followed by an outdoor Mass at 4pm.


Oktoberfest:  In 1994, at the annual Oktoberfest, organized by the Knights of Columbus, the St. Michael’s Kitchen Band entertained.  (Note the addition to the church was underway.)







Kitchen Band at Oktoberfest 1994










Addition to the Church:  In February of 1994, a meeting was held to discuss the addition of 6 classrooms in the upper level of the church, expanding the church hall, and adding a new kitchen.  Groundbreaking began in the Fall of 1994 and the new 4,000 sq. foot addition was completed in 1995.  A formal Dedication was held on August 20th.  The new addition included five new classrooms, two new offices, a new kitchen and an enlarged dining hall, which will seat up to 300 people. Total cost around $240,000.









Expanding the Parish Hall
Adding classrooms and offices upstairs










Adding an elevator
New addition complete











Dedication of the New Addition and Shrine to the Unborn:  On August 20, 1995, Bishop McDonald came and formally dedicated the new addition.  He also blessed the Shrine to the Unborn, a Knights of Columbus project.

Bishop McDonald in 1995 (Shrine to the Unborn behind him)
Shrine to the Unborn today











The Cry Room doubled as a Chapel for Weekday Mass:  In 1995, after the addition was complete, in order to save on electricity for heating the main Sanctuary, Fr Earl would have weekday Masses in the Cry Room Chapel.










Mardi Gras 1996:


















Altar Society’s Christmas Bazaar 1996:










BINGO:  In 1996, after much discussion with Fr. Earl about offering BINGO at St. Michael’s as a means of paying off the debt from the new addition, as well as a means for socialization for community members, Isabelle Wiest, along with her daughter, Dana, and other dedicated crew members, began organizing BINGO every Thursday evening, and every 1st Sunday afternoon, in the Parish Hall.  Because gambling was not allowed in AR, all BINGO Halls were shut down for a period of 1 1/2 – 2 yrs around 2006-7.  A law was passed in Nov. of 2007 allowing charitable gambling, and a year later, BINGO began again.

Dedicated Bingo Crew (as seen New Years of 2009)










In June of 1997, we bid farewell to Fr. Earl and welcomed our new pastor, Fr. James Mancini.

1997-2001  Rev. James Mancini
Welcome Party













Rev. James Mancini:   Fr. Mancini (not many called him Fr. Jim) was a very charismatic and prayerful man.  He began many devotions here (including Eucharistic Adoration and Divine Mercy), and during his tenure, the parish was very active and grew in size.   His prayerfulness was known in the community as well and people of all faiths came for his intercessory prayer.  Fr. Mancini could be found every morning in the Sanctuary seated before the Tabernacle saying his morning Breviary.   After the 7:30am Mass he had a Eucharistic Holy Hour with Benediction.  Fr. Mancini was a believer in frequent Confession and could always be found in the Confessional after every Mass.   He spent his days in his Office with the planning of Liturgical celebrations, spontaneous planning of special celebrations for various feast days, and giving spiritual direction.  Father would answer his phone any time of the day or night, many calling for prayer.  He was very busy being the diocesan liaison for the AR Catholic Charismatic Renewal; he was also the Diocesan Exorcist.  Fr. Mancini was often away; he was kept busy performing Exorcisms, teaching at the Diaconate Classes once a month, and had an active part in the Diocesan Retrovaille Program for those needing guidance in a difficult marriage.   While he was away, Fr. Preske, then retired and living locally, or Fr. Tony, see below, would fill-in.  Fr. Mancini was loved by all and left some mighty big shoes to fill when he left.   (He died in August of 2019 after many years of illness.)


1997 – 2004   Rev. Anthony Wilwerding













“Fr. Tony”:  In 1997, Fr. Anthony Wilwerding (known as the “Rosary Priest”), a diocesan priest from Omaha, Nebraska, and retired Army Chaplain, moved into the area.  He offered a 9am Mass every weekday and 11am on Sundays, in addition to the pastor’s Mass.   Fr. Tony had a great devotion to Our Lady and began every Sunday homily with:  Pray the rosary every day, and if you have a family, gather them together to pray the rosary. Young people need prayer; families need prayer; we all need prayer.”   The parishioners had this mantra of his memorized; in fact, you could hear the children saying it along with him!  Fr. Tony loved going to the prisons to visit with the inmates; he’d catechize them, baptize and Confirm them, offer Mass and hear their Confessions.  He also loved visiting the nursing homes and the homebound.  Fr. Tony loved being with people, and they with him.  He would organize a social event just for the reason of getting together.  Fr. Tony’s favorite gathering was Saturday morning brunch after Mass in the Parish Hall; he’d pay for the groceries, ask the ladies (who all loved him) to cook the meal and invite everyone present.  In 2004, Fr. Tony moved back to Nebraska where he owned a condo in a complex for retired priests.  He died in January of 2016.  RIP dear Fr. Tony!


Addition onto the Columbarium:  In 1997, with most of the crypts sold, the Columbarium Committee decided it was necessary to build an addition to the Columbarium.  The St. Francis statue was moved to the front lawn while the work was being done, and when finished, a Sacred Heart Statue was purchased for the Columbarium.











Divine Mercy Sunday:    A year before being assigned to our parish, Fr. Mancini and Fr. Ed Graves were asked by Bishop McDonald to promote the Divine Mercy Sunday Devotion here in our diocese (several years before the Vatican made it an official Devotion of the Church).  So began our devotion to St. Faustina and Our Lord in the Divine Mercy Image.  Our official first Divine Mercy Sunday celebration was in the Spring of 1998, the Sunday after Easter.  Fr. Mancini always obtained a relic of St. Faustina for the parishes where he served, St. Michael’s being one of them.  This relic pictured below is kept on the back altar near the Tabernacle.











Altar Society’s Christmas Bazaar 1998:










December 1998 – Magnificat Ministry Began:  Magnificat, a ministry to women, meets 3-4 times per year with a Luncheon (for women only) followed by a witness testimony.  Fr. Mancini’s first exposure to the Magnificat Ministry was while on retreat in LA.  He decided to organize our diocese’s first chapter of Magnificat here in our deanery.    In the beginning, there was great involvement from the parishes in Batesville, Mountain Home, Horseshoe Bend, as well as Cherokee Village.  The Luncheons would be held at various restaurants in each of these areas.  Due to the cost of the luncheons increasing, and board members now mostly parishioners from St. Michael’s Parish, the Luncheons are now usually held at St. Michael’s Parish Hall being catered by our Knights of Columbus or a local restaurant.

Magnificat banner handmade by Marguerite MacAulay
Magnificat’s 1st Coordinator, Ruth Ann Vitko













Magnificat’s 1st Spiritual Director, Fr. Mancini, he always wore his Holy Spirit RED socks!














Latin Mass:  In 1998, Fr. Mancini agreed to allow the priests from the Order of the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) to offer the Traditional Tridentine Latin Mass here at St. Michael’s Church.   The purchase of a nearby home was made by some of the parishioners who preferred the Latin Mass; this home was given to the Fraternity priests assigned here to use as a rectory.   Mass at this time was offered 7 days a week.  The Latin Mass was allowed to keep their weekend collection for purchasing needed vestments, sacred vessels, linens, etc, as well as paying St. Michael’s Church rent for the use of the building.


St. Michael’s Messenger:  In 1998, with the encouragement of Fr. Mancini, Helen Shinavar undertook the task of editing a bi-monthly parish newsletter, St. Michael’s Messenger,  (it became quarterly with the change of pastors in 2001).  Fr. Mancini felt it was an important means “to inform and teach” his parishioners.   Included in the newsletter was a section “Ask Father” to which parishioners were encouraged to submit questions.  Parishioners and parish organizations were also invited to write informative articles for the newsletter; Anniversaries and Birthdays were listed; Holy Days and Saints Feast Days were discussed and explained; Bible Study Reflections were often included;  a “Who’s Who in the Parish” article in each publication would focus on a couple or family, where they were from, and what brought them to our area; and often a bit of humor.  Helen spent a lot of time on these newsletters and did a spectacular job putting it all together and editing the articles (often writing many herself).  Her health prevented her from continuing, and so the Summer 2007 edition of the St. Michael’s Messenger was her last publication.  (Helen died in Dec 2010, RIP!)


Prayer Chain:  Helen Shinavar also began the Prayer Chain around this time.  She set up a phone tree and would pass on urgent prayer messages when she received them.  There was also an email Prayer Chain.  One of the persons on the phone tree would send out an email message with the prayer requests to those who signed up to be on the email side of the Prayer Chain; this saved making many phone calls.  After Helen got too sick to continue making the calls, the Prayer Chain went to the email version only and still remains so today (2019).


Confirmation 1999:  Bishop Andrew McDonald visits St. Michael’s Parish to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation in March of 1999.












Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration:  Fr Mancini had a devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  Since his arrival, he promoted Eucharistic Adoration an hour after each weekday Mass, and until 6pm on Wednesdays.  With the generous donations from parishioners the Cry Room was converted to double as an Adoration Chapel:  the pews which were angled to face the main altar, were turned perpendicular so they now face the chapel altar; vertical blinds were purchased for the windows; 4 regal glass globes trimmed in gold were purchased to hold the candles on the Chapel Altar; a team of parishioners designed a handwoven tapestry ($5,000) to place on the back wall behind the Monstrance.  With all this done, St. Michael’s began Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration (24/7, except during Mass) on December 8th, 1999.  In 2007, with the realization our parish was growing smaller, we began to cut down the hours, omitting weekends, then the middle of the night hours.  By 2012, our Adoration Chapel hours were Monday-Friday 10am-10pm; as of this writing the Chapel now closes at 9pm (2019).

The Adoration Chapel on Opening Day, Dec. 8, 1999.  (The tapestry was not ready when we opened.)













Burning the Mortgage:  Due to the efforts of Isabelle Wiest, her daughter, Dana, and a team of dedicated BINGO workers, in three short years, we were able to pay off the debt for the new addition.   Seen below in Dec. of 1999, is Fr. Mancini and Isabelle Wiest, along with help of Tommy Tucker, burning the mortgage at the Parish Christmas Party.










“Star of the Sea”:  In the 1990s, Founder, Bob Pearson, along with anonymous investors, developed the community known as Star of the Sea for those conservative Catholics who were finding it difficult to live in areas of the country where the Catholic Church was becoming more and more liberal.  Around the time of Roe v Wade, Bob, his wife, Kathy, and their 9 children (6 adopted) traveled the country, often with pregnant teens whom they were caring for, and spoke at Conferences about the truths of Abortion.  In their travels, they founded several Pregnancy Centers (among their honored guests at 2 of the opening ceremonies were Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and Mother Theresa of Calcutta).  Everywhere Bob went he heard the same thing, “I wish I could live in a community with like-minded Catholics.”  So began the dream and development of the Star of the Sea Community.   (The Pearsons settled in this area of the country because they had relatives here.)

In the mid-1990s, as the word of a Catholic Community spread among conservative Catholics, many young families began moving to the area.  Due to the lack of housing at Star of the Sea,  many families ended up settling in nearby cities and towns, such as Cherokee Village and Ash Flat.  Over time, the differences of opinion among those who lived at Star of the Sea, stemming from which Mass they attended (Novus Ordo vs Latin Tridentine), to how they raised and taught their children, to differences in home construction, began to drive a wedge between the residents, driving many families away.   A lawsuit developed and, around 2003, Star of the Sea was declared dissolved by a judge.

During the rise of Star of the Sea and the influx of the young families moving to the area,  resentments began to develop at the parish level.  Arguments began over which Mass was “holier and more reverent”.   With the negativity surfacing at church, many parishioners began making the assumption that all the residents at Star of the Sea were all part of a cult.   With Star of the Sea falling apart and the turmoil at church causing unrest, the young families started moving away.   With those having strong opinions, on either side, having moved away, the negative resentments at church toward the Latin Mass attendees and Star of the Sea residents have settled down.

The “community” of Star of the Sea is non-existent today (2019) with 3/4 of the homes there occupied by non-Catholics.  The remaining Catholic households are active members of St. Michael’s Parish.