On Saturday, Sept. 27, a brand-new annual Oktoberfest event at St. Mary Parish in Mokena will welcome in brand-new leadership to the community. Father Dindo Billote, pastor, and Father John Lovitsch, associate pastor, arrived as new leaders of St. Mary Catholic Church in June. The Oktoberfest event will feature German food by Polonia, live German music by the Die Musikmeisters, commemorative beer steins, a DJ, and raffle prizes including an original painting by Father Billote.
In recent weeks, St. Mary Parish has had the good problem of needing to add chairs to the church as weekend services have had standing room only attendance with the new priests being so well received by the parish community. Father Billote was officially made pastor of St. Mary by Bishop R. Daniel Conlon at an installation mass in July. During the service, at the bishop’s announcement of the new pastor, Father Billote was welcomed with a standing ovation.
“I’ve been to many installation masses and that usually never happens.” Father Billote said, surprised. “I just felt all this amazing love flooding Father John and I. I saw the bishop a week later, and he was still talking about it, telling people how beautiful the experience was here at St. Mary. It was a magnetic evening with an indescribable feeling of the Holy Spirit present in the church. I’m still floating from that experience.”
The celebration ended with a reception complete with karaoke, a special request by Father Billote.
Born in the Philippines, Father Billote came to the United States with his parents when he was two years old. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois and worked as an environmental engineer for 17 years before discerning his vocation to become a Catholic priest. He was ordained five years ago, and St. Mary Parish is his first pastorate assignment. He is also a talented painter and artist, and many of his paintings now grace the walls of St. Mary’s facilities including the new rectory.
“We are so blessed with the new rectory!” exclaimed Father Billote. “As an artist I have a lot of wall space. And a big space in the basement for making art too!”
In describing the addition of Father John Lovitsch as associate pastor at St. Mary, Father Billote explained, “Father John has so many skills and talents, and we get along very well. It’s a great synergy.”
Father Billote said he and Father Lovitsch have the same type of philosophy in terms of their priesthood and ministry, “We want to meet people wherever they are in their life and help them get closer to God.”
Father Lovitsch grew up in Hinsdale, where he was senior class president of his graduating high school class. He began college at the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University. He later entered St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota and was selected to study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. While overseas he taught English to seminarians in Egypt and last year assisted Pope Francis at Easter Sunday Mass. Father John was ordained in 2013. In addition to his pastoral duties, he is teaching religion to the 6th, 7th and 8th grade students at St. Mary School.
“Teaching is what I was called to do, and so I get a lot of fulfillment and joy out of it,” Father Lovitsch said. “In passing on Christ, my vocation is fulfilled. What better thing is there than to share Christ with someone? There’s just nothing else I can think of that I would rather be doing.”
He will soon offer religious education opportunities to teens and adults at St. Mary, including teachings on subjects such as prayer — from “Prayer 101” through advanced prayer. Together, Father Billote and Father Lovitsch are also bringing new retreats, small group studies, and traditions such as weekly adoration to St. Mary.
“The Sunday Mass was never meant to carry the weight of one’s entire week’s devotion. It was never meant to be the only prayer you prayed all week,” explained Father Lovitsch. “Whatever devotion it is that you choose to do, daily Scripture readings, the Psalms, adoration, evening prayers, morning prayers, the rosary — whatever it is that keeps you going throughout the week, it will pull that Sunday Mass into your daily experience. You’re pulling Jesus Christ into that day, and that’s what we want to help people do. We need to make sure everyone has what they want in order to have an active prayer life.”
“I like to explain the Gospels in the language of the people, make it applicable to their lives. We have to be engaging,” added Father Billote. “For anyone who may have left the parish, we want to bring them back home to St. Mary again. We hope to deliver a message that is fresh and speaks to people’s lives today.”
“Both of us want to be very present,” added Father Lovitsch, “to the school, and religious ed, and the whole parish in general. We were ordained to spread the Gospel and the only way we’re going to do that is when we’re encountering people. Our real call is for us to get out there and encounter people. I’m always trying to bring people to Jesus Christ.”
St. Mary School Principal Beth A. Cunningham commented, “Father Dindo and Father John have already committed to having a presence in our school, which is very exciting for the faculty and staff, parents, and students. They will help guide our children to build a personal relationship with God and help them to experience their faith.”
Thomas Dudik, St. Mary Parish business manager, added, “We are looking forward to welcoming Father Dindo and Father John to the entire St. Mary community with our inaugural Oktoberfest event on Saturday, September 27th.” A cash bar at the 21 and over event will feature both German and domestic beers and wine.
“Proceeds from the event will not only support St. Mary Parish, but also others in the community. A portion of Oktoberfest profits will be donated to FISH — a local community based ‘helping hand’ available to persons in situation of need,” explained Dudik.
Father Dindo explained, “Our parish has its roots in German immigrants of the United States. The original church was built by nine German families. So it’s special that the Oktoberfest celebration will draw us back to those roots. Oktoberfest will showcase our beginnings with all the German foods and with all the wonderful … strudel! I’m really looking forward to that strudel!”
“The Inaugural Oktoberfest will bring the parish and school together to build camaraderie and relationships.” Principal Cunningham added. “This is the beginning of a new journey and we invite all to be a part of it.”
Oktoberfest information and tickets are available atwww.stmarymokena.orgor by calling the church at 708-326-9300.