Howell County News/ Ron Mendez

Big Shoes to Fill

“I felt I was stepping into very familiar shoes.”
For the first time in 36 years, there is a new priest in Willow Springs. Following Fr. Sherman Wall’s retirement as pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in November, Fr. Joseph Stoverink was assigned as the pastor and administrator of the church. 
Unlike Fr. Wall, Fr. Joseph is resident in Mountain View, where he serves as pastor at St. John Vianney. He is also assigned to the mission church of St. Sylvester in Eminence.
His work in Howell County marks Fr. Joseph’s first assignment as a lead pastor. He has formerly served as an associate priest in parishes in Doniphan and Springfield. Like Fr. Wall, Fr. Joseph is expected to lead and serve multiple churches, but unlike Fr. Wall, he will not be immediately involved with MUNCH or the Ministerial Alliance. 
“I love the work that Fr. Wall was doing. I love the ministry he was a part of, and I dream of being the priest, the man he is to this community. My attention will be more divided than his was because I am also in Mountain View and caring for the people in Eminence. 
That means I have to focus more here on encouraging parishioners to participate and be less directly involved myself.”
Born and raised in Cape Girardeau, Fr. Joseph was educated first at Truman State and then at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. He was ordained on May 26, 2017.
His family has both Catholic and Protestant roots. 
“It did a lot to bring me to my relationship with God today because it led my mom to delve into her relationship and love for the Catholic church that she passed on to me in homeschool,” Fr. Joseph said, “At the same time, I grew up going with my cousins to vacation Bible school. I was introduced to Veggie Tales. They helped instill in me a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Assigned to our local churches beginning the first Sunday of Advent, Fr. Joseph admits the hustle and bustle of this busy time of year has added to the stress of his first priestly appointment of leadership.
“In a more general way, [the challenge] is building trust. For example, learning the history of the place and bringing my own approach to things, not just dropping or abandoning things because I’m not used to them,” Fr. Joseph said. 
Fr. Wall’s decades-long tenure in Willow Springs leaves a daunting amount of tradition and history to learn, but Fr. Joseph says he feels a kinship to the recently retired priest. 
“When I went over to his house, I was surprised at just how much I saw myself in his things, despite the 60 year difference in age,” Fr. Joseph shared, “He was reading the same type of theological books that I have been reading. I could tell from different items around the house and in the church, there were a lot of things that he and I have in common.”
“I felt I was stepping into very familiar shoes.”
No stranger to country parishes, Fr. Joseph feels he is settling in well in Howell County.
“My favorite memory so far is getting to go out for pizza at Pizza Americana and then walk across the street to that Christmas concert [at the Star Theatre]. I was thrilled to discover there’s a performing arts theater here. The performing arts are a big part of my *personal history,” he shared.
Fr. Joseph can be seen celebrating Mass in Willow Springs on Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. and 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. In Mountain View, Mass times are 8:30 a.m. on Sundays and 5:00 p.m. on Wednesdays.
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