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By Robert Gettinger
St Augustine Catholic Church
131 Hamilton, St. Louis, MO 63112
97 pages

Bob Corbett
December 2014

The short volume contains excerpts from the church bulletins of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in St. Louis, Mo. The author, Fr. Bob Gettinger, known widely in St. Louis as “Father Bob,” has been a friend of mine for more than 50 years. He is an extremely humble and capable man who has given his all to his parishes, almost all in inner-city parishes of St. Louis, since he was ordained in the mid-1960s.

The organizational principle of the volume is unusual. The reader follows a year’s time in the bulletins which were given out at the Sunday mass each week. However, the excerpts for each Sunday are not all from the same year and often contain items that are applicable to that particular Sunday in the church year, but not all to the same year.

The volume begins on the second Sunday of the year and in one we read “As we begin the new century. . .” then a bit later in the same Sunday bulletin (but obviously not the same year) he speaks of the new presidency of Barack Obama. I can’t recall a single actual date; rather the book is a set of excerpts concerning each particular Sunday in the Church’s yearly calendar regardless of the year.

Fr. Bob’s weekly comments tend to be toward applications of the gospel for that particular week. The messages are not of lofty and ideal worlds, but tend toward very concrete stories of how the gospel of that week’s mass can instruct the very people in the church and suggest how they might live a more meaningful life in accord with the gospel as a guide and motivation.

An example from the very first chapter, the Second Sunday of the year (some year) celebrates Martin Luther King and the notion of a ‘call’ which Fr. Bob urges everyone to seek and find in his or her own life. He claims this notion of a “call” is universal and not just for special folks.

I think that it’s typical that he tends to focus on the “little things” more often than larger commitments or actions:

“So this week feel yourself called in lots of little ways – called to know more about African-American history, to do some little ministry in the parish and do it well, called this week to reach out and touch somebody. All this is good in February – the month of love.”
I did find it interesting that while his parish is almost entirely African-American, and Fr. Bob himself is white, he nevertheless always uses “we” in speaking of their “African American community.” I think that’s interesting and useful since the “community” as such has no color, and even though that particular community he’s writing for may be primarily black people, the “community” itself is it what he refers to when he includes himself in the descriptor “African American community.”

An example of this inclusiveness is from the sixth Sunday:

“In our experience, we sometimes feel like the leper. Throughout African-American history, we have been considered at best second class. We experience the being denied equal housing, education, jobs and protection. We, as well as other minorities (women, Hispanics, etc.) can identify with the pain associated with not being accepted.”

The primary texts that inspire him are not just in the gospels, but in other of the Bible readings as well. Overall I think there are two complementary themes which dominate: the first is that you, the individual, have the responsibility for yourself and you can handle it if you try and work at it and trust in God and call on God. The second key message is COMMUNITY. While the individual certainly has the major responsibility for self, this is best done within a supportive and active community.

I think most readers will come away from this small volume with respect for the messages which Fr. Bob offers, and an appreciation of a person who does his job with vim and vigor and gives it his all.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett