May 22, 2020

St. Roch parishioners use bucket truck to visit former pastor

With the aid of a bucket truck, members of St. Roch Parish in Indianapolis visit their former pastor, retired Father James Wilmoth, on April 29 outside the window of his third-story apartment at the St. Paul Hermitage retirement community in Beech Grove. (Submitted photo)

With the aid of a bucket truck, members of St. Roch Parish in Indianapolis visit their former pastor, retired Father James Wilmoth, on April 29 outside the window of his third-story apartment at the St. Paul Hermitage retirement community in Beech Grove. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

Since March 11, visitors have not been allowed at the St. Paul Hermitage retirement community in Beech Grove as part of its effort to protect residents and staff members from the coronavirus.

Some family members of residents have stayed close to their loved ones through visits at the windows of their rooms. 

But for the family members of residents who live on the second and third floors of the Hermitage’s assisted living section, such window visits are not an option—or at least an easy one. 

But members of St. Roch Parish in Indianapolis have such love for their former pastor, retired Father James Wilmoth, that they wouldn’t let the fact that he lives on the third floor of the Hermitage get in their way. 

With the approval of Benedictine Sister Heather Jean Foltz, administrator of the Hermitage, they arranged for a bucket truck to take parishioners up to the window of Father Wilmoth’s room on April 29, his 81st birthday. 

“Father Wilmoth’s birthday is pretty much a national holiday for us at St. Roch,” said parishioner Tina Hayes, one of the organizers of the bucket truck visit. 

“My reward in all of this was just getting to see Father’s face and to hear his laugh,” said Hayes of the visit that she, her husband and two daughters made. “He has a very distinctive laugh. I was thrilled to hear that. We made him happy. That’s all I wanted to do.” 

Even though the visit had to take place three stories up from the ground in a bucket truck, Hayes couldn’t imagine a better place to be. 

“It instantly felt like home,” she said. “To see his smile and to hear his laugh made me completely at peace. We miss him. He received me into the Church. He baptized my children and gave them first Communion. He will always hold a special place in my heart.” 

“It was overwhelming,” said Father Wilmoth of the visit of several of his former parishioners. “I cried. It was unbelievable. I had no idea.” 

Father Wilmoth led St. Roch Parish for 21 years before retiring from active ministry in 2018. 

“I’ve been away from them now almost two years,” he said. “But I tell you what—I miss St. Roch Parish and the people there every day.” †

 

Related story: Staff, families of residents at Hermitage show faith, dedication in response to virus

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