A Letter from Father Tom

Dear Friends
I have started my letters to “friends” in many different places such as the rectories of parishes that I am visiting, picnic tables at rest stops along some interstate highway or maybe in my recliner at home, but never as I am giving an entrance exam. While the hopeful young person is filling in a bunch of circles, I am starting this letter. This is the first Saturday in June and the last Saturday that I will be in Kentucky until September.

The appeal season is in full swing now. I just finished three consecutive weekends which took me to Providence, RI, Baton Rouge, LA and southeastern Minnesota. At the beginning of May, I had four new tires put on my minivan. After the Minnesota trip, Ed, who is in charge of maintenance, took my minivan in for an oil change and to have the tires rotated. The mechanic at Wildcat Tires, who put on the new tires in May, told Ed, he must have made a  mistake when he recorded the mileage because the odometer now shows that my minivan had ben driven over 7,000 miles in the last month. Ed assured him that he hadn’t made a mistake and that I did indeed drive the minivan over 7,000 miles since the new tires were put on.

In my last letter, I mentioned that I had a decision to make, i.e., to move to a beautiful school in Paintsville that had never been used or to remain in Hager Hill where we have been for the last year. I remember how much of a struggle it was to move an entire school from one location to another and I was not anxious to do it again.

One of the reasons that I had for even considering another move was that I would be in a better postilion to help Our Lady of the Mountains, a struggling Catholic grade school, one of two Catholic grade in eastern Kentucky. I was willing to have a couple of our faculty members teach a class or two there every day. One of our science teachers has his son enrolled in OLM’s preschool and would be willing to have taught a class either at the beginning of the day or the last class in the afternoon. We would also help them in transporting students and with any maintenance problems. For whatever reasons, they refused our help and decided to have just a preschool and a first grade next year.

Whole I like the new location in Hager Hill, there is on major problem with it. There is no gym. Our high school and middle school basketball and volleyball teams have to travel 25 miles to practice and play their home games. I don’t want to ask our parents to keep doing that.

There are many other reasons why we need a gym. A school without a gym is less attractive to those families considering enrolling their son or daughter no matter how high the quality of its educational program. The students need a place for activities such as dances and school plays. The cafeteria which we used for dances this year was not a good location. When the weather is nice, physical education classes can be held in the parking lot, but not when it is raining or cold. When there is a need to bring the whole school together for an assembly, a gym is needed.

Audrey needs a place for her yard sales by which she raises money for our outreach program. The yard sale itself helps people as they can stuff as much clothing as possible into three plastic grocery bags and only pay $5.00.

So I decided we had to at least put up a building this summer and concern ourselves with turning it into a gym at a later date. The man who owns the school buildings we are leasing wants to see the school succeed. As he said to me a year ago, he has six grandchildren and he wants them all to attend our school. One of them is already in school and, fortunately,for me is doing well. He owns a concrete company as well as a small construction company.He is donating all the concrete needed for the gym floor and that is a big savings.

The expenses for us of putting up the buildings are as follows.
Remove all trees and prepare the ground        $12,000.00
Purchase of metal building                             $82,000.00
Installment building                                        $36,000.00
Finishing concrete floor                                  $26,000.00
Total                                                                          $156,000.00

While this is going on, we still have to raise $85,000.00 a month for the actual operation of the school. Maybe next summer or the following one, I can worry about a gym floor, bleachers,locker rooms, offices and restrooms. We will be able to get by for now without the last of these since the building will be connected to the school building and our students will use the restrooms in the school. Without this building,I don’t think the school has much of a future. Please, pray that we can get the financial help we need.

The first step of clearing and preparing the ground has just begun. I have included a picture of the end of the school building and the trees that have to be removed. Hopefully, in my September letter,I can include another picture taken from the same spot showing the building.

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Ever week during the summer, volunteers from other stats come and stay at the Piarist Frontier Camp in Jenny Wiley State Park. From there they go out with Audrey to homes that are in desperate need of repairs and there are many of them. Her husband, Ed, always warns visitors about walking in the woods at night because of copperheads and rattlesnakes. There is one snake around the cabins that you don’t have to worry about and that is Larry, a six foot long black snake.

Larry likes our campground, especially the picnic tables and our visitors. Since it has come to Mass several times,it has been determined that it is a Catholic snake. Audrey worked up the nerve recently to touch its tail. Larry looked back, saw who it was, flicked its tail once and went back to sleep. Occasionally, I will see a black snake around my cabin and I am very happy to see it. Black snakes don’t like copperheads either, and when they see one, they will kill it.


May God bless you. I will keep you and your loved ones in my prayers.

Your Brother in Christ,
Father Tom Carroll