Friday, 29 July 2022 15:49

Looking back at 25 years of healing and reconciliation in Vandalia

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08 07 2022 OSMM mater dolorosa paintingOur Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry
Looking back at 25 years of healing and reconciliation in Vandalia
Managing Editor 

VANDALIA — It was 1997 when, with a bare bones budget, Debbie Pryor and Vanessa Keck founded Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry (OSMM) in Vandalia. What they did have was a fervent desire to provide a place of love and mercy that encouraged reconciliation with one another and with God. Today OSMM continues to flourish, and holds frequent retreats, priests talks, confession, Mass, and has active prayer teams. 

Ann Stock, a devoted community member of Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry said, “Initially, their goal was to provide knowledge and evangelization to our immediate community and parish. Our pastor at the time, Father Stephen Sotiroff, was very supportive and saw this as what was needed for the parish and even the world to grow in their faith life.” 

The ministry has always had the purpose of personal healing for people, she said. “As the years have passed, we have moved on to helping people grow in their interior lives, spiritual growth, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God and others.”

Father Peter Mary Rookey, OSM, was an internationally known healing priest who became a mentor to Pryor and Keck and was instrumental in encouraging them in the beginning of the ministry. Many other priests have provided advice and guidance over the years including Father John Titus, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, Father Bill Casey, CPM, and all the various pastors at Mother of Dolors. Most recently, Father Chad Ripperger has been a mentor and spiritual father to OSMM. 

Currently Father Seth Brown, pastor of Our Mother of Dolors Parish in Vandalia and St. Joseph Parish in Ramsey, is the chaplain and spiritual advisor to the ministry. “We are so grateful to have Father Seth here,” said Pryor. “He is a real gift of support and encouragement.”

Pryor adds that they have “been blessed with two holy bishops” who led them to the truth of the Church and have been close advisors. Bishop (now Archbishop) George Lucas led the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois for the first years and now, of course, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki is the diocesan bishop. Bishop Paprocki initiated and carried out the designation of OSMM as a Private Association of the Faithful. He also named and blessed the 6,000-square-feet Sanctuary of the Sorrowful Mother, which was built in 2012.

“The Sanctuary came about because of our need for our own building,” Stock said. “For the first 15 years, we rented the local school buildings and the Mother of Dolors parish center for our retreats. Because of the growth of the ministry, it became apparent that we needed our own building to house all we needed to host those events. The number of books and sacramentals we had also grown, and we needed a place to display them. 

“With much prayer, it was discerned that we would build our own place,” she said. “A number of community people confirmed this, but one in particular was in the position to put up the initial finances to get started. With the building well under way, this person became ill and was not able to complete the project. Through the generous support of donors, the building and the ministry in general is able to continue.  It all God’s Providence.” 

The Sanctuary, where Mass is said and retreats are held, holds about 100 people, and has a reception area, a gift shop, and several side rooms and chapels. The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the Stabat Mater Dolorosa chapel. There are several other buildings on the grounds including Bethany House, which is reserved for priests to stay during the retreats and also has a chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved; House of Mary and Martha, which is used privately; and House of the Immaculate, which was recently purchased and will be a place where prayer teams meet. 

Of course, Pryor and Keck are both still leading the ministry with the help of the OSMM community, a group of people who assist them in a variety of ways during retreats. The helpers are members of prayer teams, handle welcomes and registration, make announcements and introductions, work in the bookstore, provide meals for speakers and other community members, and complete other tasks that help to accommodate participants. 

“I think an important thing for people to understand about OSMM is that it is Our Lord’s and Our Lady’s ministry,” Stock said. “We did not begin with a plan. We just took one step and hosted our first event. Then God showed us what was next through people who discerned God’s will or advice from trusted priests.”   

Stock says even after a quarter of a century, OSMM is not well known. “Even though we have been doing this for 25 years, we often hear people from our own diocese say they had no idea that this ministry is in Vandalia. People would have to travel all over the country to hear the speakers we have hosted.

“When people visit OSMM, they can expect to meet people just like themselves. People who love the faith and the Church and want to share that with others,” Stock said. “It is a relaxed experience, where people can just come and listen to speakers, come and go as they please. More often, people come and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit here. They find themselves becoming more engaged and speak and visit with community members and often share their faith stories. We have many people who have been coming for years and we know them as friends. We are always welcoming new people and forming lasting relationships.” 

OSMM is open only during retreats. “We do have people call and we will meet them there to show them around or shop at our store,” she said. “We have hosted small groups, also.” 

Stock says OSMM’s future continues to be in God’s hands. “Whether it was to step out in faith and purchase a building knowing the funds would somehow be provided, or to take another direction with our retreats, it was all through Divine Providence,” she said. “Our response has been open to wherever we are led. Like Mary’s ‘Fiat,’ when God asks us to do something, we do it without question. It has been this way the entire 25 years. There is still no master plan we have for the ministry; we will continue until God tells us to stop.”

For more information about Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry, to see a list of their upcoming events/talks, and learn about their retreats, go to