This article was originally published in the spring 2023 issue of the Western Province’s quarterly newsletter, The Vincentian

Ordained in 1979, Fr. Bill Rhinehart, C.M., was first assigned to serve the Vincentian mission in the Republic of China (ROC), also known as Taiwan. It was an assignment he had volunteered to undertake, and for the next eight years he served in two parishes there. In 1987 he returned to the United States and served in a succession of small country parishes, first in Colorado and then in Missouri. It was a ministry he felt reflected the Vincentian tradition of serving people in poor country places, where distances are long and resources for parish work are harder to come by.

After almost 30 years of parish work, Fr. Bill was ready for a new ministry, but one in which he could still carry out the Vincentian tradition of serving the people of the countryside. He discovered that ministry in the Vincentian Parish Missions, where his years of work in rural parish ministry was a valuable asset.

“I focus my mission work on smaller, rural parishes, which I know from experience don’t have the resources for faith formation that are available in the cities,” Fr. Bill said. “In this way, I feel I am continuing the work of St. Vincent. My goal is to give these people a shot in the arm, a boost for their faith.”

Fr. Bill estimates that before COVID he was doing about 20 missions per year. Slowly that is coming back to pre-pandemic levels. He does all the usual elements of a Vincentian parish mission: daily Mass, a mission talk, confessions, visits to shut-ins and nursing homes, and visits to the parish school, if there is one.

There is another Vincentian ministry connected to parish missions that not everyone knows about.

“Caring for the local clergy is something that is also a part of the Vincentian charism,” he said. “I often go to the parish a few days before and stay a few days after to give the pastor a bit of companionship and let him share about things that are important to him. Many of these priests are separated from each other by long distances and find it hard to get together.”

Fr. Bill will sometimes visit a parish for an extended time, two to three weeks, in order to give the pastor time to get away for vacation or retreat.

When asked what challenges there are to parish mission work, Fr. Bill admitted, “It’s hard being on the road so much. Perhaps I’ll cut back at some point. But not yet!”