Pepe Le ‘Pew,’ the reality show: Skunk seeks a seat at St. Joe’s

WNLP story by Bob Wellinski

Father Ian Williams and the St. Joseph Catholic Church parish strive to be a warm and welcoming parish. But Father Ian found it necessary to usher one little stinker out Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017.

While preparing for the 6:45 a.m. Mass, Father Ian had just exited the sacristy and was heading to the back of the church. Carrying the communion water and wine, he happened to look at the side door and noticed the unwanted guest, sporting the same black and white colors as Father, entering the church. He said a parishioner had come through the handicapped-accessed door, which was in the process of slowly closing, “when in waddled a skunk.”

Father Ian Williams

“I thought I’d never be dealing with a skunk in church,” Father Ian said. Is that included in his job description? “I think it falls under the ‘anything and everything else happens’ clause.”

Growing up in rural Porter County, Father Ian had experience in shooing skunks from the family’s chicken coops, but this is the first — “and hopefully last” — time that he will have to herd a skunk out of church.

Once it entered the main part of the church (perhaps seeking some bread and wine?), the skunk made its way up the side aisle before disappearing under the pews and kneelers. “We had people pulling their feet up onto the pews or rapidly scooching out of the pews as it made its way towards the back of the church. Then it turned around and made its way towards the front of the church again,” Father Ian said.

About two dozen people were in the church at the time. “Considering the circumstances, everyone remained calm. They acted admirably,” he noted. “There were some folks who had it go past them before they knew what was happening … having it walk right past their feet as they sat in the pew. I was saying, ‘just stay calm, there’s just a skunk walking by you — that’s all.’”

Father Ian and others managed to get the skunk nearly out the original door in which it came, but something outside spooked it and it returned into the church and waddled back to the main entrance. An alert parishioner closed the inner doors, trapping the skunk in the main entryway. At that point Father Ian gently clapped his hands to try to herd the skunk through a door he propped open. It was then that the striped critter nearly unleashed its dreaded scent of fury.

“We almost had a close call. It was heading out the door when some people started blissfully heading in the door and I saw its tail going up. I started urgently telling the folks to get back, there’s a skunk, get back,” he said. The people then backed up, and “the skunk chilled out and didn’t spray.” It wandered around the entrance area a little more and he was able to herd it out the door.

“It felt like a couple of lifetimes,” Father Ian joked. “The Roman Empire fell and rose a couple of times while it was happening, but in reality it went 3-5 minutes.”

It’s ironic that one of his favorite hymns is “All Creatures of Our God and King.” And one line within the hymn fortunately didn’t come true: “Thou rushing wind that art so strong.”

Father Ian, as well as parishioners, were grateful the skunk left without leaving a calling card. “I was totally convinced at some point, when it was in the middle of the church, something would startle it and it was going to let loose. If it would have sprayed inside the church, I know I wouldn’t have been able to have Mass in there yesterday,” he said.

The pastor noted that St. Francis is his confirmation saint. Maybe his chosen saint helped get the skunk out. Or, “I don’t know how much Francis was into playing jokes, but that could be another possibility.”

Father Ian acknowledged that he has had dogs that have been sprayed, but he has never been. And he wants to keep that track record intact. “Amen.”

One Response to “Pepe Le ‘Pew,’ the reality show: Skunk seeks a seat at St. Joe’s”

  1. Rev Ron Brauer

    Dec 06. 2017

    Bob, This was a well written and creative article. The parishioners at St. Joseph’s will need a shirt that reads: “Stay Calm and Let the Skunk Pass.”

    Reply to this comment

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