LOUISA , Ky. (WSAZ) -- The Catholic Priest who founded the Christian Appalachian Project and the Father Beiting Appalachian Mission Center in eastern Kentucky has died.
Monsignor Ralph Beiting passed away at 1:20 Thursday morning in Ashland, Kentucky. He was 89.
Msgr. Beiting was born and raised in northern Kentucky. He mission to help people in Appalachia help themselves out of poverty began in 1946 when as a seminarian; he accompanied several priests on preaching trips to the mountains of eastern Kentucky.
The oldest of eleven children, Beiting was no stranger to need.
After ordination in 1949, Msgr. Beiting was assigned to work as an assistant pastor in a northern Kentucky parish and as a math teacher at Newport Catholic High School.
Then in 1950, Beiting learned he had been selected to pastor a large portion of east central Kentucky. He was elated despite the fact that there were no churches or rectories in the area.
“I found myself in Appalachia, pastor of a non-existent church in a parish the size of the state of Rhode Island. I thought to myself, ‘This has got to be some mistake.’ If it was, it was the happiest mistake of my life.”
Beiting said he quickly found that for many people the greatest need was not spiritual, but physical. In the early years, he frequently made trips to pick up food, clothing and household goods from his friends and family.
In 1957, he and his associate pastor, Reverend Herman Kamlage bought land on Herrington Lake in Garrard County, Kentucky, to start a summer camp for boys, Cliffview Lodge offered recreation and fellowship in a Christian atmosphere to boys from poor families in the counties where Beiting ministered.
By 1964, his ministry had evolved into the Christian Appalachian Project. CAP, as it’s often known, is interdenominational, non-profit organization that serves Kentucky’s mountain residents.
A warehouse and thrift store in Louisa also bears his name. The center distributes food, clothing and furniture, and provides four thrift stores with low-cost merchandise. In his final years, Beiting worked with the residents of Martin County.
An early collaborator was Father Terence Hoppenjans, who still serves in eastern Kentucky. “When people are in need they ask him for things and he goes out and gets them for them, whether it be a car, or whether it be a refrigerator, whether it be whatever it might be. His generosity is such that he is always concerned about others, not just himself. And that’s one of the things that has impressed me and has encouraged me as well to try to emulate and to try to follow that example,” said Hoppenjans.
Beiting served as the pastor of parishes in Garrard, Rockcastle, Jackson and Madison Counties in Kentucky until 1981.
He was later transferred to parishes in the Big Sandy region where built churches in Water Gap, Louisa and Hode.
During his nearly 50 years in eastern Kentucky, Father Beiting has founded and/or constructed twenty churches.
He served as CAP's president until 1986, and then in September 1999 he resigned as hairman of the Board.
In 2009, when celebrating 60 years as a priest, the Monsignor talked about his legacy. Beiting asked the faithful to continue his work after his death. He said, "We have to be an answer to Appalachia. We can never let the poor go untended.”
Funeral Arrangements for Father Beiting:
*Saturday 8/11 viewing from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. at St. Jude Catholic Church in Louisa
*Sunday 8/12 viewing from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church in Ashland
*Monday 8/13 Mass at 11 a.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church in Ashland
*Monday 8/13 viewing from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Coldsprings, KY.
*Tuesday 8/14 Mass at 11 a.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Coldsprings, KY.
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