He found his love for the mountains in 1945 and never left until, in the early morning hours, Thursday, Father Ralph Beiting died.
Father Ralph Beiting, 88, of Louisa, died of heart related illness at 1:10 a.m. in Kings Daughters Medical Center ICU. Beiting had been the priest in charge of St Jude Catholic Church, in Louisa.
Following the conclusion of World War II, Father Ralph Beiting came to Eastern Kentucky as a Seminarian serving with Father Joe Wimmers in Paintsville. “That’s when he got his first taste of the mountains, and his first love,” said Father Terrance Hoppenjans of St. Michaels in Paintsville, and longtime friend of Beiting. Beiting spent his time early on in Paintsville working on the newly purchased Our Lady of the Mountains school.
Father Ralph Beiting didn’t want to come to Appalachia in the beginning, citing ties to Northern Kentucky. But after being forced to take up station in the mountains for that summer, he fell in love, and never left.
“I saw things that summer that I had never realized were possible,” Beiting said during an interview with NPR’s Storycorps. “I found out that there was another America … the America of Appalachia. I found poverty that I have never seen, even in the Great Depression, and I saw prejudice from one church against another, that had never recognized or seen before.”
Beiting once commented that following a visit to a families home, and seeing a newborn baby kept in a wire cage to protect it from rats, “I began to understand something of poverty.”
In the 1950s, Beiting started a fully-integrated summer camp for boys. Emerging from that camp, and through the ministry of Father Beiting, the Christan Appalachian Project (CAP), an interdenominational, non-profit organization was up and running by 1964.
“For more than 50 years, Rev. Beiting was a light in the darkness for untold thousands of Appalachian folks in need, in Floyd County and throughout Eastern Kentucky,” said Guy Adams with CAP. “He shared God’s love with everyone he met; every day he lived his life to serve, encourage, and lift up others. The extent of his impact cannot be measured.”
Father Beiting’s name also appears on a warehouse and thrift store in Louisa which distributes food, clothing and furniture while also providing four thrift stores with low-cost merchandise.
“He was very dedicated priest to his ministry, not only in serving God, but in serving Gods people here in Appalachia,” said Father Bob Damron of St. Martha’s who said that he was a deacon for Father Beiting at St. Martha’s during the eighties.
Father Beiting had served Eastern Kentucky for more than 60 years and in that time had founded twenty churches, including one in Floyd County. In 1984 Father Beiting helped consolidate two catholic churches, St Theodore in Prestonsburg and St. Julian’s in Martin, to found and establish St. Martha’s. Father Beiting served as pastor at St. Martha’s for two years after its founding.
Father Beiting also was a founder of the Mountain Christian Academy school in Martin, and sat on the board for many years.
Sister Judy Yunker, of the Mount Tabor Benedictine Sisters said that Father Beiting was instrumental in helping the group locate, layout and design the monastery on the mountain.
Sister Kathleen Weigand of St. Vincent’s Mission is oft reported to quote Father Beiting, who said, “Never deny a person an opportunity to be generous.”
“Wherever there was a need that was not being filled, he wanted to do something about it,” said Father Hoppenjans.
Father Beiting was born Jan. 1, 1924, in Newport. He was the eldest of 11 children — seven boys and four girls. In 1941, he entered St. Gregory Seminary, in Mt. Washington, Ohio. After four years there, he was sent to St. Mary’s of the West, Cincinnati’s major theological seminary.
Funeral arrangements include:
• A viewing at St. Jude Catholic Church, in Louisa, from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturday.
• A viewing at Family Catholic Church, in Ashland, from 4 to 9 p.m., Sunday.
• A mass at Family Catholic Church, in Ashland, at 11 a.m., Monday.
• A viewing at St. Joseph Catholic Church, in Cold Springs, from 4 to 9 p.m., Monday.
• A mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church, in Cold Springs, at 11 a.m., Monday.