News Column

Sichko: St. Mark ?Friends' a ministry to artists as well as fundraiser

May 27, 2014

By Bill Robinson, Richmond Register, Ky.



May 27--RICHMOND -- Country Music Hall of Famer Dolly Parton will perform tonight in the EKU Center for the Arts, the latest in the St. Mark Catholic Parish's "Evening Among Friends" series.

But don't try to buy tickets. The concert, Parton's second in the series, has been sold out for months, and hundreds of people are on the waiting list.

About half of the concert's 2,000 tickets were sold to out-of-state patrons.

Don't lose heart, however. Father James Sichko, St. Mark pastor, said another female country music legend will be coming to Richmond on Oct. 12 for the next "Evening Among Friends" event.

Her identity will be announced at the conclusion of tonight's concert.

Why would a performer such as Parton come to a venue as small as Richmond, twice?

She's not the only repeat performer in the series. Harry Connick Jr. and Natalie Cole also have come for encore concerts.

Big-name performers often do benefits to help with an organization's ministry, but Sichko said he believes artists' desire to boost the church's ministry, including its school, is re-enforced by how church members minister to them.

Every member of a performer's entourage, Parton has 55, finds in their hotel rooms a personalized gift bag and note from members of St. Mark Church. And food served to them doesn't come from a commercial caterer. It is home-cooked by church members, Sichko said.

As Parton was leaving after her first Richmond performance in October 2008, Sichko handed her a homemade hummingbird cake she enthusiastically carried onto her bus to share with her crew.

After Cole suffered serious medical issues with an organ transplant after her first performance in Richmond, St. Mark parishioners prayed earnestly for her recovery, the priest said. And her return visit was a way to thank them.

St. Mark handled tickets sales for Parton's concert, in part so it could learn about the purchasers, and Sichko shared several anecdotes.

One woman from Georgia said she and her husband were celebrating their 22nd anniversary and both are Parton fans. Her husband would "leave me in minute," she said, "if Dolly would marry him."

A woman from Ohio said a broken hip prevented her from attending Parton's 2008 concert in Richmond but she was coming tonight even if carried on a stretcher.

A dying man from Maryland had attending a Parton performance on his bucket list, and one of his children is bringing him to tonight's concert.

A 911 dispatcher from Ohio said she was comforted to hear Parton's "Butterfly" song on the radio several years ago when she received news of her mother's death. She's wanted to hear her in person since then, and tonight's concert was her first opportunity.

A sweepstakes is being conducted in conjunction with tonight's performance, and the winner will receive tickets and transportation to attend Parton's concert in London, England, later this year.

For Sichko and St. Mark, tonight's concert is the second celebrity guest in two days.

They hosted a reception for southern cooking personality Paula Deen on Monday night in Lexington.

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(c)2014 the Richmond Register (Richmond, Ky.)

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Source: Richmond Register (KY)