KENTUCKY – Father Jim Sichko, a priest from the Diocese of Lexington and Papal missionary for Pope Francis, gave away more than $20,000 this week. The money helped coal miners pay their utility bills after the company they worked for, Blackjewel LLC, filed for bankruptcy.
On July 11, Father Sichko announced that coal miners could meet him at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Harlan, Kentucky. If they brought their last check stub, a photo identification, and their utility bill, he’d pay the bill as long as the funds lasted.
Almost two hundred miners and their families lined up outside of Holy Trinity on Monday, July 14. They parked around the church and along the highway.
“I was excited because you know, I’m going to have my electric still on. You know? And, that’s a big deal,” Blackjewel miner Danny Dean told a local news station.
The last coal miner in line received a check that covered his utilities for an entire year.
Father Sichko came from a family of coal miners. His grandfather and uncle both worked for United States Steel at the Robena Mine in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania.
He says he’s thankful to see other organizations and individuals steeping up to help the miners while they continue to wait for a paycheck.
“Everyone is going through difficult times and if you can assist in any way, do it,” Father Sichko said in an interview.
Father Sichko is one of more than a thousand Catholic priests Pope Francis appointed as Missionaries of Mercy during the jubilee year.
Last year, he bought lunch for everyone who visited an In-N-Out in California. He’s topped off people’s gas tanks in Kentucky, and given $100 tips to waiters and baristas.
“My approach is not so much speaking about the word of God, although I do a lot of that, but showing the presence of God through acts of kindness that kind of shock the individual and kind of cause them to, maybe cause them to stop for a little bit,” he said. “Or maybe, which I hope, to again bring kindness to others.”