This past Thursday night, January 30, 2014, I was privileged to witness the Holy Spirit at work right in my little country parish of St. Mary’s in Pylesville, MD. But before I tell you how, here is the beginning of the story…
I have been a part of St. Mary’s for a little over ten years. My husband, Gary, and I arrived when he was assigned there after his ordination to the deaconate. Our home parish was very different than St. Mary’s, large and more suburban, thousands of families vs. hundreds, modern in architecture vs. an original stone church with wooden pews and a choir loft… a big change. With this move, I decided to change my “church self” too.
At our home parish, I had been very active in ministry, trying to find my place in God’s world. I found out a lot about myself and the Church there. Mostly wonderful discoveries, but also disappointments. This little exchange with my mother-in-law, Rita, will explain it.
Rita, had been a lifelong staff member of many parishes, usually managing the parish office. When I began my own venture into volunteering at church, it was SO exciting! To be around people who love God, to be in that atmosphere all the time was what I wanted.
Well, about six months into my volunteer work on the Parish Council, I called Rita. “Mom, I thought that working at the church, everyone would be nice! I am so disappointed.” Rita, with her characteristic kindness and wisdom, said “People who work at churches are just people, just keep doing what you are called to do.” So I did.
By the time Gary was ordained, I was ready for a break. I was finishing up my Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling, working full-time and raising 4 children. So I decided that I would remain in the background at St. Mary’s, sitting in the back of the church, actually enjoying the anonymity and alone time with God. Little by little people would figure out who I was, the deacon’s wife. But I kept a low profile for about 3 years. My promise to God was that if he asked me to do something specific I would.
It only took two weeks before Father Kunkel asked to speak with me after Mass.
The request was to attend the Adult Education committee meetings, which I did. My yearning to be involved again was sparked. So began the next phase of my journey, doing women’s groups, working with the Youth Ministry at Catholic Heart Work Camp, pitching in at the bi-annual chicken dinners and so on.
Then last April, I saw that a ministry that had been close to my heart for ten years, ChristLife, was holding its annual training. Hmm, maybe I should look into that, I thought.
The birth of this evangelization ministry took place with some of the parishioners at my beloved childhood parish and school, St. Louis in Clarksville, MD. I had known one of its founders since childhood, attending elementary and middle school with his daughter and then later in life reconnecting with her at Loyola where we both received our training in Pastoral Counseling. It had been tugging at my heart for 10 years. Maybe now was the time.
But with a private practice to handle and the addition of many grandchildren that I wanted time to enjoy, would I have the time? I thought, “I’ll ask Gary, that will decide it.” Somewhere in my heart I was torn between him wanting to say “yes” and wanting him to say “no”. I figured my chances were good that he would say no because he was so busy himself. Well I bet you know what happened, he was glad to attend the training with me and get involved. Uh..oh.
So there I was, all trained up and excited, a little worried about how to or if I could handle the challenge and ready to present the idea to our Parish Council. Here was my “out”… I had been willing, now I would be let off the hook of fear that was setting in. Parish Councils are notorious for shooting down new ideas…God bless them. Well again, I bet you know what happened. The Parish Council president was elated, “This is what we have been praying for!” “Really?!” I thought to myself. Uh..oh. The 25 minute drive home was a mixture of anxiety and excitement.
So here we are in February of 2014, 10 months after that National Training for ChristLife. We had a pilot program for which 20 people volunteered their time and talent in September. They also had to put up with my inundating their email with news and changes and the meetings that took their personal time. Their spouses and families sacrificed having them present while they took on the joy of ministry.
Months of bulletin and pulpit announcements, Father Kunkel “advertising” after Mass, hospitality Sunday presence and tables at the numerous other parish events were a holy barrage of invitations to Discovering Christ. “Join us, join us!”, we sang in every way possible. We hoped some people would show up…maybe a dozen or so.
Last Thursday, 85 people listened to the call. Not of us, the team. Not of the bulletin or pulpit pleas. But the call of Christ in their hearts…their hearts were burning within them.
So, I got used. I got used by God to bring a simple message about a way to evangelize, a way for people to have a deep relationship with our Lord.
And I have never been happier about being used in my life! Praise God for his power over my doubt and fear. For his taking over and running the show! AMEN.
When you feel the rustlings, when you feel the urge to give, listen. It is God calling you.