Award winners credit their community, God
For Geraldine Adams, her parish is important because of "the community of people and the God we serve. It's really that simple," she explained.
St. Theodore is a small but fast-growing parish in far northwest St. Charles County and southern Lincoln County "with such a dedicated community of people. ... We inspire each other to do more. It's not for ourselves," Adams said. Instead, it relates to "a strange pulling from God to serve Him in certain ways."
When parishioners see "a strong community of people behind you ... all doing service to God, it encourages you to do more," she said.
Adams is one of 54 women chosen for the 15th Annual Archdiocesan Women's Recognition Awards sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Laity and Family Life Sunday, Aug. 12. (See the full list of honrees on Pages 6 and 7.)
The awards feature one of 12 categories each year and encourage every parish to nominate a woman each year to receive the recognition. The category of unconditional commitment, with biblical Ruth as the model, recognizes a woman who has answered God's call to dedicate herself to the care of another, a woman who continually places the needs of someone else before her own.
Adams, in a recommendation for the award, was referred to as compassionate and passionate about her love for Christ and her expression of that love in words and action. Adams has served for many years as president and a volunteer with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. She also has been a member of the choir and coordinated the teen youth group and served on the liturgy committee at the parish. She visits homebound and sick parishioners and works on other projects at the parish.
"You can see so many ways to serve God, and St. Vincent de Paul is certainly a good way to do that," Adams said. "So many other people in the parish certainly deserve this award ... I happen to have been chosen this time, and it's wonderful."
Glenda Hardin-Miller of St. Nicholas Parish in north St. Louis is another model of unconditional commitment. A member of the parish council and finance committee, she does liturgical ministries such as hospitality, eucharistic and lector ministries. But she also volunteers full time as business manager of the parish's preschool.
Hardin-Miller explained that when she was working she didn't have much time but volunteered when she could for the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and in other areas. She came to St. Nicholas because it was her father's parish. Eventually she became involved.
When she retired for the second time she considered what she would do with her time and talked to her pastor. He suggested she help in the business office since her background was in accounting at the preschool.
"I may not be able to give a lot of money, but I can give my time," Hardin-Miller said. "I believe in that, and I teach my children about giving of time, if not money."
She noted that most people would agree if they look at the situation logically. "Somebody has to step up. We talk about what somebody else can do. But what can I do? That's how I feel, if I can, I will do it. "
The preschool, she noted is a good place to volunteer because it is such an important ministry. "It gets the children prepared for the next level. In today's world, children just can't leave home and go to kindergarten. They need to have something else before they go from home to school. And St. Nicholas is really good at it."
Delfina Zavala is the music minister at St. Cecilia Parish for both the English and Spanish Masses. Her volunteerism goes far beyond this, with a commitment to the Latino community in St. Louis. She acts as an advocate, translator, mentor and good neighbor to all. Sh also is involved in ACTS retreats in Spanish for men and women.
Zavala noted that her grandparents came from Mexico, and she was taught her about her religion. Also, she learned from other generations that "it's very important to help others. They never said no to whatever gift they could give. My mother and grandmother would do rosaries, and whenever they were asked they would go. That was their gift to give from God. So I do the same thing."
Her gift is her music -- she plays guitar and is a choir director -- "but I also have the gift of being from two cultures," Zavala said. "I become a bridge to both."
Being bilingual and bicultural, she said, "I know the potential of Hispanics and (other) Americans. Together, both are wonderful. We can take the best of both worlds. God is limitless. Why should there be a boundary between two cultures?"
Jan McArthur of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in St. Charles has been a catechist in the Parish School of Religion and involved in the youth group, leading groups to World Youth Day in Denver along with other chaperons. She also was involved in the Tough Love program for children and the RENEW program.
She pursued a master's degree in theology at St. Mary's University in South Bend, Ind., and is pastoral associate. She leads the RCIA program at the parish.
"My parish is like an extended family to me," she said. "They're a group of people who work together for the good of all. There's so many people who silently do a lot of work. Anytime you ask anyone to do anything, they always say yes. I recognize the gifts, and they use them."
The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults "is my love," McArthur said. Last year the parish had seven adults and seven children in the program, a good number for its size. McArthur cited the parish pastor, Father Pat Ryan, who often inquires about people who aren't a part of the Church and invites them to consider taking part in the program.
Once people go through the program, McArthur said, she ensures that they become involved as lectors, choir members, school board members, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist or in other roles. "We make sure they become a part of the community."
Each of the recipients of the award has shown similar commitment. Some, like Lisa Arends of St. Justin the Martyr Parish in Sunset Hills, are heavily involved in school organizations as well as the parish while raising families.
Others, such as Melba Peters of St. Francis Borgia Parish in Washington, persevere despite struggles. At a young age, Peters' mother was diagnosed with cancer, leaving her to care for her siblings. Peters' daughter was diagnosed with cancer and Peters herself has had two bouts with cancer.
In the midst of treatments, Peters, a nurse, continued to check in on the parish priest, parishioners and relatives, especially those with various health issues. She is called "an extraordinary person of care and love," one who has helped so many in the parish and community in their hour of need.
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