102-year-old sees importance of faith, connection to parish

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org

Every morning when she rises, Lucille Seper does her exercises. But it's not the push-up or jumping-jacks variety. Instead, Seper is going for spiritual exercises — armed with a rosary, her list of prayer intentions in hand.

"That's the first order of business is to say my Rosary," she said. "Before I ever have my breakfast."

The 102-year-old has lived at Garden Villas South for the last six years, but in her heart, home is St. Mary Magdalen Parish in south St. Louis, where she's been a parishioner for 60 years, raising her four children there. She maintains a strong relationship with her parish, thanks to St. Mary Magdalen's longtime senior ministry.

"I know I belong there, and whenever they have something they invite me," Seper said. "I feel like that's my home."

Seper volunteers once a week at Garden Villas South as an ambassador at the front desk, welcoming visitors to the assisted living facility. She and her "baby" sister, 94-year-old Ann Beye, also a Garden Villas resident on the independent living side, serve as lectors at Mass there on Sundays.

As part of St. Mary Magdalen's senior ministry, Seper has received visits from the staff, including pastor Msgr. John Borcic, Kenrick-Glennon seminarian Nick Ashmore and Marilyn Muegge, minister to senior parishioners. They have brought her Communion and administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Seper also regularly receives the parish bulletin, an important communication lifeline. Other special touches include care packages at birthdays and holidays.

"Every time there's a holiday, I get a gift from Mary Magdalen," she said with a laugh.

Seper celebrated her birthday on Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of Mary. "It's always been a big deal for me," she said. "I feel like it was special to be born on her birthday." Her 102nd birthday was a low-key celebration, having a steak at Biggie's restaurant with family. She's also an avid Cardinals' fan, and took a limo to the game last year for a previous birthday.

Muegge, who was hired in January as minister to senior parishioners, maintains contact with about 50 parishioners who are homebound or are in nursing homes or the hospital.

"They are our prayer warriors," she said. "They are our history. They have been the super volunteers of the past in our parish. The least we can do is visit and keep them connected."

The ministry is important as the south St. Louis area where St. Mary Magdalen sits has an aging population; additionally, the parish school closed 11 years ago.

"We really try to concentrate as best we can on those people who are pillars of the parish, who had children in school here," Msgr. Borcic said, "who gave their time talent and treasure to the parish. We owe this to them. We owe them the time and effort we bring to be with them, to care for them, to maintain contact with their families, to bring them the sacraments, and to invite them to come back to different events that we have at the parish." 

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