By Fr. Tom Hurley
Sunday, March 12, 2017
At the forefront of our Pastoral Care Ministry for Old St. Patrick’s is the gift of Bernadette Gibson. Having been on our team for the past several years, Bern has taken our pastoral care outreach to a whole new level. Surrounded by a team of members every first Tuesday of the month (and this has been happening for a long time now), this incredible group of Old St. Pat’s faithful gather to sign cards and pray for the hundreds of people who are sick or struggling and have requested our spiritual help. They are a wonderfully dedicated group of men and women, under the leadership of Bernadette, who have made a deep and abiding commitment to be in solidarity with those are finding life challenging. Besides this special prayer ministry, the amount of hospital visits, home visits, phone calls, and funerals that Bernadette coordinates and plans are far too numerous to mention. This past Wednesday is one more example you should know about.
Several days ago, Bernadette received a call from a local funeral home asking if Old St. Pat’s could handle a funeral for an elderly woman who died alone. The woman used to attend daily mass at another local church but unfortunately the funeral director was informed that this particular parish was not able to do the funeral. So, could we do it? The unique, and sad, part of this story is that the woman had no known family or friends. She was appointed a guardian from the Public Guardian’s office who was taking care of her final arrangements. Having lived in a nursing home on the north side of the city, the woman’s last wish was that she be given a Catholic funeral mass and be buried at St. Adalbert’s Cemetery in Niles. We were informed that the only people who to be in attendance at her funeral would be the public guardian and the funeral director.
On Wednesday of this past week, we celebrated the life of Evelene Wojdak. She was 92 years old and to our knowledge had never been married and there were no known relatives. In my 23 years of being a priest, I don’t recall ever having a funeral with basically no one in attendance. To say the whole situation was sad is an understatement.
Thankfully, however, the good people of Old St. Pat’s responded. We appealed to our staff, to our friends at Frances Xavier Warde School, and David Philippart our liturgy director sent out an email to our liturgical ministers for folks to attend Evelene’s funeral mass. In the middle of the week, in the middle of the work day, about 70 generous souls from Old St. Pat’s made their way to this church to honor and reverence the life of a woman none of us had ever met before. Complete with beautiful music, flowers (donated by Ellen Ryan), and a noble ritual, we prayed that Evelene, who spent her final days on her own in this world, would be spoiled rotten with the host of angels and saints offering her a hearty welcome and nonstop companionship in the Halls of Heaven! May it be so!
The Grace of the moment continues. Again, thanks to the investigative work of Chuck Brown (member of OSP), he was able to find more information about Evelene which helped us know a little more about this child of God. She was the daughter of Angeline and Frank Wojdak and the youngest sister to Edwin, Hank, and Helen. Just before the funeral mass for Evelene began, into Old St. Patrick’s walked a niece of Evelene who heard about her aunt’s passing only two hours prior! Because of a family squabble, she had not seen her aunt since 1974!
My point in sharing this with you to simply say “thanks” to the great people of Old St. Pat’s who were able to carve out time from your busy lives to honor Evelene Wojdak. Pray for her, please. May she be at Peace and may she be surrounded by family and friends.
Finally, HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY! Thanks to all who are coming to this extraordinary shrine of Patrick to celebrate our patron today and throughout the week. We are honored you are here! And thanks to all the great people of Old St. Pat’s for your continued generosity in helping us maintain and preserve this incredible sanctuary built by immigrant people over a century and a half ago!
Blessings to all of you!
Father Tom Hurley