Evangelists Remind Us of Our Precious Gift of Faith

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by Deacon Mike Whitehead

Bunny Austin, Gerald Govin, Bobbie Harlan, John Munger, Terry Byrnes, Josephine Pupillo, Norma Lenard, Joycelyn Majeste, James Tuma, Sam DeFatta, Cambize Schardar, Maria Steele, Judy Landry, Maudie Baranowski, Agatino DiStefano, Sudie Corbett, Oris Remedies, Regina Rivers, Matilda Yamin, Ruth Driver, Charles Kammer, Mary Ann Simms, Jaye Byrd, Lelia Hill, Peggy Harky, Patsy Blanchard, Marilyn Lang
Perhaps you know one or more people on this list. Perhaps not. But every one of them has helped me improve my faith life. All of them reside at The Oaks of Louisiana and I have the  privilege of bringing them communion most Monday mornings.

If you asked them individually, they would never call themselves evangelists. But they are true evangelists, true witnesses to the good news of our Catholic faith. Over the time I’ve been going to The Oaks, these women and men have inspired me and guided me. Mostly, they have reminded me of what it means to be a disciple of Christ and what a precious gift that is for all of us.

We begin our Monday at The Oaks with Mass at 9:30 a.m. Not all of our Catholic brothers and sisters are physically able to attend Mass, but we do have a faithful and faith-filled group that regularly come to the beautiful chapel.

John Munger is among them. For years, Mr. John has come early to set up for Mass. You always can count on Mr. John. Even if he’s not feeling his best, he’s there, and his sense of humor is always front and center. You could say he’s been the cornerstone to make sure everything is ready to go for the priest celebrating that morning. Lately, Terry Byrnes has been helping, as well. In fact, Terry is so excited, he arrives before all of us and gets things going. Mr. John, Mr. Terry and all our regular attendees live their faith, and you can see that in the sacred moments of our worshiping together.

Every week, Mr. Schardar wheels in on his motorized scooter, and every week we begin with the same greeting. I ask Mr. Schardar if he had a good weekend, and Mr. Schardar always describes his weekend in one word, “fabulous.” Now, I’ve had a fabulous weekend every-now-and-then, but not every weekend. But Mr. Schardar always has a great attitude, and that wonderful spirit always gives me a lift every Monday morning.

There is someone who comes every week, but doesn’t live at The Oaks –– Kenneth Richard. He’s been coming to The Oaks since 1989, the year his parents moved into the facility. In 1994, Kenneth lost his dad, then in 1995, his mom passed away. But Kenneth didn’t stop coming. He comes to Mass every Monday, and after Mass, he serves donuts, bananas and candy for everyone. Since the mid-1990s, he’s brought around 15,000 donuts and 50,000 bananas. He does this as a labor of love for the residents at The Oaks.

For those who are not physically able to attend Mass, I make my rounds to bring communion. It is an honor to be with these women and men and bring them Eucharist. This certainly is not about me.

My first two stops on my rounds are Mrs. Simms and Mrs. Hill. They are indeed the face of Christ to me, as is everyone I visit. They so embrace Eucharist and understand on a deep level what a cherished sacrament we have.

Everyone I see loves to pray with me, and no matter their physical or mental capabilities, they know their Catholic prayers. Mrs. Pupillo is particularly inspiring because she prays in Italian. I don’t speak Italian, but her prayers speak to me in a profound way.

When I leave The Oaks, I am so excited to tackle my week. The women and men at The Oaks remind me that God is indeed good all the time. After all, that’s what evangelists do.

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