By Celine Klosterman
NEWTON — In March 2009, Amy Prime suffered a life-threatening tear in the lining of an artery to her heart while she was 37 weeks pregnant. She underwent emergency open-heart surgery and an emergency C-section, then returned home to recover — while also caring for five children under age 8. “We had our hands full,” she said of herself and her husband, Wayne.
With little energy left for cooking, Prime got a helping hand from her parish of Sacred Heart in Newton. Volunteers in the parish’s Meals Ministry regularly brought dinners that were “more than enough” for her family of seven and saved her time and money, she said. “It was so humbling to have friends and strangers come into my home to help me provide for my family when I wasn’t as able to … They made sure that the meals kept coming until I felt recovered and ready to take over for myself. I’m reminded of the kindness of these people every time I see them at Mass, and I continue to be so grateful!”
The longtime ministry continues to benefit parishioners in need — often Catholics caring for a newborn baby, grieving a lost loved one or suffering an illness. About 80 volunteers occasionally buy ingredients and cook meals for the outreach effort, which assists about seven people a month, said Claudia Bollhoefer. She has coordinated the Meals Ministry since May.
“It just really pulls the church community together,” said Cindy Buchmeier, who retired in 2009 from coordinating the ministry for about eight years. Parishioners can take pride in knowing they helped someone, she added. “It was a very rewarding experience.”
She and Bollhoefer voiced thanks for the ministry’s volunteers. “I really appreciate them,” Bollhoefer said.
Nicole Biondi is grateful, too. Parishioners brought her several meals while she was on bed rest and pregnant with her third child, Giada, who was born in January.
Her 5-year-old daughter was suffering from the H1N1 flu, and her husband, Jeremy, was working 12-hour days, so the meals “helped out immensely,” she said. “When my husband got home, he could spend time with our kids instead of cooking.”
Biondi also said she appreciated volunteers’ friendliness and the prayers parishioners offered for her.
For the family of Tammy Norcross, receiving meals was “financially, emotionally and spiritually” helpful as her husband, Larry, was losing his battle against brain tumors last year, she said.
“Trying to juggle work, the needs of our four children, and a sick husband was very challenging,” said Norcross, pastoral minister and director of faith formation at Sacred Heart. “Having a hot dinner delivered to our home gave me one less thing to worry about. When people came with food, we knew that people cared for us and that we were not alone in our pain and struggles.
“Larry and I were humbled to be on the receiving end of such generosity and compassion. We often told our kids that we hoped they’d never forget it and that when they are able, they, too, will reach out to others.”
Larry died June 27, 2009. But his family is keeping the generosity it received alive. This spring, Norcross was preparing food to take to a new mom when her son Logan, 12, asked what she was doing. She explained, and he responded, “Oh, like people did for us.”
“That’s what the meals ministry is about,” Norcross said. “Sharing Christ’s love and care.”