By Celine Klosterman
WELLMAN — Members of St. Joseph Parish want to make sure parishioners who can’t get to church still know they are part of the Catholic community.
This winter, the parish’s Altar & Rosary Society began inviting Catholics to visit homebound parishioners to chat, pray, share food and “let them know we’ve missed seeing them at Mass,” parishioner Pat Schmida said.
“These people have given so much to our church in years past, and we need to show them we still appreciate and care about them,” said Leslie Slaubaugh, president of the Altar & Rosary Society.
Several parishioners, usually in pairs, take turns signing up to visit seniors whose health keeps them from getting to church activities. The visitors often show up with a few containers of homemade soup.
Catholics were inspired to start the ministry after receiving heartfelt thank-you notes from seniors who receive Valentine gift baskets from parishioners annually. “We thought, ‘We have to do this more than once a year,’” Slaubaugh said. So parishioners proposed a Lenten outreach effort. “Then we thought, ‘Why just during Lent?’ It could be year-round.”
Madonna Droz is among seniors who hope the visitors keep coming. A St. Joseph parishioner since the early 1950s, she served as church organist and taught organ lessons for years. But as her eyesight deteriorated, “I’d gradually give up this and that,” she said.
So she was pleasantly surprised to get a phone call saying Slaubaugh and parishioner Jody Heifner wanted to come for a visit. “It’s really nice when people think of other people,” Droz said.
Marie Brennaman of St. Joseph Parish agrees. Since 1947, she has belonged to the Wellman parish, where she was an Altar & Rosary Society officer and, with her husband Harold, helped build the existing church in the early 1960s. But in 2006, she broke her hip, and didn’t make it to church during this winter’s cold snap. “It’s hard” to be away, she said.
She has appreciated receiving Communion from members of Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond, but was glad to see members of her own parish when Leslie and Doug Slaubaugh stopped by Brennaman’s home March 8. “They brought four containers of soup, which I was very appreciative of.”
Sandra Wilson said she and her husband Louis, who are homebound, were grateful for a visit a couple weeks ago from Schmida and Shirley Bohr. “I loved it…. We talked about a little of everything. They’re very nice.”
A member of St. Joseph’s for 14 years, Wilson said, “I think this ministry is really needed.”
“This is what Jesus wants us to do,” Slaubaugh said. “I’ve been a member of St. Joe’s for 47 years now, and I think one day, maybe not too far down the road, that could be me” who can’t get to church.
“This is a little something to give back to these people who’ve given to our parish,” Schmida said.