By Lindsay Steele
Earlier this month, I was browsing Facebook when a post from Father Bill Hubmann, CPPS, grabbed my attention. In the post, the pastor of St. Mary Parish in Centerville announced the death of 60-year-old parishioner JoAnn McLin, who had served in youth ministry at the parish for nearly 15 years.
The post caught me off guard. While she and I were friends on Facebook, I wasn’t aware of the health challenges that had been plaguing her for the past couple of years.
I didn’t know JoAnn well, given that we lived four hours away from each other, but she inspired me with her joy and enthusiasm.
As regional reporter in a diocese spanning 22 counties, I depend on parish representatives to help me thoughtfully cover events and activities a long distance from diocesan headquarters in Davenport. Reporting on these parishes often means asking parish leaders to send pictures, story ideas and provide sources to contact.
When it came to covering Centerville’s youth ministry events, JoAnn made my job easy. Whether it was taking photos at a parish event or getting comments from Centerville-area students at events such as National Catholic Youth Conference, she was always willing to help.
In my experience, she offered her assistance with a joyful spirit. Whenever we spoke on the phone, I felt like I was talking to a good friend and I could sense her smiling on the other end of the line. When I finally got to see her at a faith formation workshop, she greeted me with a hug and came over to chat during breaks. It was great to see her smile in person, and she smiled often.
It makes me sad that I never got a chance to say goodbye. She knew how much I appreciated her help; I had always been vocal about that. But I hope she knew how much her enthusiastic spirit resonated with me, too. I know I’m not alone in my sentiment. Comments from friends and family on Facebook after her death painted a picture of a woman with a joyful spirit, a love for God and a passion for working with youths.
One woman said of meeting JoAnn, “I knew we would be instant friends.” That comment summed up my experience with JoAnn perfectly.
One of her former youth ministry students posted a picture and said, “I’m forever grateful for the impact you had on my life.”
We never know when our time will come. Maybe it will be expected, as my father’s was. Maybe it will be more sudden, as JoAnn’s was. In my opinion, a life lived joyfully and with a heart for God and others will almost always leave a positive impression on others and inspire them to do the same.
(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)