Parish volunteers serve aging population

When Frank Faecke retired a few years ago, he told his wife, Julie, that he wanted them to join a parish ministry at St. Irenaeus Church in Cypress, in the Diocese of Orange, Calif.  

Julie Faecke hesitated.  

“I was never a lay minister,” she said, but she agreed and discovered how much it enriched her life.  

“When you are doing this work, you get more than what you put in,” she said. 

Counting blessings

Frank and Julie, 65 and 64, are among the countless parish volunteers who work with the elderly across the country. 

“We have 5,500 families in our parish and some in the population are getting tired, weak and frail,” said Sister Rita O’Connell, director of St. Irenaeus’ Health Ministry. “We really have an aging population, and the volunteers are wonderful and faithful in their ministries to them.” 

The parish’s ministries are enthusiastically supported by the pastor, Father Patrick Moses, and associate pastors Father Daniel Reader and Father Ven Amidar.  

About 50 volunteers run errands, provide transportation or respite, make friendly visits and serve as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion. 

“Going to see these people is like going into a holy place because they are very close to the Lord and with the Church,” Frank Faecke said. 

The Faeckes serve a diverse range of elderly people.  

One woman is blind, another is on oxygen and a husband and wife are in their 90s. Yet they count their blessings — being able to bowl in a special program, do parish fundraisers by phone and visit with loved ones. 

“None of them are complainers,” he said. “It’s amazing how they carry their crosses and keep the faith despite all their trials and challenges. It brightens our day to take Communion to them.” 

Door to door

Rosemary Schneider has been doing parish ministries for decades and, as a member of the Legion of Mary, she goes door to door passing out rosaries and information about the Catholic faith.  

Rosemary Schneider volunteers through the Legion of Mary. Courtesy photo

She facilitates discussion groups and makes funeral visits, and at one time took weekly Communion to four homebound parishioners. With all her other duties, she’s down to one weekly Eucharistic visit. 

“Sometimes when I’m driving, I think, ‘I have the Lord with me,’ and I wonder if people driving next to me would know,” she said. 

Schneider feels enriched by reading Scriptures and praying with the homebound before Communion. 

“It makes me thankful, too, for my health,” she said. “I am 80 and I am the one who, when you can’t come to church, I am bringing Jesus to you. That definitely deepens my faith.” 

Gail Simpson, 57, is in the parish’s Love Thy Neighbor ministry and helps families facing illnesses, funerals and other life challenges.  

Many of the family members Simpson cares for are elderly. 

“I’m a licensed clinical social worker and my job involves a lot of giving,” she said. “But the giving that comes from volunteering is different. We are God’s hands and feet here on earth, so it feels good to share and give back. It’s a terrific way to live our faith.” 

One day at a time

Rosemary Nuss is an 82-year-old extraordinary minister of holy Communion who volunteers at care centers. 

“The elderly are appreciative and it warms your heart to know you are helping them,” she said. “What do I learn from them? To take one day at a time and to trust in God and know that he is always there for us. Their faith means so much to them and it gives them hope that God will be with them and protect them in their hour of need. It gives me great joy knowing that in some small way, I can bring them some peace. That gives me the warm fuzzies.” 

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.

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