Blessed Are You

Feb. 26-March 3,04
VOL 123 NO. 8
Blessed Are You
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

The Dalai Lama

There are currently 64,223,000 women working outside the home in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Vital Statistics. Many of these women who juggle families and a career, find it difficult to schedule extra-curricular activities into their day. Some, however, find ways to prioritize their responsibilities and find time to give to others. Their strong faith and belief in goodwill not only fulfills them spiritually but also teaches them life lessons they would not learn in the work world. Here are a few committed women of faith who have discovered that when they share themselves with others, the gifts they receive are returned a hundred-fold.

Sister Ann Kendrick, SND

Sister Ann Kendrick, a Syracuse native, began her career following in her father’s footsteps and entered the field of education. After attending Salem Elementary School and Lincoln Junior High School, where her father was principal, she graduated from Nottingham High School. Sister Ann earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. and a master’s degree in Latin American Literature from the University of Maryland. Upon graduation from Trinity College, Sister Ann joined the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and spent the next five or six years teaching and working in Spanish communities. “I liked working in Spanish communities and was looking to get out of formal education and find a way to help the Latino population,” said Sister Ann. “A new diocese was being formed in Orlando. The bishop wanted to create an outreach program for the migrant workers.” The bishop contacted the Sisters of Notre Dame and asked if they had any personnel who could be sent to Florida to begin the program. “I first thought, ‘Not this Syracuse girl.’ I didn’t think I would like Florida or living in a rural area,” said Sister Ann. “But I re-thought it and decided I could do anything for a year. I signed up and thought I would help get it going and then return to the Northeast. That was 32 years ago.”

Since then, Sister Ann and the Farm Worker Ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Orlando have worked tirelessly to improve the lifestyle of the migrant workers in Florida. First on the agenda was forming a health clinic to respond to the needs of the migrant community. “These people didn’t have access to doctors,” said Sister Ann. “The heath issues were what you would see in third world countries.” Through the work of the ministry, the program is now one of the major forms of health care in Central Florida and has six standing clinics that provide primary health care to low-income people. After the successful completion of the health care program, the ministry expanded and created “Homes in Partnership,” a program that builds housing for impoverished people. The ministry has also established a credit union for low-income people. “It’s an alternative to predatory banking,” said Sister Ann. “Those banks don’t want you with your $100. By starting a credit union, the workers can save money and get credit by an alternative method to big business banks. We put about $300,000 of loans each month on the books for people who wouldn’t get in the door of a commercial bank,” she said.

On the spiritual side, the ministry reaches out to youth and families in the area and offers parenting classes, counseling, tutoring, mentoring, and enrichment programs for kids. “Our goal is to get them life exposure,” said Sister Ann. “We help them develop leadership skills in order to gain confidence in themselves. Poverty and racism continue to damage people so that they feel unworthy. They feel responsible for their own victimization. We help work against that.” Sister Ann said that the people in her community are very spiritual. “They believe in God’s goodness, despite the fact that their lives are pretty grim,” she said. The most challenging aspect of her work is that families are worse off and more vulnerable today than they were 32 years ago, said Sister Ann. “The cost of living has sky-rocketed. Materialism is invading them and the individualism of the North American culture is destroying them. They learn to worship the god of super Wal-Mart like everyone else.”

Sister Ann said that the migrant workers thought they were coming to a better life in America, but few of them actually realized it. However, she will continue to work toward improving their lives and helping them grow spiritually. Sister Ann said that there are many aspects of her job that are very fulfilling. “It’s the relationships with the people,” she said. “When a kid or a family grabs hold of the help available and their lives are transformed — that’s very gratifying. It’s rewarding when their own sense of grandeur, grace, dignity and value as a culture gets rekindled. The human relationships are the most fulfilling,” said Sister Ann. For more information or to send a donation, contact Sister Ann Kendrick, 815 South Park Ave., Apopka, Fla. 32703 or visit her website at annksnd@aol.com.

Jennifer Hill

Jennifer Hill is a leader in both her spiritual life and business life. As president of the parish council at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Baldwins-ville, she acts as representative and mediator for more than 6,000 parish members. As executive director of Oswego County Chamber of Commerce, Hill works with area businesses and fosters communication, growth and revitalization of the area and its economy. Hill is up to the tasks. With a bachelor’s degree from Le Moyne College and a comprehensive list of work credentials that includes supervision, insurance and brokerage experience, marketing and accounting skills, Hill easily meets the challenges of both positions. Her organizational skills as well as her ability to prioritize allow her to fulfill her roles at church, office and home. “I felt that this job would allow me to utilize all the different skills I have acquired throughout the years. I was drawn to the opportunity to work with so many people from so many different backgrounds and professions,” said Hill.

Hill’s ability to balance work, family and service to her parish was taught to her by her mother. Hill’s mother is Deborah Stanley, president of SUNY Oswego. “My mother started college and then law school when I was a child,” said Hill. “I saw how happy she was -–– going to school while working and raising a family. Being raised in a two-career family showed me that it could be done.” Hill said that her belief in God’s plan for her allows her to prioritize her responsibilities to her family, herself, her work and her community. “If I do that, then the rest will follow whatever God’s plan for me is. It is these truths that give me the ability to juggle everyday life.”

Hill said that she wouldn’t be able to be active in parish work and work full time in a demanding position if it weren’t for the support of her husband. “It’s not that my family and job aren’t important,” said Hill. “But I do parish work to please myself, so I don’t lose sense of myself.” Hill said in addition to a supportive husband, she has many friends who help care for her children. Hill said her job as executive director of Oswego County Chamber of Commerce has many facets to it. She meets many people and learns about their businesses, both large and small. Hill talked passionately about the challenges she faces working with business owners in Oswego and helping them set a plan in place to grow and expand. She also wants to keep area business professionals happy so that they won’t leave the area. Of all the aspects of her job, Hill most enjoys meeting people.

That outgoing personality serves her well in her role at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Parishioners feel comfortable bringing their questions and concerns to her that she, in turn, passes on to the pastor. “Parishioners want to feel they are being heard,” said Hill. Hill works closely with Father John Wagner to keep the parish running smoothly. “Father Wagner’s commitment to the parishioners and his spirituality are unrivaled,” said Hill. “When it comes to the way he ministers to us and the premium he puts on our religious education program, it is unparalleled to any other parish in the diocese.” Hill also had high praises for the other council members, the religious education staff and the committed volunteers who make the parish a strong community. “As I said, I believe that God has a plan for each of us. However, that plan often presents us with choices. I believe that the Holy Spirit can guide us through the choices we make, especially when we are in ‘tough spots’ which, in our human nature, make us more open to its power.”

Karen Grimaldi

UTICA — As director of religious education at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Karen Grimaldi has found a way to share her strong faith and love of God with others. Her goal is not only to ensure that the 340 students in the religious education program learn more about the teachings of Christ but, also to help their families become actively involved in teaching the Gospel messages at home. Following the philosophy of Bill Huebsch, an author and teacher of Whole Community Catechesis, Grimaldi plans on implementing his catechetical model at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. The model teaches religious education instructors how to enhance classroom instruction — understanding Scripture and the church’s liturgies while at the same time teaching families that faith-sharing is an on-going, never-ending process that should be practiced in the home. “It can’t be implemented overnight,” said Grimaldi. Father Jospeh Salerno, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, very much believes in bringing families together and back to the church, Grimaldi said. Grimaldi recently returned from a “Journey of Faith” seminar in Washington, D.C. facilitated by Huebsch and is excited about his Whole Community Catechesis model. “Right now, we are building our knowledge and gathering information,” said Grimaldi. “We will implement the program slowly.”

The model is one that Grimaldi practices in her own home. “I am a role model for my kids. I want them involved in religion every day.” Grimaldi said that after completing Formation for Ministry classes, she felt that she had gained a much deeper understanding of her faith. “I felt that it would benefit me as a mother to pass that knowledge on to my own children,” said Grimaldi. “As parents, we are the first and foremost teachers of our faith. I can’t think of a better ministry to be in than to be able to graciously teach others about Jesus.” While Grimaldi said that her position as director of religious education offers many rewards, it is not without challenges. “It is certainly not easy balancing a family and career, but without my faith, I don’t believe I would have gotten through many of my life’s experiences with a positive outlook. God gives me the strength I need to get through life’s struggles,” said Grimaldi. Her passion for her faith motivates Grimaldi to continue to reach out to the young members of the parish who no longer continue to expand their faith. Many students stop attending religious education after receiving the sacrament of confirmation. Huebsch’s theory is that adult education is left undone because most young adults in the church believe that they have graduated from religious education and, therefore, are finished with learning about their faith.

“I want to reach out to the children and set their faith on fire. I want to bring them back to the church not only by attending religious education, but attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist. Hopefully, in the process we will bring their parents back to the church also.” Grimaldi said that her outgoing personality, compassion and energy fit well in her role as religious education director. She and her 28 dedicated volunteer teachers continue to work to find new ways to bring their faith alive and share it with the youth of the parish. “I love my job because I can pass on my faith,” said Grimaldi. “There is no better job for me than expressing and teaching my faith and passing it on to others. I have a lot to be thankful for. It’s a big reward.”

Joanna Keltos

Joanna Keltos always knew she wanted to work with persons with disabilities. She has a brother who is disabled and knows first-hand the struggles and challenges he faces every day. Keltos has a bachelor’s degree in special and elementary education and planned on spending her career in a school setting. However, after spending four years as a resource and special education teacher in school districts in Rochester and Maine-Endwell, she realized the position wasn’t fulfilling her desire to work closely with people in need. “I wanted something different,” said Keltos. “I found that for me, teaching was an isolating profession. Even though there are so many people around you, I found that with the amount of work required by both teachers and students, I spent much of my time planning, doing paper work and attending meetings. I wanted a job that gave me the opportunity to work more directly with people.” Keltos said that while she thought that she would be teaching for the rest of her life, she realized that there was much more out there to experience. “I went through a difficult time of discernment when I was considering giving up my career to be a volunteer,” said Keltos. “But once I prayed and made the decision, I was very happy.”

Keltos spent a year working with FrancisCorp, a faith-based volunteer program for young adults with an emphasis on community. When her time ended with FrancisCorp, she started working full time at L’Arche as a house assistant. The experience helped Keltos decide her true calling. “I know that God called me to L’Arche,” said Keltos. “I was at a transition in my life, and I was open to where God knew I would best use my gifts and talents, along with helping me to learn about humanity.” Keltos is now house coordinator at L’Arche and lives on-site. “There are days in my life as there have been all throughout my career, where I wake up and ask God to help me through the day. I go to sleep worrying about so many problems or concerns. But I know God won’t give me more than I can handle.”

Keltos believes strongly in the philosophy of L’Arche and said that the program offers a sign of hope for society and the world. L’Arche USA is part of an international federation of L’Arche communities in which people with disabilities, along with assistants, choose to live and work together. Its mission is to create a home that welcomes people with disabilities and where faithful relationships based on forgiveness and celebration are nurtured. L’Arche’s roots were founded in the Roman Catholic tradition, but it is now a Christian community that welcomes people of all faiths. When asked to compare her work at L’Arche with that of a special education teacher, Keltos said that there is no comparison. “This is a lifestyle choice,” she said. “Whether I am on the schedule or not, I live here. L’Arche is about being in relationships with other people and learning about yourself while living in community. I receive a strong sense of family here that I didn’t feel when I worked in a school,” said Keltos.

There are five core members living at the L’Arche house located on the east side of Syracuse, four of whom have lived there for over 25 years. Keltos and her four assistants meet the physical and emotional needs of the members, all of whom have different levels of disabilities. “A lot of the disabled don’t have families,” said Keltos. “However, regardless of whether they have family or not, they have a right to live independently in a setting that’s best for them.” While Keltos feels that her involvement in L’Arche is truly a blessing, she also feels the strain of living in the home seven days a week, 24 hours per day. “I’m the only head of house that lives in,” she said. “The heads of house at the other three locations are all married with children.” Keltos said that the house is a very busy one and having only her bedroom as a sanctuary makes it difficult to do paperwork and find time alone. “It’s a struggle to separate non-working time from working time when you live here,” said Keltos. “The boundaries with the assistant team members can sometimes become blurred.” Because of this, Keltos is in the process of moving into her own apartment nearby, but will still be on call 24/7.

She stresses her belief that her work is not just a job but also a vocation. “I’ve met incredible people at L’Arche, especially the core members,” said Keltos. “You see their determination and their will to live. For me, it’s the blessings of community. Every day I learn more about myself — my strengths and weaknesses.”

Brenda Trudeaux

ENDICOTT –– When Father Clarence Rumble, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church, needed a committed, organized leader to take on the position of Outreach Ministries Administrator, he called on Brenda Trudeaux. He knew that she had the energy to fill the position since she was currently the confirmation coordinator for the parish. St. Anthony’s Parish has more than 10 ministry programs, including a food pantry, a bereavement ministry, a health cabinet, a parish visitor ministry, and an elderly and shut-ins ministry, to name a few. Trudeaux’s role is to keep the ministries growing and to ensure that no one in need is left without the support and guidance of the parishioners of St. Anthony’s. “I make sure that the number of people visiting the homebound equals the number of people who are homebound,” said Trudeaux. “We want to make sure we are a presence for them, in terms of saying, ‘We know you are part of our parish, and even though we don’t always see you, we know that you are there.’”

Trudeaux monitors each ministry and reports back to Father Rumble and the staff on the needs of each so that the staff and volunteers can fill the needs of each parishioner. “It’s important to reach out, to make sure everyone feels included,” said Trudeaux. Trudeaux considers her job not only an occupation but also a vocation. “I was called upon by the pastor to do this,” said Trudeaux. “My heart is in any of the work I do at the church. The church is my home away from home.” One of the events that the parish schedules is the annual luncheon for the elderly. Once a year, the elderly and a guest are invited to the church hall and members of the ministries prepare lunch for them. With the help of the religious on staff, the event is one that the elderly look forward to. “We’ve been doing this for 11 years and the elders love it,” said Trudeaux. “They get to visit with their friends that they don’t often see. We have two sisters who live in two different nursing homes. This is an opportunity for them to see each other and visit.”

Another ministry that Trudeaux is proud to be a part of is the “Martha Ministry.” The volunteers prepare and deliver hot meals to anyone who is in need. Whether it’s a daily, weekly or monthly delivery, the Martha Ministry turns no one away. The Health Cabinet ministry is responsible for assisting parishioners in making healthy choices. They offer exercise classes, counseling health information and blood pressure screenings as well as other services. Regardless of the task at hand, Trudeaux said that her work is faith-based. She spent many years working as the assistant to the recreation planner for the Town of Union and found the work difficult because the job left no room for her spirituality. “I didn’t have the freedom to express my faith,” she said. “This is a better fit because I feel very free and safe to express my faith, to take action when necessary to act out that faith and not to be afraid to open my mouth and say something when an issue arises I feel strongly about.” Trudeaux said that she knows the job she is in is the right one for her. “I try to walk the steps that Jesus walked,” she said. “It is why I get called to do some of the things that I do.”

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