Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. John’s,
During my priestly formation, I served at a nursing home in Omaha. While there, I met a remarkable resident named Gertrude. Gertrude was the spouse of a local judge and heard the call to help the city’s handicapped. She formed the Madonna School, which is a Catholic school for profoundly handicapped children. The school is still going strong, with its many happy pupils and graduates enriching the local church.
Gerty was in her early nineties, blind, and highly dependent on the health care staff. I was advised to read to her. When I proposed this one morning she said, “Oh yes, what would you like to read?” I was surprised by the question and said that we would read what she wanted. She said that it was entirely up to me. So, I asked if she wanted to read some Scripture. She said that would be fine. I asked her if she had a favorite book. She said that she was embarrassed not to have the faintest idea of where to start. This is, of course, usual for even faithful Catholics like her. Knowing that the Book of Esther was short and vivid, I started there.
I was only able to sit with Gerty about four times, reading through Esther and Ruth. After two weeks she passed away. It was a great gift to get to know her for even a short time. And it was gratifying to introduce her to holy women of the early Church, i.e., Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas teach that the Church began with Abel. With her new acquaintances, I imagine that she was able to embrace her sisters Esther and Ruth in person and say, “I am so glad to meet you, I’ve only just come to know you.”
That my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete,
Father Andy Jaspers