by Moira Cullings
LEAVENWORTH — A vital component of Sacred Heart-St. Casimir Parish here has been missing on Sundays for nearly a year now.
Many older parishioners have been staying home and watching pastor Father Marianand Mendem’s Masses online due to the pandemic.
In an effort to keep the parish connected, office manager Sheila Thibault organized a small group of parishioners to check in regularly with the homebound by calling or writing.
Jane Schmitt, a hospitality committee board member with the parish council, became head of the prayer card ministry for the project.
Now, when Thibault receives calls from parishioners seeking prayers for a variety of struggles, she tells Schmitt, who puts together a card signed by Father Mendem.
“They’re thoughtful little notes letting them know that we’re thinking about them, praying for them and they’re wrapped in the prayers of the parish,” said Schmitt.
“I think a lot of people felt great comfort knowing that the parishioners were all thinking about them,” she added.
Calls and cards have been the chosen forms of communication — not just because of their personal touch, but also because of who they’re for.
“[The recipients] probably are not as email savvy or up on all the social media type of things,” said Schmitt. “I think this resonates more with our older parish — just getting a letter.”
Schmitt said this ministry has “enlivened” her spiritual life, and that when recipients of her cards send her a “thank you” note or approach her at church, it makes the work even sweeter.
“This one lady stopped me one day and said, ‘Jane, I really needed that card. Thanks so much,’” said Schmitt.
“It made my heart happy to know that people really liked getting that card in the mail,” she added.
Matilda Chase, who turned 100 years old in December, is another recipient of the ministry’s outreach who was overwhelmed by the parish’s support.
When Chase’s birthday rolled around, she was flooded with cards from parishioners, thanks to Thibault and her team.
The first line in Chase’s thank-you note said it all: “Can’t say it enough, you have made my life so meaningful making me understand the meaning of love. I so [feel] the love!”
But Thibault said she feels grateful, too, for the opportunity to keep her parishioners connected.
“I really believe God put me here for a reason,” she said. “And we’re making really good progress on communicating with our parishioners here.”
“I hope they know that we love them,” she continued. “We care about them. They are our family.”
During the Christmas season, Thibault wanted to do a little bit more for her parish family.
She and a handful of others delivered Catholic calendars, Christmas goodies and Matthew Kelly’s book “I Heard God Laugh” to 68 families.
Some who had experienced isolation over the past year were moved to tears at the gesture.
“It was very touching,” said Thibault. “It was really worth the effort.”
Schmitt said the parish plans on continuing this type of outreach into 2021.
“Now, more than ever,” she said, “I feel there’s so many people that need to know that people are thinking about [them] and care about [them].
“It’s something very little that means so much.”