By Kay Cozad
In the months in which the Catholic Church celebrates All Souls and All Saints days, many around the diocese remember their deceased loved ones with fondness. Inspiring stories of loving service, faith and sometimes humor bring those loved ones to life in our hearts once again. And many are considered everyday saints by anyone’s standards. As these faithful departed are honored here are stories of two lives that were lived in faith and service in everyday moments.
Mary — friend to all
Mary Rodgers was faithful servant, wife, mother of three boys and friend to many. She would be the first to say that she was no one special. But it was her humility and selfless giving that was endearing and even heroic in the eyes of those who knew her. She had a deep abiding faith that informed everything she did. And her devotion to the Blessed Mother brought many closer to Christ.
Her husband Bill says of Mary, “I still think of the rosary she did with Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) using candles for each Hail Mary. I think of her at Saturday morning Masses that we had attended together. I also miss her help in providing spiritual guidance to our kids, even though they are now adults. I am still trying to develop at least some of her faith and trust in God. She had that trust through the end of her life.”
That faith was apparent to Mary’s friend Terri, who says, “I can’t think of anyone who inspired me more in my faith than Mary. She made me want to be a better person, a holier person. Because of her I can bear my pain much easier. No matter what she was going through she didn’t complain. She was so positive about everything.”
Another friend, Nora, agrees saying, “Mary had the faith of a saint. In all of her problems she always turned to God. Her weapon was the rosary. No matter what the problem she always had a good attitude. Along with devotion to the Sacred Heart, she loved Our Blessed Mother.”
And from that deep abiding faith came a genuine desire to serve. Mary’s friend Sue recalls years ago when she was suffering from depression that Mary would call to check on her. She says, “When I would tell her that I was struggling, she would come to my house and pray the rosary with me, and then we would go for a walk together to try to help me feel better. I will never forget her calm spirit and her beautiful faith. Mary was truly an inspiration to me and affected me with her strength and fortitude. I believe she was an angel here on earth, she surely is loving heaven as one.”
Terri says of Mary’s kindness, “She made us all feel as if we were the most important person in her life.” And that kindness was extended to strangers as well, whether at retreats where Mary would inspire those in attendance or a stranger who needed a ride.
Mary lived heroically with cancer for almost a decade before her death on Christmas Eve in 2006. Her friends and family agree that she taught them how to live — and how to die. So many have been touched by her inspiring humility, generosity, faith and love.
Mother of virtue
Valeria Buchanan was one of 13 children growing up on a farm in Minnesota where family and faith were the basis for life. As an adult those values she learned as a child were shared with her own five children and all who she met.
Her daughter Barb says, “She was 5-foot, 4-inches of beauty, love and encouragement to whomever she encountered. She was full of energy and was always supporting and teaching us; never too busy for a hug, a smile or a kiss. She cooked, cleaned, baked all our bread, sewed our clothes, took care of the yard, planted a garden and never complained.
“Mom taught us that patience and understanding were key to being happy. At times, we would need to take a breath and proceed quietly and cheerfully. She had an infectious smile, a gentle spirit and willingly helped others whenever an extra hand was needed.”
Valeria took her responsibility for her family’s faith formation very seriously. Barb recalls, “Food was not tasted until grace was said and we always went to church as a family. Through her, we learned of the power of prayer and how important it was to talk to God.”
Valeria died of cancer on Valentine’s Day in 2003. But her legacy of faith and love inspire Barb even now. She says, “Now, here I am, walking through my life without her by my side but I take great comfort in knowing that she’s in heaven with all the other saints. A day never passes that I don’t call on one of her lessons. Sometimes, it’s offering a smile or words of encouragement; it’s in being thankful for all that God has blessed me with. It’s in keeping my anger or disappointment in check and finding the good in a situation. It’s sharing my love with those around me without condition or restraint and embracing life with eagerness and vigor. It’s in being able to smile her smile and recognizing one of my greatest blessings was having her as my teacher and Mom.”
These faith-filled women, much like so many of those inspiring deceased loved ones who are being honored this month, have lived the Gospel of Jesus Christ and left a legacy of love.
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