“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
St. Francis understood the way we live our lives is a better catechist than the words we say. That is one reason to study saints like St. Francis. But these shouldn’t be our only models. The gospel of a man born in 12th century Assisi Italy is still good news for men living in 21st century Austin Texas. But the translation has become more arduous. We are not being true to the teaching that we are all called to sainthood if this is our only model of saintly living.
This post will be the first in a series designed to spread the Gospels of everyday saints here in Austin. This series will highlight noncelibate people living in our Diocese who are living saintly lives.For my first saint I have chosen Dolores Martello from St. Ignatius parish.
If you know someone you believe should be included in this series, I can be contacted using the links at the bottom of this page.
I come from a long line of attorneys. A law firm has an important job to do. But Attorneys can’t do much anything on there own. My father for instance, can’t type, he’s disorganized and he’s always been technologically behind his times. Without a great secretary, a good paralegal, and a hardworking receptionist the proud Henrichson lawfirm would be basically helpless. This is what comes to mind when I think of Dolores (Lola) Martello. Our church has an important job to do. We must maintain the presence of Christ on earth that keeps our souls from descending into desolation. But without parishioners like Lola the great St. Ignatius parish would be basically helpless.
In the seven days in Lola’s week she keeps active in six different ministries. And there are many more she was once active in. Lola delivers love and communion to the hound bound. She provides one to one Christian care through the Stephens Ministry. She comforts the imprisoned through Saint Ignatius Prison Ministry. She teaches life changing skills through the parish ESL program. She leads in faith formation classes. She works in the sacristy. She exhausts her friends feel just describing all this but Lola’s smile just gets bigger. Her energy gets more infectious. Religion is fun. Lola insists Catholics take our faith far to seriously it’s a blessing we should enjoy.
But the best summary of Lola’s work comes from her husband. He simply jokes “My wife is running the parish.” The parish is where most saintly living happens. According to the Catechism, the parish is a place were the faithful gather, celebrate the liturgy, learn about their faith, and practice the charity of the lord through good works (CCC 2179). According to Lola running a parish is all about relationships.
Father Joe personally gathered her into her first experiences in ministry at Saint Ignatius. It was when they where celebrating the liturgy together her son first nudged her to join the Stephens Ministry. Lola has learned and taught the doctrines of her faith through close relationships formed in faith sharing groups like chirst renews his parish, justFaith and her small Christian community.
But Lola’s most enriching moments in parish ministry come when she is able to practice the love and charity of Christ to those in need. Last week one of these special moments came when she took a 96 year old home bound woman to meet her 98 year old sister. Some weeks this mountain high might come for Lola when she sees the true desire of an ESL student to master their second language. Next week it may come when she is sharing food and fellowship with the affordable housing community at Garden Terrace.
While distinct, Lola recounts all of these experiences the same way. When she sees the overwhelming joy in the eyes of those she ministers to she knows she has momentarily shown them Jesus.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:27
That’s is why it is the Lords charity the parish passes in its good works. For Lola the real goal of the parish is sending people out. The Parish takes people gathered in the pews, after they have celebrated and studied and sends them forth to do Christ’s good work. It is this last step in which the greatest gifts of parish ministry can be received.
Lola emphasizes this good work is also very easy. Pick up any Bulletin and you will find opportunities to serve your parish. Visit any parish website and you will find more. If you need a little push, just ask someone close to you in the pew were you might be invited to join. Lola’s challenge for you is, discover how easy it is to get out of the pews and see Christ’s face through parish ministry.
We are very blessed to have women like Dolores Martello. Because together we are his parish. We gather. We celebrate. We go. We are called to be Christ’s face in our world. With grace we take one step closer to saint hood.