It doesn’t take long to learn who the ‘long-timers’ are in a parish. My husband and I moved to town as newlyweds in 1981. We were warmly welcomed, and soon became a parish fixture ourselves as the babies began to arrive. For every prim and proper church lady who tut-tutted every time our children made a sound, there were others who delighted in seeing the lively crew in the front pew. “You have a beautiful family” were precious words to hear after a long hour of pretending we were in control of our children! God bless the parish elders who welcome young families.
Having been in our parish for thirty years now, we have experienced the loss of many of our elders. One by one, their cherished spots in the pew become empty. Their faithful presence in life makes their absence even more apparent. Here are just a few memories.
“Whispering Kay” spoke in the loudest of stage whispers to her nearby friends before and during mass. My husband and I suppressed many a giggle at her comments and opinions. She was the devoted keeper of the church plants. Sadly, the plants seldom survived her tender care.
“The Prophetess Anna” who, like her namesake in Luke 2, spent many hours in the temple praying. If there was Eucharistic Adoration, Anna spent each and every minute in her pew. I asked her once what she prayed for in all that time. “I pray for each and every one of you” was her answer.
“A Pearl of great price” was a widow since the mid 1970’s. Like Anna, Pearl is a great woman of prayer. Nothing stopped Pearl from attending mass. One Sunday, when she was hospitalized, she asked to be taken to mass in her wheel-chair.
Perhaps it’s my age, but I’m much more aware of the elders in our parish now. We have ushers that can barely walk up the aisle but still faithfully take up the collection and offertory. We have several couples married fifty and even sixty-plus years. The tenderness they show to each other gives us hope when much younger marriages keep failing.
Perhaps this Sunday, we can all take a look around the pews and make an effort to greet our elders. And don’t forget to say a prayer for them – because they are probably saying one for you.