Small Town, Great Love: The Unseen Heroes of Carey’s Faith Community
By friar Ian Bremmar, OFM Conv.
As I consider what it means to participate in the life of the Church, the Village of Carey, Ohio and Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation come to mind. Small towns are easily dismissed, but they are microcosms of the Church. I only need to think of the long lines at wake services in Carey to be reminded that when one person in the community dies, so many lives are touched. Friends, neighbors, and fellow parishioners console and stand in solidarity with those who mourn. It is a testament to the sense of unity among the Church’s members.
I also recall the many individuals and the ways they participate, without which the parish and shrine would not be able to function. Everyone, from the administrators and council members to the junior high kids who replenish the votive candles, contributes to the life of that church and community. In every parish there are numerous others in roles great or seemingly small who build up the Body of Christ.
I am reminded of a woman named Ann who has quietly served the shrine for decades. She cleaned in the office and the friary. She wrote prayers for the shrine and often edited pastors’ newsletters. On Sundays, she answered the door and phone for pilgrims seeking information, and she had the sometimes tricky task of tracking down a friar to offer a blessing. We were chatting one time as she pierced holes in countless cups for the Assumption candlelight procession. She said, “I know it isn’t much, but it’s a blessing to know that I played a small part in every single one of the candles the pilgrims will hold for Our Lady on that night.”
To me, Ann is the model of Mother Teresa’s oft-quoted adage, “We can do small things with great love.” Even now in her retirement she continues to serve in humble and hidden ways, like crocheting dozens of hats for those in need. Ann, along with too many others in Carey to name, selflessly give of their time and talents to the parish and community: the maintenance staff, sacristans, catechists, music minister, teachers, office workers, and the innumerable volunteers for Bingo, funeral luncheons, the pilgrimage in August, and everything in between. Take a look around your own community, and give thanks for all who participate with great love in often overlooked ways.