Therese came to Holy Cross needing community service hours. Our receptionist told her that a health fair was coming up – perhaps the parish nurse would need some help. She had 40 hours of community service to do; Therese thought this would work out about right.

As the parish nurse, I met with Therese to inquire what would be involved. She offered her services of preparing things for our health fair. I laid out the parameters and responsibilities needed and to assess if she was a good candidate to assist. It was agreed that if any problems arose she could not continue. She came back the next week – willing and ready to do anything asked of her. Therese was very serious in fulfilling her commitment for these community service hours. She planned to make a trip with her parents out of state and needed these hours completed by the end of the month.

Her parents were married at Holy Cross. Therese was baptized here but moved before attending school at Holy Cross. The last time Therese was at Holy Cross was for a cousin’s funeral. She remembered all the family’s functions she attended through the years. Holy Cross was a place of homecoming and renewal – a place to give her another chance. She was glad she made the call and most grateful that we accepted her. There was a transformation that happened during her time at the “Cross”.

Therese came to work and work she did. She later said she did not understand why she had to do the things she was asked to do, like cutting streamers for sticks, writing cards, copying and cutting papers, sorting boxes and brochures. By the time the health fair came around she was amazed how it all came together. She so enjoyed all the festivities and we could see her opening up to the joy of being part of a much bigger project. This transformation in such a short time span was a sight to behold. Each day she came back she was more comfortable and relaxed. She was aware she was receiving as much as she was giving service. The people were friendly and kind to her, showed her respect and she was aware she was part of the work team – in this community of faith. Therese enjoyed all the people as it lifted her sprits and heart. She kept saying she had changed by being at Holy Cross this time. She even had the chance to get her vision checked and received a massage during the health fair.

Therese said she had an attitude change and a better relationship with her family especially her daughter when she would go home after her hours of work. She was reliable, dependable and a responsible worker. She even initiated extra work so that she could get all her service hours in. She offered to wash down the pews in church after the health fair was over.

Her faith changed too. She thanked God for the opportunity as she reflected on the experience. It renewed her to be back at Holy Cross giving service. Therese was excited about life again as witnessed by her appearance which became lighter each time she arrived. “I feel better and it helped me a lot,” she said after it was all over. It was a win-win situation for both of us. She said it opened up her whole person to change. And it helped the parish nurse – seeing this transformation of Therese related to my life. I was going through tough times as well.

As a pastoral leader at a church undergoing a transition, I found myself under pressure professionally and personally. This health fair preparation became overwhelming at times. Having Therese to share the load and just be together for that time helped tremendously for me personally. We shared our stories, broke bread together and prepared for this signature event at Holy Cross with flare and ease. We were the team behind the scenes in preparation for the community at large. Our community of faith was expanded which brought joy and delight back to me. God’s grace was orchestrating something more than any of us would have known that first day she called. We are grateful for her service and love for Holy Cross. A transformation happened for both of us.

By Jan Erlenbaugh Gaddis