About 17 years ago, Marie noticed that her colleague Eileen Keifer needed support. Eileen was directing Volunteer Ministry — at the time this was a brand new ministry of the Sisters. Marie witnessed Eileen’s need and offered her help. Eventually, Marie began her role as Administrative Assistant to Volunteer Ministry. As you can see, Marie’s work with Volunteer Ministry is rooted in the spirit and practice of “Good Help” and, throughout the years, her work has continued in this spirit of Bon Secours.
Over the years, volunteers always express their gratitude for the ways in which Marie brightens their days. With some communities of volunteers, her emails became famous for being infused with humor. In recent years when we moved to Mount Street, Marie gave the volunteers the nickname, Mounties. One year, the community nicknamed her “the Truff.” As you can guess, these little touches of love and light that Marie offered weren’t required. When one is sending the 10th reminder email for a volunteer to turn in his paperwork or her receipts, it is the rare individual who would still take the time to make that request with good humor. Marie has always added that extra touch of grace.
Another example of Marie sharing God’s love and light is through her idea to remember each volunteer and former volunteer on his or her birthday. Marie has managed this birthday ministry for many years now. When I think of our community of over 70 volunteers and former volunteers each celebrating their birthday throughout the year, I picture how the former volunteer receiving the card from Marie is a way of lighting the candles on their birthday cake. I considered attempting the math of figuring out how many candles this would be over the years. Given the volunteers’ ages and given our ever increasing number of former volunteers, my answer is: That’s a lot of candles. With Marie taking the time and care to send these cards, over the years, she has created a lot of light.
Because we are a ministry of service immersion and experiential learning and because this immersion takes place in West Baltimore, Volunteer Ministry has experienced some aspects of the violence which is a symptom of the structural violence of poverty. While the majority of Marie’s job responsibilities for Volunteer Ministry take place in our Marriottsville office and it is not in her job description to be aware of potential safety situations or happenings in the city, she still practiced this awareness — even off the clock. This sense of awareness is one of the many ways that Marie consistently shared her care for the volunteers, for me, and for our new staff. Even though I was in the city in the middle of dealing with you name it, I knew I could call the office, ask Marie for her help, and she would drop what she was doing to offer her full support. Even though Marie was way out in the county, through a myriad of ways, she made clear that she was connected to our work. She made it clear that she had my back.
Marie and I have worked together for almost ten years. It has been an eventful ten years and, throughout these years, she has practiced a ministry of presence to me. As Marie accompanied me through joyous times like becoming a mother and trying times like caring for sick loved ones, I came to learn that she not only had my back, but she also had my spirit. Whether through a kind word, a compassionate question, a cool glass of water that would mysteriously show up on my desk, or a chocolate bar left on my chair after a difficult meeting, Marie has lifted and cared for my spirit in many, many ways.
I know that she has done the same for so many of you.
RCC recently shared a New Year’s reflection from Henri Nouwen. As soon as I read it, I thought of Marie. I will conclude with that reflection:
Did I offer peace today?
Did I bring a smile to someone’s face?
Did I say words of healing?
Did I forgive?
Did I love?
These are the real questions.
I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now
will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.
Marie, we will answer these questions for you.
Yes, you have offered peace. Yes, you have brought smiles. Yes, you offered words of healing. Yes, you have loved.
For this and for your service and work to Volunteer Ministry these many years, we are deeply grateful.
-Written by: Shannon Curran, Director, Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry. January 2017.