My life as a Missionary Servant has been filled with so many blessings. I have been involved in pastoral ministry with the focus on Religious Education. The ministry has been in a variety of settings from the very rural islands of Alaska to downtown Manhattan, from diocesan offices to local parishes, from north in Connecticut to the Deep South of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Each ministry holds a special memory and a special grace. But I was truly blessed in my initial years by being mentored by Sr. Thomas Jude McGarry, a great catechist and Religious Educator in our community.
As I think of these years, there are two special gifts that Sr. Thomas Jude shared with me. The first was her great love for learning. She was always reading and seeking to learn more about the ministry we were doing, searching for new and more vital ways to effectively proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Whether, it was attending workshops or seminars, reading the latest publication or talking with others in the field; she was doing it. She was always encouraging the other sisters that worked with her to do the same. She challenged me to discover my gifts and to risk trying new things. As the Director of an area Diocesan Office of Religious Education, she often assigned me the tasks I never dreamed of doing and then guided me, supervised me and assisted me in completing them. She passed on to me her great love for learning , and even after we were assigned to different locations to live, she continued to challenge me to do more.
Besides this love for books and learning, she had the gift of her wit and joy for life. Faced with many difficulties she could always see the bright side, she could laugh together as we struggled on, and bring joy to any situation. I believe that this joy flowed from her complete trust in the Lord. This trust allowed her to take risks, to develop new ways of being present to the people we were ministering with, and to always be a listening ear to all. Her Jesus was portrayed in the image of the Portrait of the Laughing Christ. That was her Jesus!
With great enthusiasm, with great cheerfulness, with a direct and no nonsense approach she went through life. I’m sure her life touched many, I know she touched my life, and what a great blessing it was. Recently, we have been asked to reflect on the words of our Founder, Fr. Thomas Judge where he wrote, “Let us help one another to do good works. Let us bind ourselves together to resolve to become saints.”
It is with gratitude that I thank Sr. Thomas Jude for her witness in doing good works and for the continued support she offered to me for my journey toward heaven.
This blog was submitted by Sr. Terry Bretthauer, MSBT who is currently serving as Pastoral Associate at St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Birmingham, AL