At the heart of each parish
is a person
Left, Medal recipient Judy Jett with Jerry Beetz; below, The Francis Medal honors “ordinary people who have given extraordinary service.”
BY TONI CASHNELLI
Ask him how Judy Jett serves the parish and Br. Jerry Beetz says, “I can’t remember doing anything without her. She’s everywhere.”
That about sums up Judy, who in 42 years at Holy Cross Parish in Jackson, Ky., has volunteered for every job under the sun, from fund-raising to church-cleaning, from teaching CCD to entertaining at nursing homes. “She’s the person who jumps in and helps wherever she’s needed,” says Jerry, on the phone from Holy Cross, where he serves as Pastoral Director and Fr. Reynolds Garland is Canonical Pastor. “She’s quiet, warm, welcoming, and generous beyond belief. She lives very much the Franciscan values that are part of this place.”
After decades of giving, last Sunday was payback time. That’s when Holy Cross and SJB Province thanked Judy by giving her The Francis Medal, honoring “men and women who by their generosity of spirit, service and support, give witness to the values and ideals of St. Francis of Assisi in their personal and public lives.”
Judy was thrilled, honored, but mostly surprised. “I started thinking back, what have I done? I just enjoy helping.” Keep in mind that all of this helping happened while she was raising a daughter and two sons and running the cafeteria at LBJ Elementary School.
“Judy served on the parish council and the RCIA team,” Jerry says. “She makes cakes for first communion kids and for funerals. She sets up our monthly bargain sale and is probably the only one who helps me clean up after. When kids from Ohio come down to volunteer, she opens her house for an evening out for them” and stages a Wiffle Ball tournament in her yard. “She’s a liaison between us and the local radio station and newspaper; she always makes sure things get announced.”
He’s just warming up.
Jerry Beetz at Holy Cross Church.In the 1980s when InterFaith was formed to foster cooperation and consolidate outreach among congregations, Judy represented Holy Cross. When the Sisters of Providence started a Bible school, she was right there, volunteering. She’s the official greeting-card sender for the parish and accompanies Jerry on visits to nursing homes, where they distribute gifts and lead the residents in song. “You can see why when I heard about the Francis Medal she was the first person who came to mind,” Jerry says.
For Judy, who moved here from Indiana in the ‘70s, working with friars was a new experience. “I didn’t know much about them when they first came here. They seemed very outgoing and wanted to get to know the people,” a good match for a parish that was “close-knit and caring, like a big family,” Judy says. “We’ve always really loved them. I dread when they will leave this summer” and return the parish to the diocese.
The surprise Francis Medal was the start of a big week that ends Saturday with Judy’s 75th birthday. “She retired a few years ago,” Jerry says. “Now she’s involved with senior citizens in town,” among other activities that keep her calendar full. Parish chores demand less time since a battery factory moved to Michigan in the 1980s, taking a lot of employees with it and dramatically reducing the parish population.
No matter what happens at Holy Cross, Judy will still be involved. As the citation accompanying her Medal reads, “Judy has given concrete expression to the spirit of St. Francis.”
“It never entered my mind that I would get something like this,” she says. “It’s just part of my life to be of service wherever I can.”
Judy Jett of Jackson, Ky., is the third recipient of The Francis Medal, given to “ordinary people who have given extraordinary service with and for the friars of St. John the Baptist Province or one of our ministries,” according to the notice announcing the awards. Joann Adragna and Sally Hiltz of St. Aloysius Parish in Detroit were the first two honorees.
Recipients need not be Catholic, but should clearly exemplify the Franciscan spirit in their lives. To nominate someone, write a letter to the Provincial Council explaining how the group or individual advances Franciscan values and ideals. The nominating friar or community is asked to help defray the cost of the award.
PHOTO BY SUSAN HARLEY
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Charlie Smiech, OFM
Feb. 26-28, staffers from Franciscan Media joined more than 20,000 other attendees in Los Angeles for what is billed as the nation’s largest annual gathering of Roman Catholics. “Boundless Mercy” was the theme of this year’s Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, which offered 300 workshops, presented 200 speakers, and gave 260 companies and institutions a chance to showcase their programs and products.
PHOTOS BY DAN KROGER, OFM
Below, Dan Kroger with St. Barbara Vocation Director Eric Pilarcik; right, Pat McCloskey talks books with a Congress attendee.
Above, John Feister interviews Jesuit author Jim Martin; below, Greg Friedman represented the Monastery of the Holy Land.
March 2 is a special day in my family; it is my mother’s birthday, and my father’s death day.ﾠ So last Wednesday, Mom would have been 99, and Dad was gone 44 years.ﾠIt has always been for me a liminal day, a time for me to remember the coincidence of life and death; in my prayer that day I am easily mindful of how the paschal mystery permeates life.
Nothing really special happened this year on March 2. I flew home from visiting the brothers in Washington, D.C.; the flight was thankfully uneventful.ﾠ I caught up on snail mail and e-mail and read about the results of Super Tuesday voting in the newspaper.ﾠI had a bowl of soup for supper since my housemate, Al Hirt, was fulfilling his responsibility as a regional animator by visiting Tom Richstatter and Art Espelage at St. Meinrad.
My siblings and I reached out to each other, remembering the importance of the day.ﾠ A rather ordinary day, but hidden beneath the surface was a vast pool of mystery, connection,ﾠmemory, and gratitude.ﾠ Like every day, really.ﾠ March 2nd renews me for March 4th, and marching forth into life, a little more mindful of the promises and wonders of each day.
— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM
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