The Record launched a new occasional series last week called Saints Next Door. The title comes from the Holy Father, himself, who writes about “everyday saints” in his latest apostolic exhortation “Rejoice and Be Glad.”
The exhortation, released in April, addresses “the call to Holiness in today’s world.”
The subjects of this new series won’t be people who are perfect. They will be people who have found a way to use their God-given gifts to do God’s will amid all the imperfections of the human experience.
Pope Francis describes the saint next door this way:
“In their daily perseverance, I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbors, those who, living in our midst reflect God’s presence. We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness.’ ”
Marilyn McNeill is one such saint next door. The parish nurse was the subject of last week’s inaugural story.
McNeill, who teaches nursing for a living, coordinates a healthcare ministry at St. Lawrence Church as a volunteer. She organizes health fairs, health screenings after Mass and coordinates other health-related ministries at her parish.
She was honored for her ministry by Norton Faith & Health Ministries, part of Norton Healthcare.
Patrick Hughes, a fellow parishioner who nominated McNeill for the award, sees the nurse as a humble servant ready to help any way she can.
And McNeill, for her part, sees herself as an instrument of God.
Who are the saints next door to you?
Is it an extraordinary minister of holy Communion who visits you each week to administer the Eucharist?
Is it the woman who sits behind you at church and takes such an interest in your wellbeing each week that you feel loved?
Could it be a catechist who gives their time and talent to educate you or your children in your faith?
Is it a member of the clergy or a religious order, who has touched your life in a significant way?
Might it be someone who advocates for the vulnerable people in our community and, by their example, draws you to live the Gospel more fully?
Or is it a child, whose questions inspire you to be a better parent or spouse?
Saints next door come in all forms and affect us in large and small ways. But they all bring us closer to our Father in heaven.
It’s also quite possible for each of us to be a saint next door to someone else, simply by being our own best imitation of Christ.
Pope Francis explains:
“We should not grow discouraged before examples of holiness that appear unattainable. There are some testimonies that may prove helpful and inspiring, but that we are not meant to copy, for that could even lead us astray from one specific path the Lord has in mind for us.
“The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts.”