By Mary Lynn Thieneman-Legel
Last year, members of St. Albert the Great Church’s Social Concerns Committee presented our parish with a new opportunity during the Lenten season.
We saw a need to express our appreciation to our retired religious for their service and commitment to the Catholic faith and Catholic community. We wanted to acknowledge to our community’s retired religious how much their lifelong commitment had encompassed the lives of many of us raised in Catholic families and schools, developing strong Catholic values and compassionate citizens.
We created a Lenten Tree in their honor. Setting up the Lenten Tree was quite simple. We purchased a living dogwood tree, which we set up in our church gathering space, and wrapped the tree base in purple cloth and hung over 400 paper crosses on the tree.
The crosses represented the various retired religious organizations that we were sponsoring through the Lenten Tree.
Those included were the Ursuline Sisters of Mount St. Joseph in Owensboro, Ky.; the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth through Nazareth Home; Sacred Heart Home (now Nazareth Home-Clifton) and the Little Sisters of the Poor.
While we reached out to include the retired priests, they requested any donations be divided up among the sisters.
Each organization provided us with specific needs. Among the needs were simple, inexpensive items, such as hearing aid batteries, Kleenex, non-slip socks, lotion, postage stamps, gift cards to Walgreens and CVS, blankets, candy, cookies, band-aids, greeting cards, large print seek and find or crossword puzzle books. These were listed on each cross.
We allowed the parish two weeks to return the gifts and then arranged for parishioners to deliver the items to each organization.
The dogwood tree was taken down the weekend of Palm Sunday and donated to Hildegard House, which was developing a prayer garden at the time.
The response from the parish was incredible. Many gift bags were overflowing with items. A majority of the gift bags had handwritten cards in them, thanking the retired religious for their contributions to their Catholic upbringing.
Some cards thanked the sisters for the education they provided their children in a Catholic high school.
The appreciation from the retired religious was so heartfelt. They could not believe that we truly thought of them and extended our appreciation to them, not even knowing them personally, as the gifts were given randomly. It was a win-win for St. Albert’s and the retired religious.
This year, the parish of St. Albert the Great would like to challenge you and your parish! We are preparing now to set up our Lenten Tree. We would like to extend this wonderful experience to all parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville and invite your parish to set up a Lenten Tree of your own.
If you cannot find the time to set this up this year, we would like to invite you to drop off your gifts at St. Albert the Great between March 11 and March 25 in the gathering space of our church or at our church office Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. We are located at 1395 Girard Drive.
We will be happy to include your donations when we deliver the donations on Easter Monday.
It’s the least we can do to show our appreciation to those who have committed their lives to instilling the Catholic faith and Christian values into our lives.
Growing old often becomes very lonely. Knowing that others think of you and appreciate your contribution to their lives makes one feel valued and needed, no matter how old we are.
Mary Lynn Thieneman-Legel is chairperson of the Social Concerns Committee of St. Albert the Great Church.