Sunday, August 31, 2014

'Night & Day ' Faith Kept Her Going After Death of Two Spouses, Nine Kids--Then Came the Cancer

       By Robert R. Schwarz  

An update to this interview , originally posted Feb. 10, 2012: 
At a weekday Mass held in the St. James church on April 29, 2013 , unexpectedly,  Fr. Joji asked that prayers be said for Phyllis , who had died the night before in her home after Fr. Bill Zavaski had given her last rites. Husband Matthew had been at her bedside. As the congregation sang "Morning Has Broken , "  he now sat in the couple's usual pew . As he  often did with Phyllis when the Lord's prayer was said, Matthew  linked hands with other worshipers . This morning,  it was one worshiper  behind him and two at  his sides, one being  Bonita ( Bonnie )  Preiss . She was a close friend of Phyllis and Matthew  who often sat next to the couple. At the end of the Mass, Matthew was heard to say, " She has made it. She's with Jesus. "
In his eulogy of Phyllis, Fr. Zavaski referred to her as a "courageous woman of incredible faith who was salt and light. "  
On June 21, 2014, Fr. Bill married Matthew and Bonnie . 

Last April, Phyllis Shields—you see her in a St. James pew nearly every morning—was diagnosed with lung cancer. This came after a life of tragedies including early deaths of two husbands and the ensuing burden of being a single mom to nine children, one with Down's Syndrome. With characteristic stiff upper lip, she refers to all of this as "disappointments." Then, a little more than five years ago, Phyllis ,at age 72 , fell in love with a retired Palatine dentist two years her senior. They married.
As we talked recently in her eighth floor condo overlooking downtown Arlington Heights—her husband Matthew Lombardi was at her side—Phyllis chose not to  wear one of her tastefully designed hats she wears at mass to cover a head of missing hair, a casualty of six chemo therapy treatments. "My hair had been salt and pepper the last few years," she said. "I hope it comes back, and I'll take any color." She smiled and so did her dark brown eyes. She then  turned serious ,  recalling her exodus trek of "disappointments." Matthew added a footnote now and then.
The big ones began nine years into her first marriage; she was then 25 and her husband a 29-year-old electrical engineer, when a brain aneurysm fatally struck him . She was left with with their two children and now forced  to find a job. For eight years she worked as a nurse's aide at the Lutheran Home, doing the kind  things for the elderly most people would flee from. "My biggest problem was seeing just how sick some of the residents were, and you had to do everything for them." When the beauty salon there lost its manager, Phyllis was hired and held the job for 12 years. "I didn't know how to do hair but I felt I could manage," she said.
Her second marriage was to a quality control manager, a widower with four children. One was Daniel, a three-year-old with Down's Syndrome. She and her husband, Bernard, taught Catholic doctrine classes at their home. During their 13 years together, she bore him three children. Then Bernard died of lung cancer in 1976, making Phyllis a single mom, now with seven children at home; two other children were living on their own. "It tore the family apart," she said, then added, "but they were good marriages."
Daniel, the oldest child, lived at home until age 25, getting a high school diploma after attending special education classes at Kirk High School in Palatine. "Daniel was a blessing to all my children," Phyllis repeated. "Everybody loved him. He was patient with them and helpful and corrected them when they misbehaved."
But although Phyllis' mothering was aided by her teenage son and younger daughter and by friendly neighbors, she had to return to work for income, yet knowing she couldn't leave Daniel alone. She placed him in Little City, a community-living shelter for children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Now 57, Daniel shares a condo with four other men and works in a Little City shop. Phyllis and Matthew used to have Daniel visit them on holidays but now, his mother explained, "He has become a homebody there. I visit him every six weeks or so and call him on the phone a lot. "
 Her Catholic Faith Got Her Through It
"After my second husband died, I couldn't go to church because I cried all the time I was there," Phyllis recalled. "Father Laramie [ then the St. James pastor ], who was my second husband's uncle, helped a lot. He visited me every Sunday. And Father Bill Zavaski [ then a new priest and now pastor ] was quite an instrument in helping me. I'd call him and we would talk and pray together. He would always listen." She reverently remembers how she was encouraged by particular words Fr. Zavaski often said to the congregation. "He'd say 'God is good !' and the congregation would reply, ' All the time ! ' "
"I knew that if I wanted a life, I had to make life come back," she continued. "You just can't bury yourself, I told myself." Her comeback came at a Grief Support meeting she attended. There she encountered a woman who had lost her husband 25 years ago. "All she did was cry, and to the point where all the widows there were shaking." Obviously reliving that moment, Phyllis gasped as she spoke: "I suddenly realized I didn't want to live like that. I told myself, "you're not dead ! "
But early in 2011, she had to face perhaps the most difficult challenge of all. It started with a bad cough that lasted three weeks and which was eventually diagnosed as lung cancer. "'I had smoked for a long time, but had quit," she said.
Tears now came as she grabbed Matthew's arm. "But Matt brought me through it. He was a very positive thinker. I begged the Lord to leave me here on earth. I had work to do for Him as well as for myself. I tried to believe in prayer but found it very difficult."
Her husband interrupted: "Everyone was praying for you: the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Baptists."
"I leaned on Matt for everything," Phyllis went on. "He made it bearable for me."
She said she lived her Catholic faith night and day .

The Third Time a Charm—and Blessing
     Phyllis' and Matthew's courtship began in early 2005 in their current condominium building home. They hardly knew each other . One floor separated them; she lived on the eighth and he on the seventh. A few days before New Year's Eve, Matthew, who had been widowed, asked a friend to recommend a date for him for a holiday celebration he didn't want to attend alone. "Ask Phyllis," came the friend's advice. Matthew did.
         "I hadn't been on a date in 15 years," Phyllis said.
A year later, on December 28, 2006, Fr. Zavaski married them; six other priests and two deacons co-celebrated the sacrament. Quipped Fr. Zavaski, "Their marriage reaffirms the fact that love and marriage is timeless."
Today their family includes 25 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. "Matt loves all my children and they love him," Phyllis said. She admits that Matthew "took on a lot when he married me." The couple take several family visiting trips each year, and the highlight—Phyllis' happiest event —is the annual family reunion at the end of July in Louisville, Kentucky.
Matthew had a few emotional words about attending his first family reunion in Kentucky. He was overwhelmed by his wife's 150-member family. "I'm not a hugger," he said. "But in Kentucky they hug you to death."
Missing from a recent reunion was Phyllis' brother, Kenneth, who died at age 71 from complications from Alzheimer's. He had been a Chicago policeman for 25 years.
Nowadays, Phyllis and Matthew reflect on their many past volunteer efforts which involved them as a twosome prior to the cancer treatments. The list includes the St. Vincent de Paul Society, PADS, Foundation for Children in Need, and various church duties which assist the mass. Meanwhile, they enjoy their usual diversions of "experiencing different restaurants," checking out a movie from the public library, or simply laughing at silly stuff on television reruns of "Everyone Loves Raymond." They also keep adding to the wide assortment of Nativity scenes which grace their living room and which they have decided not to pack away this year. For a private getaway, there is that land they own in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
But if you want to see Phyllis and Matthew fully alive, drop in on any weekday morning at McDonald's on Arlington Heights Road near Rand Road. There, from 8:30am to 9:30am—and maybe a bit longer-- you'll see these two in the company of five or six others who have just left the St. James mass. You'll recognize the group by the roar of belly laughter that truly fills the room, from the food counter way back to the kid's playroom. "Phyllis is the kingpin of our group," says Tom Adam, an octogenarian and often provocateur for the group's outbursts of laughter. "Nothing bad comes out of her mouth. But she can also give it back. She makes me happy when I go home."
      But the happiest outburst came from Phyllis when asked that delicate question. With sparkling eyes, I heard her announce to the world: "I am free of cancer!" 

                                                                                          comments welcome
© 2012,2013,2014  Robert R. Schwarz

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Suddenly She Realized She Was Decorating God's House

By Robert R. Schwarz 
The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation,
as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses
the soul with the glory of God  ( St. John Damascene,
in Catholic  Catechism 1162 )

Adorn: to add beauty, splendor, or distinction
( Webster's New World dictionary )
Posted originally March 1, 2013
In  a way, it's like the work of a fairy tale elf. You  enter the church on Christmas Eve or  during Lent or, for that matter,  on  any feast day celebrated by  St. James in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and you look at the altar and ask: who in heaven  did that and when ?  You look some again,  and though you've been coming to mass here for years, you're   now seeing  an altar you've never seen before:  flowers,  plants ,  banners , and  sacramentals  have made visible a new spiritual dimension of your church.
            As the organ pipes up,  chances are you've never seen  the altar  decorator—or artist, a more fitting word—nor  know his or her name. You pretty much  take his work for granted.  
            Well, it's Mrs. Kathy Borresen , and she's been adorning the St. James sanctuary and  altar for 17 years.  We talked recently.
            " My challenge ," she said, " is having to come up with new ideas all the time. " She corrected herself: " No, not new, but doing something usual unusually well.  Sometimes  I ask if I'm looking at altar with lazy or jaded eyes or is there something I don't see or can do better?  And then all of a sudden, you realize you're decorating God's house  and wonder what He would say if He walked through the door . Would He pat me on the back or would He say, ' You know, you're just not getting it . ' "
            Kathy  is 64 . She has light brown eyes  and  salt-and-pepper hair. For our interview she wore small, pearl-shaped earrings,  blue jeans and a gray, sleeveless  sweat shirt—she called it a "hoodie"— over a white tee-shirt.  She soon becomes animated about her "ministry"  and allows her eyes do her smiling . When she senses humor in her  words—which is often—her arms gracefully sweep upward like a cantor's prompting a congregation to sing.  And she  speaks with  sort of  a loud whisper,  with candor  that  needs no pause to weigh her words. 
Good Friday Taize Service
            Last year's altar and sanctuary  decoration for a Good Friday  TaizĂ© service she considers her best work.  "It was awesome," Kathy said, as she recalled the prayerful silence that filled the sanctuary,  lit only by 35 candles. " The music and the environment came together. "  
 Her altar artistry reflects  consummate professionalism yet Kathy admits to no formal training except for a certificate earned in Liturgy, from which she learned the importance of matching her altar design to the  color of the church's liturgical season. "You put up banners and order flowers but can you arrange them so they don't impede liturgical movement ? Can you give them a sense that all this is suppose to reflect God? "
Pentecost Service
For lack of interest in academics, she dropped out of Harper Junior College where she "gained a great education in pinochle " played in the cafeteria .  Her interest in decoration stems from the second grade where she helped the nuns decorate the first grade class rooms. " We'd come in two weeks before school would start, open the windows ( the school had no air conditioning )  and decorate the walls with mimeographed figures of ducks ."   Then,  many decades later,  came that  fateful day when a neighbor asked Kathy to help sew advent banners for St. James.  
      Her  faith , she says,  " has always been a  part of my life. "  She is a cradle Catholic; her husband a Lutheran. " But that's okay, " she joked, "I still love him ."  She says she  prays to get through the family's struggles of finances  and to get out of bed in the morning.  There is a home mortgage,  bills for a newly built garage, and college loans to pay off .  "I often wonder,  " she muses, what it would have been like to be  a stay-at-home mom and not have to work. "  She and her 71-year-old husband Tom , a night-time clerk in the Lincolnshire postal office,  raised a daughter  and son. Katie, 27, is an pre-school teacher living with her husband in Cartersville,  Georgia; and Casey, 30, a pre-sales technical specialist for an anti-virus software company. Casey currently lives with Kathy and Tom and his dog Buddy.
"My kids are happy," Kathy says,  "and that's what makes me happy . I'm sad when they are. "
" Where Else Can  You Hang a Cross on Your Office Wall "
Triduum in the Parish Center
     For the last nine years, Kathy has worked for the Chicago Province of the Society  of the  Divine Word in Techny, Illinois, where she maintains a website and  helps priests from all over the world enter the United States to study or do pastoral work. She was recently promoted to education office manager .   " When  I was twelve, I went to Techny with my grandmother for  picnics , and then years later when I needed a job and saw an  ad for a  Divine Word secretary , I knew it was my job. I've never been happier. I can take holy days off  ! I mean, where else can you hang pictures of Jesus or crosses on your office walls. ! "   (  She favors a cross over a crucifix because, she says,  "it allows you to more freely add  your own meditations to  it . " )  
     Shortly after Kathy  and Tom  married in 1979, they moved into an Arlington Heights home one block from the home in which  Kathy was raised with two sisters and five brothers, all younger that she.  Her father is dead, her mother is a Lutheran Home resident.
Getting married and having children  are what have shaped Kathy's life the most, she says.  She adds, however, that her marriage to Tom "  freaked me out because I met him at a gas station."   The first time she  pulled her car in for fuel, Tom, a mechanic there at the time, filled her tank and then , though never having seen Kathy  before, told her,  "It's on me. "    And so it was "on him" for the next six months.  "It was obviously  love at first sight, " Kathy said grinning , arms slightly rising.  When that  beastly snow storm came in the late 70's and left snow  mounds several feet high around Tom's service station entrance,  Tom stood out  in busy Dundee Road and blocked  traffic until Kathy's car had exited safely.
"You realize you're decorating God's house ! "
The couple honeymooned in Pittsburg for five days .  Though Tom had no ties at all to this city—he had never even seen it— nor to the Pittsburg Pirates, but was a Pirates fan and wanted badly  to join the street celebrations of their  world series victory that year. He hadn't seen any of the games either.  " Tom is a big sports fan, " Kathy explained , " and he likes to back  winners."  
Asked about their recreation,   Kathy sighed, then  mentioned how her husband's feet are killing him when he gets home. " We don't go out often because he's so tired. He works Saturdays so we just go out on Sundays."  And the future ?  " I have a goal that in five years we move down to Cartersville and live near my daughter.  "
comments welcome                                                                                                               
                                             © 2013,  2014  Robert R. Schwarz

Sunday, August 17, 2014

They Do 'What Justice Cannot Do On Its Own'

                                     By Robert R. Schwarz

This interview was posted originally 
On Jan. 14, 2011.  Portions of it 
have been updated .

At her kitchen table, Marybeth muffled a sob when she read  a simple note that had been left for her at the parish office by a client. Scribbled on the back of an envelope was: “Thank you for helping us when no one else would.”
In the early l9th Century, a Frenchman's prophetic vision about charity quickly resounded throughout the world, eventually inflaming the hearts of 900, 000 people. Among them today are Marybeth and Mike Schoenwald who spearhead the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of the St. James Catholic parish in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
 This husband and wife team provide leadership for 50 volunteers who, since 2005, have been motivated by words of that French visionary, Frederic Ozanam: "Order in society is founded on two virtues, justice and charity. But justice already presupposes a lot of love, for one must love a person a lot if one is to respect his rights which border one's own rights, and his freedom which limits one's own freedom. “ Ozanam wished for "charity to do what justice cannot do on its own.”    Beatified on Aug. 23, l997, by Pope John Paul II, Ozanam poignantly expressed the ideal of the Society's founding patron, St. Vincent de Paul, when he said:  “There are many people who have too much, and who want still more. There are very many more who do not have sufficient, who have nothing and who want to take if people won't give".
Changing Lives
Responding to the needs of nearly 100 families each year, Marybeth and Mike have  been changing lives of single mothers and other people—some St. James members, some not—troubled with unpaid bills, divorce,  addictions, and inability to pay for medical treatment. Members of their team have also been knocking on front doors with a bag of groceries in hand. 
As the Schoenwalds and their volunteers move single moms out of sleazy motels and into apartments (which the Society sometimes furnishes), they take joy in knowing that what they do "unto the least of them [Matthew 25:40], " they do for Jesus Christ. One husband whom Marybeth and Mike help reunite with his family told them: “We know that with your prayers and blessings, we will succeed and be able to give back to society one day everything that has been given to us in our time of need.”
 No money is ever loaned to clients; a typical aid amount is from $400 to $800. Last year ( 2011 the Society’s $36, 000 in aid money almost tripled that spent in 2005, its first operational year. The current ill economy in America has increased cash needs of the Society's clients; for the first time, more clients need help with mortgages rather than rent payments. Most of the aid money comes from small donations and the parish itself. In turn, the Society donates regularly to their partners, the Dominican Republic Conference and the St. Clare/St. Rita Conference in Chicago. 
 Married 33 years, Mike and Marybeth  demonstrate what St. Vincent de Paul proclaimed soon after he and six Paris university students established the Society in 1833: that faith and work should harmonize in service to neighbor. 
The Schoenwalds have faith in an annual garage sale. Helping the Society is their garage sale.  "This year (2014) marks our 10th year of holding the Truly Priceless Garage Sale at our house ," Marybeth said proudly.  "  Goods, which are not priced, are offered in exchange for donations to any of five charities:  Catholic Charities, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Women’s Center, the Pro-Life Action League, and the Center of Hope and Healing.  To date we have raised almost $17,000 in the process of providing good to those who could use them. "  
Rosary and Bible Study Groups 
The Schoenwalds are equally proud of their twice monthly Bible study, "Mother Mary, May I Take Three Giant Steps:  Bible, Prayer, & Catechism , " which  takes place in their modest home a few blocks from St. James. " We begin with the rosary,"  explained Marybeth, " followed by a video of a Catholic bible study.  Then we pray the Divine Mercy chaplet, and end with a video explaining a portion of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  We are on our 2nd study of the Catechism; we studied the Catholicism series; and we have studied The Great Adventure Bible Study, Matthew, the Acts of the Apostles, Revelation, and we are about to begin the Letter of James.  It is a small, but consistent group, and others are always welcome.  The other great thing is that these sessions are held in our family room which is dedicated to Our Blessed Mother, with almost 100 images of her under different titles – this collection was begun by my  mother, and we add to it whenever we have the opportunity. "  

Then there is their Rosary network started in 2005 which, said  Marybeth, " has grown to over 200 members/families, who pray for each other’s intentions.  We consolidate the intentions and mail them back to our members.  We all pray the rosary on the 13th of the month for these intentions, each in our own homes, or wherever we happen to be.  Also, once each month, we host an evening of prayer in our home for our priests during which we pray the rosary.  Our house is easily recognizable as a house that prays – as we have a ten- foot, lit up rosary on the front ...We still do the 3 a.m. to  7 a.m. shift of PADS once a month, as we have since the opening night – over 20 years ago. " 

The Schoenwalds ( standing) with people of Human Life
International, which helped bring 
Our Lady of  Czestochowa
to St. James

Brought to St. James  this year by the Schoenwalds   was the  miraculous, iconic image of Our Lady of Czestochowa ; the effort was part of an international pilgrimage for life and family sponsored by Human Life International.  " This was especially important to us because it was an opportunity to bring Our Blessed Mother here to renew devotion to her, to pray and learn about the importance of respect for life from conception to natural death, and to bring more people to church through evangelization, " Marybeth said.   "What was most special," she added , "was that many people came to all-night Eucharistic Adoration at St. James in the presence of this icon.  We also brought the icon to the Carmelite monastery for a rosary with the sisters, who are always praying for us, and to pray the rosary at two abortion clinics on River Road in Des Plaines . One of them is still doing abortions. "
            The tonnage of paperwork which keeps the couple busy full-time is done on the Schoenwald’s kitchen table. While organizing notebook after notebook one afternoon, Mike shook his head and said: “All this required record-keeping was beyond what we expected.”  He and his wife share at least one item on their "wish" list:  more free time just to talk about things like friends and family. They have two recreations: One is Marybeth's organic garden of fruits and vegetables which, she said, "we're still eating in January."  Their other fun time, Mike said, "is finding a good restaurant with a good chef.”
At the table, Mike started to tell about the early years of his marriage to Marybeth, those days when they had little money.  Then, pausing to exchange a glance with his wife, he reflected: “I’ve walked those miles in other people's shoes and know that there, but for the grace of God. go I."  And then Marybeth handed him another notebook.
comments welcome

©2014 Robert R. Schwarz

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Not Your Everyday Teacher: She Directs Child Spiritual Direction

By Robert R. Schwarz 

                        "The bottom line: help students fall in love with God"
[Posted originally March 2, 2014 ]
            The teacher held a mirror up to the 6- year old student. "Whom do you see here?"  she asked the girl.
 " Me," the girl replied . " And my name is Susie."
" And what else do I know about you? "
"I live in Arlington Heights, " the student  said, no  doubt wondering where her teacher was going with this.
It was the  teachable moment all teachers wait for to  drive home an important  point . In this case, it was the child's spiritual formation. "You are Saint Susan of Arlington Heights,  " the teacher affirmed . "You are a saint- in- the -making. "
The teacher, Mrs. Pat Farrell,  wanted her student to realize that saints were normal people like this student and not "just someone up on a cloud who always had the right answer."  Pat is director of spiritual formation for k-8 students  in the St. James Catholic parish in Arlington  Heights, Illinois.
A student and his "sketch" of her as his saint. 
Pat's next learning strategy that day engaged  a  student  in a role play  to help him  form his prayer life.  After that, she led the class in an informal talk about God and Jesus . It was a concerted effort—one she's been doing for the past 13 years—to bring children closer to a living relationship with the Holy Trinity. 
            " God is a God of relationship , and my goal, my mantra is to help these young people become aware of the God within them and to relate to that God,"  Pat explained during our recent interview in her parish office . Asked if the concept of God being within one was too abstract for a young student, she replied:  "You start of the see glimmers of this [ understanding ] when they are in junior high."
"Teaching spiritual formation is very different from teaching English, " she said.  "Spirituality to me differs from theology or religious education in that these are cognitive processes. It is that relationship with that indwelling God….We have  only to listen with different ears, see with different eyes."   At the  9 a.m. Friday  Mass she also trains her students to appreciate the church's ongoing  liturgy " Anyone is welcome to come." 
            Pat, a fiftyish  woman obviously not short-changed in either intellect—she also teachers critical thinking as an adjunct professor at Roosevelt College— or expressive humor, sits at a small desk top-heavy with papers. Her eyeglasses match her   fuchsia colored Celtic sweater with a golden-like Celtic cross on it.  We are surrounded by  teacher and church  stuff: sacramentals, classroom props—and lots of family photos . She likes to be precise when speaking.
The Farrell family in 2011
 Pat has observed that  that many Catholics are leaving churches today   because,  as children,   their faith was taught to them intellectually  and not by or through a  personal relationship   with God. "There are so many challenges today to raising a faith-based family ," she asserted . " And I'm going through this too because I have teenagers and a young adult. " What saddens Pat is "seeing the number of young people stepping away from their faith . " Aware of those  parents who  dismiss this fall-out  by saying , well, that's what all the youth is doing, she counters with: " We have to work a little harder to give them reason not to ! This is why the archdiocese had indentified this year as the "Year of the Strong Catholic Parent." Pat is doing her part by giving spiritual direction to adults when they ask for it. Her academic background also includes three master of arts degrees : from Loyola University in religious education; Dominican University  in library and information science; and Northeastern Illinois University in philosophy and phenomenology.     
            At a special ceremonial dinner last month,  Pat was one of 33 employees of the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools to the receive the 2014 Distinguished Service Award. The presentation was made by  Cardinal Francis George and Sr. Mary Paul  McCaughey.  
            I asked Pat to  relate her life's  spiritual journey .    She talked about it with apparent candor, confidence, and a knack for anticipating  my  next question.  " By the time I was three, I knew I was being called to do God's work , " she began .  It was a calling she felt deep within her and one she soon shared with her parents.  "My parents were the biggest influence on my life. They were people of great faith. My mother was the quintessential volunteer with a strong sense of [Catholic] social justice and mission.  " 
       Her father, who   emigrated as an infant from Ireland and later worked for the American Oil Company, would quote to her St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.   "My parents were devoted to each other, and when Dad would put us to  bed at night, he would always say , ' Did I tell you today I love you ? '  He never left the dinner table without saying to my mother,  'Your dinner today, my darling, was delicious. ' "   ( A plaque in Pat's home, from a Lutheran friend, reads:  The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.  )
            " While growing up, I did not want to be a nun ," Pat said . But after graduating from Dominican University, she considered  going into a convent because she was still in awe of the Dominican sisters . She admits  that these nuns  " in a large part made me what I am today ." Since then Pat has kept  a strong relationship with the Dominicans and today is a Dominican Associate.
When she decided to pursue that childhood  calling  to do God’s work,  she sought work with the  lay ministry office of the Chicago’s archdiocese  but was told she had to be a nun to qualify.  So, she went to work for a medical society, still feeling  the call for church work.  When several years later the archdiocese began promoting lay ecclesial ministers for its  Together in God’s Service Program,  Pat applied . Her call had been answered.
Her  "Call to Adoption"
With son Patrick at age 5
  Yet, another call was waiting for Pat. She now had  met Jerry , whom she married .  Jerry today is the business director for  Queen of All Saints Basilica in Chicago. Now came the tragedy of  three miscarriages for Pat . Doctors told her that because she and Jerry were genetically identical twins ( a rare occurrence of when  the  DNA of husband and wife match exactly ),  Pat would never be able to carry a pregnancy to full term.  "I was dumbfounded, " Pat said.   " I was numb."
             Before the miscarriages,  Pat and Jerry  had talked  about adopting children in addition to their planned  biological children.  The couple now prayed over adopting a child and were willing to accept a child of any race or with any handicap. They contacted the former Family Counseling Clinic in Grayslake and  soon 11-day-old Ann arrived  in the Farrell home. 
             Ann, now 21 ,  will soon graduate from her mother's alma mater and  intends to  pursue a doctorate in biomedical ethics.  " She's very strong-willed, like her mother, " Pat said.   
  From the same adoption agency ,  came 13-day-old  Joseph, who today  Pat describes as the family's  "song and dance man" . Joe is a  sophomore and a theatre major  at  Dominican University, where he has been cast as a leading man in  several Dominican productions.   "He plans to go on to graduate school in Social Work and hopes to be a high school counselor and teach theatre," his mother  said. Explaining her son's dual goals , Pat said that sometimes  students being counseled can better express themselves through drama.  "Joe has a heart for this. "
Patrick, the third adopted child,   arrived at the Farrell home  when only three days old. When Patrick attended the St. James school,  Pat  once described him   as "the happiest kid in the world with an incredible belly laugh I can hear half-way down the hall. "  He is now a high school sophomore and  has told his mother he would like  to work with animals. " That may be," she said, " because one of our  family dogs was born five months before  Patrick , so the two grew up together. "   
            All three of Pat and Jerry's children are Afro-American.   "The desire to adopt black children was from the  God deep within me, " Pat said. " I had a gut feeling, a sense that this  was the path I was supposed to be on. I did not want children to look exactly like me."  Then , speaking slowly, softly, and  with conviction, she quoted a  gynecologist : " You get the souls that are supposed to be yours. "
            "I don't  mean to sound arrogant, " Pat said , " but my kids are very good kids. " She does admit, however,  that raising children can make a mother lose her temper now and then.          
             Fourteen  years ago, while employed as  director of research for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and also working   part-time  at St. James, Pat faced  another critical decision:  whether she should leave the surgeon society to work full-time for  St. James.  Chuckling, she said,  " I've always loved medicine and considered being a doctor when I found out I couldn't be a priest. "
            Then one day in church, after everyone had left the St. James Mass service and Pat was sitting alone in the dark  praying for direction,  she swears she heard  a deep voice saying to her,   Do  you not think that I will take care of you ?  It wasn't  long before she  had  traded her research tools for a full-time commitment  directing student  spiritual formation at St. James.
The Bottom Line: 'Fall in Love with God '
Pat on her way to form a saint-in-the-making
  One of Pat's goals today is to  "
deepen the parents'  partnership " in developing   their children's spiritual formation.  Asked to make a pitch for a St. James school education as opposed to one in a public school, Pat thought for awhile before replying with: " Look, the  bottom line is that we are here [ at St.James ] to help students fall in love with God."  Can't  public school teachers can do the same? I asked. " Absolutely, " she said. " But at St. James , religion  is really well integrated into everything we teach. "  For examples, she cited that when the students are learning about  World War II history,  she'll walk into classroom  and teach about the church's position on a "just war " ;  or, at Easter  time , when the Jewish-Arab conflict might again be in the news,  she'll  '' form her students into three groups and have them "decide" how they would divide  the Holy Land into parcels for Jews, Muslims, and Christians.
                     And what of Pat's own  spiritual  formation ?  Anything she's had to learn the hard way ?  "Pretty much everything, " she said with self-deprecating  humor. Then , turning  serious, she added:  " Trusting God, letting go…that's something I've really worked on with my spiritual director. " Pat sees her  woman spiritual director "now and then " ,  prays a  lot during the day, and  attends  Eucharistic Adoration . Does she always obey God?  "Yes," she replied. Then offered a Farrellesqe retort: " But I may tap dance around Him for a while. "
She goes to the sacrament of reconciliation weekly or monthly —"depending on what I've done, " she said grinning . " I couldn't do this work without it. It's such a cleansing. I think it's the  most human of the sacraments. Heaven knows I make plenty of mistakes every day." She shares some of  her convictions about confession with  her students.  With people who may  not be happy with what she does, she looks for "common ground. "     

     Her favorite prayer is from St. Teresa of Avila, her favorite saint:
Christ has no body now but yours
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours
             Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
            Christ has no body now on earth but yours. 

            For fun and recreation, she and husband ride their bicycles ; she swims  all year with her son Patrick in a Park District pool, attends son Joseph's stage performances, and goes to some movies ( she wants to see " Saving Mr. Banks "  and " August: Osage County  "; she likes Meryl Strep ) . She says reads voraciously , especially  biographies like On Heaven and Earth, a dialogue between Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka.  She likes to quote the 13th Century mystic Meister Eckhart : If the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was 'thanks', you've said enough. 
Teaching liturgy in the St. James chapel
   When I wanted know what she would like to hear  Jesus say to her at the front door of heaven, her  one-liner was:  " Come on in, Pat " !
            Pat's  biggest personal challenge is winning the daily battles of spiritual warfare. "I  do believe in the forces of evil, " she said.  " When you are called to this work, you are a target for spiritual attack .  "  Most people don't sense that this spiritual warfare is going on,  she added.  Pat believes that for everyone—to one degree or another—  spiritual warfare is  a lifetime deployment .  " But it's a process that deepens your faith, " she gladly added.  
            Apropos of that, she claims James 2:18 as her favorite Holy Scripture: Indeed someone might say,  you have faith and  I have works . Demonstrate your faith to me without works , and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. 
            As for  those students whom Pat instructs to look in the mirror if they want to see a saint-in-the-making,  some  child eager for affirmation of this  is always stopping her in the hallway to ask,  " Mrs. Farrell,  am I a saint-in-the-making, too ?"   Pat's reply: "Oh, yes ! "

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