It is important to share, hear stories of faith - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

It is important to share, hear stories of faith

Last week I met a woman at Anthony Road Wine Co. in Penn Yan who made a deep impression on me. Her name is Loretta Parshall and she is 95 years old. I want to tell you why she had an effect on me.


I was at the winery at the invitation of Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community to give one of the talks in their Fruit of the Vine series, a program held once a month in the fair-weather time between late spring and early autumn.

The format of each session of this adult education/enrichment series consists of a half-hour of tasting the wine produced by the host vineyard, followed by an hour reserved for the guest speaker and whatever questions or comments that participants might have.

My hosts left it to me to determine the topic. I decided that it might be a good time of the year to invite those present to reflect on their experience of the faith — how they first came to know the Lord; what particular experiences or relationships had been especially important in their growth; how life’s joyful moments had occasioned new insights about God’s faithful love for them; how moments of loss or other kinds of suffering had drawn them closer to the suffering death of the Lord.

In order to stimulate their thinking and to engage them in some sharing around those themes, I addressed the above questions out of my own experience, especially my experience of episcopal ministry.

When finished, I was delighted at how easily and honestly those present shared some of their faith journey with the rest of us. Here is where Loretta comes back into the story. In her clear, strong voice she affirmed for all present that she loved life, that as she looked back at it all she carried with her a sense of gratitude for God’s faithful love in her life, that as she looked forward she did so with a rich confidence that life would continue to be very good. In the course of her comments, Loretta let it be known, without going into detail, that her life had not been without challenges or suffering. She was familiar with suffering and had an understanding of the cross in Christian life.

Loretta was certainly not the only one who spoke, but she did so early in the process and I am convinced she encouraged others to participate who otherwise might not have done so. I know that I was much impressed by and took great encouragement from her joy and her moving witness to faith in the Lord.

The whole evening renewed my awareness of how important it is for the life of the community to have such opportunities to tell and to hear stories of faith — how we find God in the events of life, how the faith of others strengthens our own, how moments of suffering by God’s grace can be transformed to new life.

I thank the people of Our Lady of the Lakes and, in particular Father Bob Ring, Cris Wensel and Loretta for a great evening.

Peace to all.

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