Woman celebrates lifetime of faith - Catholic Courier

Woman celebrates lifetime of faith

PENN YAN — Faith, love and trust are some of the most important things in life, according to Loretta Parshall, who will turn 90 July 26. God and her faith have been her constant companions, said Parshall, a member of St. Michael’s Parish in Penn Yan.

She begins each day by kissing the feet of the crucifix next to her bed and thanking God for the day ahead. Each day she tries to be the mouth and hands of God and make him happy. When she prays in the morning, it’s almost like she’s saying “Loretta Parshall, reporting for duty this morning,” she quipped. Before climbing into bed each night, Parshall again turns to the crucifix, thanking God for the day and hoping that she pleased him.

Parshall can’t imagine being anything but Catholic. Catholicism is in her genes, she said, noting that she probably would have been Catholic no matter where she lived or how she was raised. Nevertheless, she also credits her parents with instilling their faith in her. The daughter of Polish immigrants who came to America in the 1800s, Parshall was born in Pennsylvania in 1915, attended a Polish school run by nuns and didn’t speak a word of English until she was 6.

That year the coal mines Parshall’s father worked in shut down, and the family moved to a farm in Dundee. When the Depression struck, her family didn’t have any money, but neither did they feel most of the effects of the Depression since they produced their own food and milk, Parshall said.

Life on the farm was good but not easy for Parshall, her parents and her two sisters and three brothers. She can remember her sister running from the family’s burning house with one shoe on and one shoe off after being woken by their mother, who was pregnant at the time. There wasn’t a local fire department in those days, so Parshall and her family had to watch their house burn down.

“You just watched and you cried,” she said.

The Parshalls’ neighbors quickly helped the family build a new house, Parshall said, and life soon returned to normal. As children, she and her siblings enjoyed the simple pleasures of country life, like chewing birch bark because it tasted like birch beer, she said.

In order to attend Dundee High School, Parshall’s father brought her into town each week by horse and buggy so she could stay with the Miller family until the weekend. During her stay, the Millers learned that Parshall had not yet been confirmed, so they brought her to St. Michael’s, where a bishop was celebrating confirmations.

“That was the first time I set foot in St. Michael’s,” recalled Parshall, whose family attended St. Michael’s mission parish, St. Andrew’s in Dundee.

After being confirmed at St. Michael’s in 1934, Parshall returned to the parish five years later for her marriage to Penn Yan native Elmer “Putt” Parshall. She has been heavily involved with the parish ever since, so much so that it sometimes seems like a second home to her, she said. Parshall’s eight children were baptized at St. Michael’s and attended the parish school, and the six boys were altar servers. Many of Parshall’s relatives — including her parents, husband, infant daughter, sister and brothers — are buried in the parish cemetery.

She served as a lector and an extraordinary minister of holy Communion at the parish for several decades and spent 16 years on the parish liturgy committee. Parshall was a member of the Nocturnal Adoration Society for 25 years and was an active volunteer with Church Women United of Yates County. Through this organization, she performed sacred and liturgical dances at local churches until 1995.

Parshall also belonged to Catholic Daughters of the Americas Court 1173 St. Michael-Penn Yan for 52 years and twice served as its grand regent. As a Catholic Daughter, she was involved in a number of local charitable projects. She also helped found the Yates County Office for the Aging and ran on the Democratic ticket in a local election in 1981.

Parshall still attends daily Mass and takes part in the weekly rosary and eucharistic adoration at St. Michael’s. She does her best to stay active, making it a point to talk to “everybody and anybody.” So many people are hungry for friendship, and a simple smile doesn’t cost anything to give, she explained.

“It’s all about love, isn’t it? I know we were bought at such a big price, I felt I owed it to (God). When God loves us that much, how can we not love each other?” Parshall said.

Parshall, who earned the nickname “Sunny” in her youth because of her cheerful disposition, is no stranger to hard times. She has endured cancer, a number of operations and the death of a spouse and an infant child, yet she is pleased with her life and feels that God has given her more than she deserves. Her trials have served as blessings because they brought her even closer to God, she said.

“He has mysterious ways, and our little minds can’t comprehend (his) wisdom. We know what he did and what he gave us, and we trust him,” Parshall said. “I have found out the older I get the more I sense the wisdom that God plans our life around. You can’t see it at the time. I’m always grateful, because his way is always the best.”

This trust in God keeps Parshall from being afraid of the future. She finds hope in a theory about heaven that she heard explained on Eternal World Television Network one day. According to this theory, a baby leaving the womb and entering the world is like a person leaving earth after death and entering heaven. A baby thinks he has everything he needs in the womb, but once he sees the outside world he realizes what he was missing, she said.

“If this is so much better than the (womb), can you imagine what the next one will be like?” she said.

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