August 6, 2010

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Be grateful for opportunities to serve others

Shirley Vogler MeisterFollowing the sale of my husband Paul’s family home after his parents’ deaths, I kept in touch with their Catholic neighbors, Art and Rita Wissehr. They not only helped Paul’s parents, but also were there for me during the countless times when I cleaned out the Meister house in our hometown of Belleville, Ill.

At the beginning of the project, our eldest daughter, Donna Marie, helped me. Donna eventually married and converted to Orthodox Judaism.

We have learned the requirements of her faith, with one of the best being a Mitzvah. This is an expectation from God that many good Catholics also practice without realizing it.

The Mitzvah extends into nearly all areas of life since it generally means being of service to anyone who needs help or compassion or understanding. A few specific Mitzvahs are giving to the poor, visiting the sick and treating animals with respect. In all, there are 613 commandments in Orthodox Judaism.

From previous columns about caring for the Meister home for many years, some readers may recall that one summer I became very ill and nearly died in a Belleville hospital. I recovered under the care given by my sister and her husband, Beverley and John Thurman, and their daughter, JoAnne, who is a nurse. JoAnne’s husband and children also contributed to my well-being. The Wissehrs were right there for me, too, in untold ways.

As Christians, we are all called to serve and help others whenever and wherever possible. This includes friends and neighbors and even strangers—as noted in the story of The Good Samaritan (Lk 10:29).

Long after those years, I wondered where Art and Rita Wissehr’s children are living. Recently, I received a Facebook message from Mary Wissehr and learned that she and her brother, Frank, and his wife now live in different areas of Colorado.

We have fond memories of that state because Paul and I and our daughters as well as my sister’s family enjoyed camping there years ago.

I was delighted to renew a Wissehr friendship. The timing was “just right” since I only used Facebook for a very short time. I’m almost tempted to rejoin because of this serendipitous connection.

While connecting with Mary, I learned that she inherited her parents’ “helpful genes.” She introduced me to Operation Gratitude, a non-profit, volunteer-based corporation funded by private donations. Carol Blashek began OPGRAT in 2003.

Since then, they have shipped more than a half-million care packages to men and women serving in the military at Air Force bases and in the field in countries all over the world. Anyone who can knit or crochet is welcome to participate in this ministry of care.

The Wissehr and the Vogler/Meister families include many who served in the military so this project is especially meaningful. Learn more about it at

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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