May 3, 2019

A mother’s gift of sharing faith, laughter and love shines through in readers’ stories

Jeannine Domescik celebrated her 90th birthday in March with her daughter Pamela Proctor by her side. (Submitted photo)

Jeannine Domescik celebrated her 90th birthday in March with her daughter Pamela Proctor by her side. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: In anticipation of Mother’s Day on May 12, The Criterion invited readers to share their thoughts and stories of how their mothers have lived their faith and shared their faith with their children. Here are some of our readers’ favorite memories of their moms.)
 

First of two parts | Part two

By John Shaughnessy

While raising her three rambunctious sons, Eileen Wilkerson often felt “guilty and ashamed” at her lack of patience with them.

During those times, Wilkerson thought of her devout Catholic mother who had 13 children and wondered, “How did she do it?!”

“To my memory, she was infinitely patient with us,” says Wilkerson, a member of SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood. “Thinking I must be a real failure as a mother, I phoned her.”

After listening to her daughter, Doris O’Connor told Wilkerson, “Oh, honey, I would have a hard time, too! Whenever things got the best of me, I would go up to my room, shut the door and say to the Blessed Virgin statue, ‘OK Mary! You only had ONE!!’ Then I might have a good cry, say a Hail Mary and go back down into the fray.”

Wilkerson recalls the lessons she learned from her mother that day.

“After I stopped laughing, I thanked her. Recalling the conversation later, I realized she had taught me two things. She had reassured me that I was a normal mother and would be just fine. She also taught me to turn to Mary in times of difficulty.”

‘I guess that Bible stuff really works’

Jim Welter will never forget the moment from his childhood when his sister ran into their house and shouted, “The wheels of the wagon are gone!”

“Several of us children hurried outside and stared in disbelief,” recalls Welter, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis. “The Red Ryder wagon was more than just our favorite toy. It was an important means by which we, as children, could reduce Mom’s workload. We used it to haul water, carry wood, and a hundred other chores around the farm.

“When something was too heavy to carry, we could always put it in the wagon and pull it. The wagon was a vital tool for us.”

As the family thought about possible suspects, Welter’s sister Dot focused on someone the children regarded as “the local delinquent.” Welter recalls Dot declaring, “J.C. was here yesterday, and I know he took the wheels.”

Welter continues, “My siblings and I immediately went in to ‘Mosaic Law mode.’ ‘Well, let’s go steal something of theirs!’ we chimed in unison.

“I was about 8 years old, and I couldn’t believe Mom’s response, ‘The Bible says if someone steals your coat, give them your cloak as well! So, take the rest of the wagon and give it to Mrs. Fletcher.’

“With tears in our eyes, my brother Paul, sister Fran and I carried the remains of our precious wagon through the field, over the creek and down the road to our neighbor’s house.”

The three children shared with Mrs. Fletcher the words they had rehearsed, “J.C. has the wheels, so we’d like to give him our wagon.”

“Choking back our tears, we sat the wagon in the yard and went home,” Welter notes.

The story doesn’t end there.

“The next morning our wagon, with the wheels attached, was back in our yard!” Welter recalls. “As I waited for my turn for a ride in our restored treasure, I muttered, ‘I guess that Bible stuff really works!’ ”

In response, Welter says his mom whispered, “Remember that!”

That wisdom and that belief of his mother continue to guide him.

“Whether it’s remembering a prayer clearly answered, an event that turned out right, or a path that led to new growth, remembering continues to be a source of strength for me during difficult times.”

‘Prescription for a happy life’

Jean Allen of St. Joseph Parish in Corydon still follows her mother’s “prescription for a happy life.”

“She always asked God to be with us and her family. And she always thanked him regardless of his answer. Though her heart sometimes was heavy with worry, she would always smile and laugh. She always told us to be kind and grateful for what we had.

“She told us, ‘At the start of each day, say your prayers. And at the end of the day, thank God for helping you to get through the day. And have hope. If you follow this, you cannot fail.’ ”

The legacy of an immigrant mother

As Mother’s Day approaches, Carol Wethington Divine thinks of her mother Olga entering the United States as an immigrant—and the difference that the Church made to her life.

“As a first generation American, she suffered the struggles that many immigrants do—of disenfranchisement and confusion of culture and identity,” notes Divine, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis. “My mother, though, found her place in her community by being an active volunteer at [the former] Holy Trinity Church in Indianapolis.

“The various roles she played in parish life helped to encourage her in improving her self-esteem by increasing her levels of involvement. Starting by washing and ironing church linens, she was encouraged by the pastor of her church to do more. Before she knew it, she had become president of the Altar Society, chair of the Society of the Propagation of Faith, and a booth chair of the annual festival.”

Her mother’s involvement through service spread through the family.

“It is not surprising that today I am a very active member of my parish, St. Pius. Without the example set by my mother, I do not believe I would be as active as I am in my own parish life. She was an amazing woman.”

An act of mercy and love

Pamela Proctor has heard the pain in some of her friends’ voices when they talk about the difficulties they face with their mothers. That’s why she considers herself blessed to have a mother who has accepted her and her choices through the years.

One particular choice involved Proctor’s decision to enter the Catholic Church before she married, even though she was raised as an American Baptist by her mother, Jeannine Domescik.

“She not only supported my decision, she came along to some of my RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] classes so she could learn about the Catholic faith,” says Proctor, a member of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood.

“Over the years, she has been a regular viewer of EWTN [a Catholic television station], and when something would pique her curiosity, she would write down the questions and ask me about it when we would talk. When I go to visit her, we watch EWTN and we’ll recite the rosary together with Mother Angelica.”

Her mother’s accepting attitude even led her to open her home to Proctor’s family during a hard time in their life.

“It was an act of mercy and love to have boomerang kids and grandkids living with her when she was retired and well‑deserving of a little peace and quiet in her life. She would have had it no other way, and I saw her as a lifeline sent from God.”

Their closeness shows in a photo of mother and daughter smiling together on Proctor’s mom’s recent 90th birthday.

“Over a hundred friends and family came to wish her a happy birthday and celebrate her wonderful life,” Proctor notes. “I thank God for her love, influence, and her good example of faith in action.”

A comforting touch

Sometimes a child learns how special a mother is by the way her comforting touch extends beyond her family. Norbert Schott witnessed such a moment just shortly after he returned safely from serving his country during the Vietnam War.

“Mom’s dear friend of many years came to the front door to tell her his only son was killed in an infantry unit in Vietnam,” recalls Schott, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle. “Oh, the heartbreak. I have never seen a man cry so much, and in Mom’s arms. The love of God, and sympathy.”

The meaning of compassion

Mark Hummer remembers the many ways his mother has lavished love on her family through the years. Still, the truest example of her love was the care she gave her husband after he was diagnosed with cancer.

“My dad died at home on Easter Sunday morning in 2018 after an 11-year battle with cancer,” notes Hummer, a member of St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis. “My mom was his primary caregiver for that whole period of time, showing what the real spirit and meaning of compassion is about. She has always displayed that motto of Cardinal [Joseph E.] Ritter all her life: ‘To serve and not be served.’ ”

Keeping a promise of faith

Charles Ringle still marvels at all the efforts his mother made to make sure her children were raised in the Catholic faith, even while she continued to live her Christianity as a Lutheran.

It all started before she was married, when she promised her Catholic husband-to-be to raise their children in his faith.

“Now the real influence came when my father died and left three Catholic children behind for my mother to raise by herself,” says Ringle, a member of St. Mary Parish in Lanesville. “Mom not only allowed us to be Catholic, she made sure we continued to practice our Catholic faith—not only by sending us off to Mass, but making sure that we were on time.

“I loved my mom and attribute my strong Catholic faith to my father’s family and the woman God called to be his wife.”

‘My faith angel’

Many mothers can be defined by the seemingly small lessons in life that they shared—and the big sacrifices that they made for their children.

Mary Hockaday of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg has been blessed by those qualities of her mother.

“My mom had nine children, and we always said grace before our meals,” Hockaday recalls. “We prayed the rosary in the evening. My mom sent all of her children to Catholic schools. We went to Mass on Sundays and holy days without fail. As she moved into her older years, she went to Mass on Sundays and some week days. She volunteered at the old Saint Francis de Sales [Parish] and at St. Malachy when she was younger.

“My mom passed away last October just two days shy of her 96th birthday. She has always been my role model of what a faithful Catholic should be. Because of her, I love my faith, attend Mass on Sundays, and embrace Holy Week. I am a member of the RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] team and volunteer at the Cathedral Soup Kitchen.

“My mom is and was my faith angel.”
 

(More stories from our readers about their mothers will be featured in our May 10 issue.)

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