photo courtesy of Paul Fetters
[Originally published in Our Parish Times Jan 2011]
Saint John Neumann Parishioners Honored at
Shrine of Immaculate Conception
By Rus Wester
Congratulations to Alice and Bill Garvey who received the "Manifesting the Kingdom" award from Cardinal Donald Wuerl as he celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany and his own 25th anniversary of ordination as bishop on January 2nd at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Over 200 recipients from around the Archdiocese of Washington were honored with the Manifesting the Kingdom Award for their dedicated service to the local church. Each award was an etched glass plaque at the center of which is the Star of Bethlehem that points the way to Christ.
Cardinal Wuerl described the honorees as those who have made "a living effort to manifest the kingdom of God" by their service to the Church. “Each of you has offered your rich gifts: your talents, your time, your energy and, above all else, your love" so that Christ can become more visible in our Church.
When asked how she and her husband learned of the Cardinal honoring them, Alice Garvey remembered “When I opened the envelope from the Archdiocese, I thought it was the Cardinal’s Appeal. But as I started to read the letter, I had to hand it to Bill. The Cardinal’s invitation to join him and others from the Archdiocese at a special Mass at the Shrine was totally unexpected.”
“Cardinal Wuerl reminded all at the Mass that everyone is called to serve the Church and one another” SAID Bill Garvey. “We’re blessed to have found a comfortable parish home at St. John Neumann and are involved with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Gabriel Project, Arimatheans, Eucharistic Adoration, Knights of Columbus and serving at the altar as Sacristans.”
Bill Garvey’s strongest expression of thanksgiving came with “You know, if it had not been for our Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, Alice and I might not have received the Cardinal’s recognition at all. Long before our marriage, we spent many hours praying there and were eventually brought together as husband and wife, to work and serve together in His service. Our prayers are that we’ll be shown how the Lord wants us to continue.”
[Originally published in Catholic Standard Dec 30 2010]
By Mark Zimmermann
For the past eight years, we’ve had a schoolday ritual at our home. Grandma Marge MacLeod, my wife Carol’s mother, always arose early and sat at the end of the kitchen table, her well-used Bible open before her, as she watched the chaos unfold, with me frantically getting ready for work, rushing downstairs for breakfast, and my wife helping our three children, Joe, Anna and later young Matt, get ready for school, as she herself was also getting ready for work. Through the slapstick comedy taking place at the other end of the kitchen table and in the nearby hallways, Marge sat grinning, and sometimes laughing her jolly laugh.
When I said goodbye to Marge, she would always reply, “God bless your day!”
Three days before Christmas, my wife received an early morning call from the nearby nursing home where Marge had been cared for in recent weeks. Her mother was unresponsive and had been rushed to the hospital. Carol and her father, Grandpa Joe MacLeod, hurried to be at Marge’s side. They soon learned that Marge had died that night in her sleep. At the hospital, a priest chaplain, Father Val Keveny, prayed over Marge, and comforted Grandpa Joe and my wife. The priest had visited, brought Communion and prayed with Marge for nearly every day of her short stay at the nursing home.
The past few days, our home has been filled with a different kind of chaos, as Marge and Joe’s three other daughters, their husbands, and seven grandchildren have assembled here for her funeral, arriving early to dodge the impending New England blizzard. (Not only Paul Revere had a midnight ride, as our family’s Vermont wing could attest, and the two Massachusetts cars hit the rode shortly after…) But despite our grief, it has also been a happy family reunion, as we remember Marge’s life and legacy.
In the case of our immediate family, eight and one-half years ago, we embarked on a special adventure. My wife Carol and I sold our Montgomery Village townhome, as did her parents, and we pooled our resources and bought a larger home together in Germantown. Grandpa Joe and Grandma Marge settled into the basement level as an “in-law suite;” Carol and I and Joe and Anna and later baby Matt settled into the upstairs; and we all shared the kitchen, dining room and family room in the main level.
Sometimes well meaning people would ask me, “You’re living with your in-laws?” I liked to reply, “I love them, they’re great people,” and as the years unfolded, I joked that we had the holy family living downstairs.
People also praised us for “taking care of your wife’s parents,” when the opposite was really true. Grandpa Joe, who turned 90 this summer, served in the Army’s Signal Service Corps during World War II. As a boy, he liked to take apart radios and wristwatches and put them back together. A retired chemist and quality control expert with General Foods, Grandpa Joe used those mechanical skills that served him and our country well in the Battle of the Bulge and at the Nuremberg trials, and at our Germantown home, he has served as the plant manager and “Mr. Fix-It.”
Marge, who turned 83 in March, was a retired nurse, so we always looked to her for medical advice as assorted ailments and injuries happened to her upstairs housemates. Marge, a Boston native, also offered a New England practicality, as when I would sometimes look to her for sympathy about a difficult workload I was facing, and she would reply, “Well, that’s the way it goes!” (She looked to the saints for inspiration, but didn’t have patience for premature martyrs.)
On a deeper level, Marge and Joe offered us, as part of the fabric of our daily lives, an example of faith and love. When Joe returned home from the battlefields of Europe in the summer of 1946, he left active duty in the service in June, began studying under the G.I. Bill in July, and met a pretty nursing student named Marge in August. Even before they married, they had the same last name, MacLeod, as distant relatives in that Scottish clan. After a two-year courtship, they married in 1948, and their love story unfolded for almost 65 years. Their daughters Bonnie and Jorie, both teachers; Laurie, a judge; and my wife Carol, a journalist; would reflect that caring, unselfish love to their own husbands and children. The gift of Marge and Joe’s love has so far spanned four generations, with the arrival of their spirited great-granddaughter, Elan.
Once I remarked to Marge that at Mass that morning I heard a phrase from Scripture that I liked, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Later, she wrote me a little note that just said, “Joshua 24:15.” When I think about it, those words really summarize Joe and Marge’s quiet faith. On mornings, I would see how Marge started her day at the kitchen table or porch, reading her Bible, and then she would often drive to daily Mass. She and Joe also volunteered with the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. John Neumann Parish in Gaithersburg, to help the poor in our area. In our own home, she helped watch our children over the years, and did countless household tasks with no fanfare. Marge and Joe found special strength each Sunday evening, joining the prayer meeting of the Mother of God Catholic charismatic community that formed a supportive and loving family of faith for them in recent decades.
This summer, our branch of the MacLeod clan assembled in New England for two special occasions, for a family reunion to celebrate Grandpa Joe’s 90th birthday, and to witness Laurie’s swearing in ceremony as a District Court judge for Massachusetts. As Marge and Joe proudly sat in the first row at the courtroom, Judge Laurie thanked them for their example and their steadfast love, saying they had taught her to be concerned about those who were less fortunate.
On the afternoon that Marge was to return to Maryland with Joe, she fell and broke her hip. In succeeding days and weeks, she began suffering from severe dementia, and had further falls that required her to have around the clock nursing care. Those four months of Marge’s recuperation in New England turned out to be a special time of God’s blessings and grace, as family members there received the daily gift that we in our Maryland home had been given. Then, through Grandma Marge’s weakness and through Grandpa Joe’s strength, the other family members witnessed the couple’s abiding and enduring love and faith, and they in turn had the chance to reflect that love back to them, at the nursing home and at the dinner table, and in the course of daily life.
After Marge died, Grandpa Joe found something she had written years earlier, to prepare for her eventual death. In her lovely handwriting, on simple lined yellow notebook paper, she summarized her life in these simple words:
“M.J. MacLeod. Born in Boston, 1927. Married J.W. MacLeod, 1948. Her life was filled with being his wife, being mother to their four daughters, mother-in-law to four sons-in-law and grandmothering. She wants to be remembered as a child of God, desiring to meet family and friends in eternity.”
Marge died three days before Christmas, and all of us who now fill our Germantown home know that her abiding love and faith is a gift that will always endure in our hearts. This morning as we all get ready to drive to Marge’s funeral Mass and burial, chaos will again ensue at our house, as 16 people avoid collision in the hallways, tieing their ties, sipping coffee, quickly reading the paper and gulping down breakfast. This time, I have faith that Marge is again watching it all unfold, chuckling. And yes, God has blessed our day, thanks to her.