St. Joseph the Worker Awards presented to the lay volunteers that aid parishes
They’re a modest bunch. The volunteers who receive the Lay Award of St. Joseph the Worker rarely feel as though they do anything special even though some parishes could not function without their support.
When asked what he does for SS. Columba-Brigid Parish, Leo Reiter replies, “I don’t do much of anything.”
Actually, frequently seen with guitar in hand, he leads the music ministry and helps around the Buffalo church wherever he can. His wife, Betty, teaches Bible study and cooks up a lot of meals in the kitchen.
They were nominated by their former pastor, Father Jud Weiksnar, OFM.
“Since I’ve been there at the parish, since 2017, they have constantly always been there to help with anything that you need help with,” he says of the Reiters. “I wish that every parish would have at least one couple like Leo and Betty.”
For them, to serve the Church is to follow in the footsteps of Leo’s older brother, Robert, who became a priest in 1963.
“I was 10 years younger, and I thought he was the way to go,” said Leo.
Betty feels compelled to give back to the church she loves so much.
“I have to do it,” she says. “And it’s, it’s such a blessing, you know? The more you do, the more you get in return.”
Richard Marchessault, from St. Mary Parish in Swormville, does the work of the apostles by bringing God to the people through word and Eucharist. Still, he had to think for a second about his contributions.
“Oh, what do I do? Um, well, I teach religious ed – grade school, middle school, high school. I teach adult classes in Bible studies. I bring Communion to the homebound. I go to several assisted living facilities, say the rosary, bring Communion. I coordinate altar servers at the church and readers, and anything else they ask me to do.”
Why does he take on so much? Marchessault looks up and says, “He asks me and I say yes. So far, I haven’t got to the point where I have to say no, but I just keep going.”
The Harshmans receive a certain satisfaction from serving their tight-knit community of St. Mary of the Cataract Parish in Niagara Falls. The couple are both eucharistic ministers. They count the collection. And lend a hand when it comes to decorating for the holidays.
“We love our parish. We love Father (Jacek) Mazur (the pastor). We just love doing it. We love helping,” says Sharon Harshman.
For her husband Ron Harshman, in serving the parish he feels, “Peace being closer to God.”
Bishop Michael W. Fisher, who celebrated the March 11 Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral, spoke of St. Joseph as an example of a faithful and just man, who taught skills and a work ethic to Jesus.
“Today, we honor you for this work ethic, this faithfulness, and this dedication not only to your parishes, but to the people that we serve throughout the diocese,” he said. “I think all of my brother priests can honestly say that usually there are those few people in our parishes that we know we can go to and we’re going to get something done. And it’s usually those people that we put a lot on their shoulders, and I think they’re sitting here in the pews today.”
The Lay Award of St. Joseph the Worker, presented by the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, recognizes lay people who have helped spread the Gospel throughout the eight counties of Western New York at the parish level.
Walter Steffan, lay chairman of the Bishop’s Council of the Laity in the mid 1960s, proposed recognizing the “little guy or gal” who is often forgotten as awards and honors are heaped on a select group of prominent community men and women. This year 83 people from 70 parishes received the honor.
Listen to Michael Mroziak report from St. Joseph Cathedral.