Paule Verdet (left) has won an all-expenses-paid trip to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. She will be accompanied by Ruthann Keegan (right), who nominated her.
'She Transformed Her Grief into Acts of Love'
Runner-up Sandy Muldowney (far right) with her dear friends.
Runner-up Alexis Hoadley (left) and Joseph and Jena Lutz.
In our winter issue of Marian Helper magazine, we announced a "Works of Mercy Contest" asking readers to share stories of people making a difference — big or small — in the lives of others. The response was enormous. Together, they stand as a testament to the lives of discipleship so many of you lead. After much deliberation, we chose the following as the top three entries. They epitomize what it means to give glory to God through love of neighbor.
First Place: Paule Verdet Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Nominated by: Ruthann Keegan, Portland, Maine
Some call her "Dr. Verdet." Others simply call her "Paule." But I call her "Mother" (though she's not my biological mother).
Paule Verdet is reaching her ninety-third year of life, though you would never guess by looking at her or attempting to keep up with her in traffic. (Oh, yes! She still drives, and quickly,
I might add.)
She lived in German-occupied France during the Second World War. The war took the life of her beloved, and, for more than 70 years, she has remained faithful to him, wearing her wedding band even to this day. She has loved no other. She transformed her grief into acts of love, continuing to live the life she and Pierre had first endeavored to live together: one of service to others.
When my husband died, she told me that, just as she and Pierre had been Christ for the other, so it could be with my husband and me. She not only taught this; she embodies it.
She moved to the United States in 1948, receiving her PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1957. By 1975, she was far more than a professor of sociology; she lived what she taught, as she always has.
She began welcoming refugees into her home from the war in Indochina. To this day, those families remain a part of her life, even down to the grandchildren of the first refugees for whom she provided shelter, food, and clothing. She has assisted members of the families to obtain college educations (and is still paying on some student loans!).
After retiring from Boston University, she began working at Norfolk Correctional Center in Massachusetts, where, from 1990 until 2013, she was a volunteer professor and aided numerous men to obtain their bachelor's degree.
Dr. Paule Verdet literally feeds the hungry, clothes the poor, and visits those incarcerated.
I volunteer at Maine Correctional Center, and Paule recently did an extraordinary thing. An inmate, Nicole "Nikki" Howe, was released in early December after serving approximately five years. Tragically, she died after only being home with her family for a week or so. When I arrived at her home, a sign still hung on the wall: "Welcome Home Nikki." Her family lives well below the poverty line and could not afford even the expense of a cremation. I called Paule to tell her of what had transpired and the situation the family now faced.
"This is unacceptable," were Paule's words. She left her home in Massachusetts on Wednesday the sixteenth, stayed with me, and attended the funeral service at St. Anthony of Padua Parish on Thursday.
Upon walking into the church, the funeral home was handed a check for $2,000, written out by Dr. Paule Verdet. It is a corporal work of mercy to bury the dead, and so Paule saw to it that it would happen. I worried. I said, "Mother, will you have enough for the end of the month?" She just patted my hand as if to say "not to worry," but I do. Paule will give and give until the ledger reads a zero balance.
When I met Paule, I was not Catholic. I was not Christian. If ever there were a person who is "Christ- like," it would have to be her. Between the years of 2013 and 2015, I underwent numerous operations, including a bilateral mastectomy. She drove from Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, to Portland, Maine, so that she could sleep beside me in the hospital when I was kept over- night. She was there when I awoke from procedures on her near the midnight hour, she would take my call and talk with me until the tears were dry.
When I received my Rite of Welcoming into the Catholic Church on Nov. 22, 2015, Paule — Mother — stood by my side.
It is not one single act for which I nominate Dr. Verdet. It is for the entire life she has led in faithful service to God and the Church.
Sandy Muldowney, Brighton, Michigan
Nominated by: Sharon Gross and friends
Sandy Muldowney, a member of St. Patrick's here in Brighton, is unassuming, but the work she does for others speaks loudly of the love she has for God. Her goodness is doubly inspiring considering the pain she herself has suffered.
In 1988, a house fire claimed the life of her 8-year-old daughter. Sandy suffered severe burns trying to save her other children. Twenty years later, Sandy lost her husband of 37 years, Dan, due to lung cancer. Every time she encounters empty cigarette packages, she prays for the souls in Purgatory who suffered from this disease.
Now a widow, Sandy has extended assistance to a homeless woman by providing housing. A retired kitchen manager from the Brighton Area Schools, Sandy still feeds the hungry and provides drink for the thirsty as a volunteer with our local Gleaners Food Bank. She also cooks for our Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults group. Her backyard is home to several ever-bearing raspberry bushes. Sandy prepares the most delicious jam, which she gives away. For many years, Sandy would prepare meals for a 98-year-old parishioner who lived alone.
As a member of the Gardening Angels, Sandy has cared for the flowerbeds and urns adjacent to the Adult Faith Formation Center.
A committed Eucharistic minister, Sandy provides Communion once a month at Brighton Hospital. She leads the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet recitation at 3 o'clock every Friday. She is a member of the Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy. This past Divine Mercy Sunday, she was asked to share her testimony. She shared how God's mercy has filled her life. Her brother gave her a Divine Mercy Image after the house fire, and Sandy has venerated the image in her home ever since.
She is quiet, like the Blessed Mother, whom she loves and honors. She's devout and prayerful, like St. Faustina. She's generous with her time, talents, and treasure, like Blessed Teresa. The mercy of God has touched her life, and it is the mercy of God that she shares with others
Alexis Hoadley and Joseph and Jena Lutz, West Lafayette, Indiana
Nominated by: Julia Haskell
Purdue University students Alexis Hoadley, Joseph Lutz, and his twin sister, Jena Lutz, are the coordinators of the Never Alone Ministry to the Elderly (NAME) of St. Thomas Aquinas Church here in West Lafayette. They recruit volunteers to go to the local nursing homes and visit residents in hospice to bring them God's love and companionship.
They also ask those who can't visit the elderly to write caring cards for those who are lonely and have no visitors. They recruit musicians to join Movement D, which brings musical entertainment to nursing homes.
Recently, they participated in what's called a Stand Down, which provides friendship and resources to military veterans and military families. The students specifically provided them or for them and for their intentions.
Also, they see to it that a wedding cup is given to newlyweds to remember the love they gave each other on their wedding day. They are wonderful young people doing great works of mercy.