In the fall of 1985, the Cobden-Beachburg Parish (which included Westmeath) was between priests. During the interim, the parish was being served by the Rev. Rae Fletcher for a period of six weeks. This coincided with a time of seeking with my personal faith journey. Also at this interval Russel Moore was serving as a licensed lay reader for the parish. After a few questioning conversations with Russel, he invited me to accompany him to the Lay Readers Quiet Day which was being held in South March. For me, this day was both enlightening and inspiring. A few days later, in a casual conversation with Rae, I mentioned the Lay Readers Quiet Day. He asked if I was wanting to pursue the call to be a lay reader. I shared with him that I truly believed God was leading me in that direction. Rae spoke with then Bishop Edwin Lackey and I became licensed as a lay reader!
With Rae’s six weeks ending, Russel became my mentor. While awaiting the arrival of our new priest, Russel and I led worship services in all the churches of the parish: 8:00am in Westmeath, 9:15 in Beachburg, and 11:00am in Cobden. Russel was not only patient but also encouraging to this “newbie”! Although I was familiar with the order of service in the BAS, I had questions.
With the arrival of the priest, the Rev. Rob Shields, in January 1986, my license to administer the chalice was activated. I robed on Sundays assisting Rob with reading of scripture, leading the psalm, and serving he chalice. I have always believed God called me to this vocation and this thought has given me strength on many an occasion.
The following year I attended a course one night a week for six weeks for lay readers. This course was held in the rectory in Petawawa and under the tutelage of the Rev. David Lethbridge, then priest at St Barnabas in Deep River. It was a helpful and informative course!
While serving the parish, in 1997 God called me to the role of chaplain at Country Haven Retirement Home in Beachburg. I continued in this role for a few years and it provided one-on-one time with the residents. I grew in my own faith because of these learned seniors. I have also had the privilege of leading or assisting in the funeral services for those who have gone to their eternal home. A humbling experience! Currently on hiatus because of the pandemic, I look forward to returning in a volunteer capacity and reuniting with the residents.
EFM (Education for Ministry) has been a beneficial bonus for my faith journey. It is a four-year course at university level. I, along with Pat Leach, Jean Lopushanski, Lorna McLaren, and Marie Zettler, took this course under the guidance of the Rev. Cathy McCaig and in our final year with the Rev. Linda Wheeler. I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to participate in an EFM course to do so – truly enlightening!
As I reflect on the 30+ years as a lay reader there are many memories. I have had the honour of ministering with seven ordained priests as well as visiting priest, plus our current four clergy in the Parish of the Valley. Five different bishops have renewed my license.
Over the years, the parish has changed from Cobden-Beachburg to Stafford-Whitewater to the present Parish of the Valley. As parishioners we have grown with these changes. For me personally the changes have broadened the opportunities to either assist or lead worship in various locations. Throughout my years as lay reader God has blessed me with caring, faithful mentors ever willing to share their God-given gifts, thus directing me not only in the role of lay reader but aiding in furthering my faith journey. Their guidance has been and is most appreciated.