OBERNBURG, N.Y. — Seven Francis Medals were presented this spring to partners-in-ministry at St. Mary Parish.
On April 27, Joseph Juracek, OFM, pastor, presented medals to active members of the parish community — a farewell gift from the Province, which is withdrawing from the parish this summer. The friars wished to recognize the hard work and dedication of their partners-in-ministry.
Two of them — Tom Bisig and Bill Schanil — have donated their time and talents to the care of the parish’s cemetery as members of the cemetery committee. The men have cleaned and repaired gravestones, something that “needs to be done every year after our winters here on the mountain,” said Joseph. The men also remodeled the friary over three years, making the building “a wonderful place to live,” he added.
The HNP Francis Medal was also presented to Zoann Deckelman, who oversees the parish property, and is paid to mow the lawn and trim around the graves. “She gives far more than that,” said Joe. He was quick to mention that Deckelman also coordinates the cemetery cleanup and assists in cleaning and repairing broken gravestones. She also fills in sunken graves with top soil that she pays for and hires teenagers from the parish to help her, at her own expense. She has assisted with many projects in the friary and church, from fixing electrical outlets and broken doors to power cleaning the church. “She has supervised many projects that I had to hire someone to do, making sure they were done correctly,” said Joe. “I don’t know how St. Mary’s would exist without her.”
Joe also presented the Francis Medal to Julie and Mike Bauer. Julie has served as religious education coordinator for the past 10 years and is actively involved with the parish’s Catholic Youth Organization. Mike, a parish trustee, has taught religious education classes for the past 10 years. “It is Julie and Mike who make sure that our CYO kids are where they are supposed to be, that they have what they need and that they give living witness, serving God and others,” Joseph said. “They attend every function St. Mary’s sponsors and are always in the background doing dishes, cleaning up, cooking or selling tickets. They also encourage their children to volunteer their time and talents to the parish. The Bauers are dedicated Christian believers who witness to the Gospel in all they do.”
The Francis Medal was also given to Joe and Chris Speicher. Joe, a master stone mason, and his father built a stone wall to help reinforce part of the parish cemetery. He also built new front steps for the 122-year-old church after the old ones began to crumble. Joe Speicher has also played the organ and guitar during Mass for the past 20 years. Chris has taught religious education classes at St. Mary’s for the past 25 years. “Every year she says she would like to retire, and yet she stays on because we can’t find anyone to replace her,” said the pastor. “She always has the time to help a student who needs extra assistance, and to give ideas and guidance to teachers who ask for it.” Chris also serves on the parish’s “Making All Things New” committee for the Archdiocese of New York.
Holy Name Province’s Francis Medal was established in 1998 by then-Provincial Minister John Felice, OFM. Recipients are people who have displayed an uncommon contribution to the advancement of the ideals and values of St. Francis.
Earlier this year, the medal was presented to two long-time employees of St Anthony’s Guild.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.