October 29, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 26
Joan Congable-Mackay leads the congregation in giving a blessing to Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo before the benediction.
Bishop suggests new ‘prize’ at Outreach in Love
When Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo has normally celebrated the Mass for the opening season of Richmond’s Outreach in Love program, he has given a prize to participants who answer his questions correctly.
But this year he had a different approach when he celebrated the Mass for mentally challenged participants and their family members and friends Oct. 3 at St. Edward the Confessor Church.
“You give the prize this year instead of getting the prize,” Bishop DiLorenzo told them. “I’m going to suggest that the prize this year goes to those who love you, especially the moms and dads, brothers and sisters.
“They have shown so much love to each one of you,” he continued. “They love God and make God and his loving will for them the highest priority of their lives.
“They get the prize this year and you get to give the prize.”
The congregation gives its blessing to the bishop.
Naturally, many in the room wondered what the prize might be. Bishop DiLorenzo first suggested that some would think it should be candy. A second possibility was money.
“How about a vacation trip to Hawaii?” the Bishop suggested. “Anyone would love that.”
In the end, the gift was simple and easy to give.
“I want you to say ‘Thank you. I love you,’ he said. “It’s easy to do and we don’t say it often enough.”
The suggestion of the prize resonated well with the congregation.
Earlier Katherine Olsen, a longtime participant of Outreach in Love from St. John Neumann Parish in Powhatan, told The Catholic Virginian that she was grateful to her family for the love and encouragement they had given her through the years.
Before Mass Katherine Olson, Joan Congable-Mackay and Judy Klucker share a laugh.
Ms. Olsen, who will be 44 on November 24, now lives alone with her cat “Heaven” and has two jobs — one washing dishes at Pizza Hut and the other being an advocate for people with disabilities.
“I give speeches for people who need to know how to treat people with intellectual disabilities,” she said, adding that she sometimes is a speaker at conferences.
“I advocate for waivers for people to get off a waiting list and get out of the institutions and live in the community,” Ms. Olsen explained. “Everybody has a right to live in the community. Everybody has a right to dignity and to be who they are.”
Bishop laughs with Deacon Tom Elliott.
Ms. Olsen, who has been a member of Outreach in Love since she was 11, was asked why she felt it is important to her.
“It’s very important to me because it’s home,” she said. “Everybody is welcome. It’s just a really strong community with people who want to help us be who we are.”
Joan Congable-Mackay, who has been the organizer and longtime coordinator of Outreach in Love, also pulled a supprise on the Bishop as he had done with the congregation. While in the past an Outreach in Love participant came forward to share what the program means to him or her, she wanted to speak about what the Bishop meant to her.
“You have taught me how to pray . . . openly without compromise or a bargaining chip,” she said.
“You have taught me how to share in God’s plan for me . . . with acceptance, whether or not I agree with His idea.”
Robert Pareene, a participant in Outreach in Love, did the first reading from the Book of Job.
Then Ms. Congable-Mackay shared that when she was asked by a group of parish DREs (directors of religious education) to coordinate Outreach in Love, she reluctantly accepted. She recalled that someone suggested that the Bishop of Richmond come to celebrate Mass.
“Well, that was the day before I heard the announcement that you were coming to Richmond as our new Bishop,” she said.
She took this news as “a wink from God” and eventually wrote a note to Bishop DiLorenzo “inviting you to celebrate with us.”
She took the Bishop’s acceptance as “another wink from God.”
When Bishop DiLorenzo came for the opening celebration, he asked Ms. Congable-Mackay how long she had been involved with Outreach in Love. The question surprised and unnerved her.
“I thought ‘Oh, my God.’ I told you this was my first night. I was never trained to do this and that I work with numbers.”
She was immediately heartened by the words Bishop DiLorenzo spoke, and said that had stayed with her since that time.
“You so confidently put your hand on my shoulder and said: ‘God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.’”
Another break from tradition this year came when Ms. Congable-Mackay asked Bishop DiLorenzo to come forward for a blessing from the congregation which they did by extending their hands as the Bishop closed his eyes and bowed his head.