Worshippers will receive newly blessed bottles of holy water when they attend the Easter Vigil at St. Saviour Church, Park Slope. They will use that water to bless themselves, loved ones and perhaps even their homes.
The hands that filled those bottles belong to the ladies of Martha’s Ministry at the parish. Working in assembly-line fashion, they prepared 500 bottles to be blessed and distributed at next Saturday’s service.
Open, fill, cap and repeat was the process women used when they met in the parish hall on a recent day to do some simple service for their church, while getting to know each other better.
“Sometimes you take for granted when you come into church and all these things are set up. Like there’s 500 holy water bottles. Somebody had to do it. But you never think about that,” said volunteer Janet Jakubowski, a lifelong parishioner.
“Now I think about all of these things. I look around and say, ‘Gee, somebody’s hands did that.’ I can say, ‘My hands helped do this.’”
In addition to filling holy water bottles, ministry members also threaded bobeche, cardboard drip protectors, onto 300 white taper candles for use at the Easter Vigil.
Named for Jesus’ friend who busied herself with the duties of hospitality, Martha’s Ministry is a parish initiative to get churchgoers to take stewardship for activities that need helping hands. Membership, however, is completely fluid.
No Commitment, No Guilt
“From the get go, there’s no commitment, no guilt involved,” explains Geri Anne O’Beirne, ministry organizer. “Whoever is available comes to help.”
O’Beirne, who also coordinates youth and family ministry at the parish, said that since it was launched a year and a half ago, Martha’s Ministry has drawn volunteers of all ages – from teens to octogenarians – who are happy to give whatever time they have, whenever they have time.
“For me, it’s convenient,” said Jakubowski, a retired Catholic schoolteacher. “It doesn’t demand a specific time and date so it fits with my schedule.”
Beyond the practical, she said, “You meet nice people and you’re doing a service for the church.”
Other service opportunities with the ministry include setting up the Giving Tree during Advent and assisting with babysitting and date nights for parish parents. Last year, members made 700 felt doves for Pentecost.
“It gives everyone a chance to feel like part of the parish. It gives a sense of ownership,” O’Beirne said.
Carol Bibeau, a newcomer to the parish, read about the ministry in the parish bulletin and thought it would be a good way to give a “just a wee bit” of her time.
“I love St. Martha. I identify with her a lot,” said Bibeau, who describes herself as a Martha at heart. “So the name was of interest to me.”
As they filled holy water bottles, she chatted and laughed with Maritza Scroco, Helen Fitzpatrick and the other ladies like she had known them for years.
In fact, Bibeau had just met them when she arrived at the parish hall that morning. It was her first time volunteering with the ministry, but she said it wouldn’t be her last.
“I had some trepidation coming from my parish (in Connecticut), which I was in for a long time and very connected with,” Bibeau said. “I felt a sense of loss and I really prayed the Holy Spirit would lead me to a parish where I’d feel at home.”
Looking at the work of her hands and that of the other volunteers on a recent morning, she said, “This is my new home and it feels so good.”