St. Benedict parishioner deeply committed to serving parish, diocesan SPRED program

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PROVIDENCE — “What is staggering is how the efforts of one person, one particular person, can truly make a difference in so many lives,” said Father Roland L. Simoneau, pastor of St. Benedict Church, of his faithful parishioner, Marie Wilson who will be honored with a Lumen Gentium Award in the category of Parish Service.

For the past 18 years, Wilson has volunteered at St. Benedict Parish since moving to the area in 1998 and has just completed her 9,800th hour of volunteer service.

“Marie has the respect and gratitude of those for whom and with whom she serves, her church family, her neighborhood residents and her peers here at St. Benedict,” said Father Simoneau. “As the pastor here at St. Benedict, I can say Marie has inspired and motivated many to service.”

At the parish food pantry, she has provided support in multiple ways, from sorting weekly donations and preparing Thanksgiving Baskets, distributing food and even recruiting other volunteers to assist. Wilson is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion who tends to the sick at a local nursing home. She also makes home visits with Communion and kind words to ailing parishioners, explained Father Simoneau.

“She greets every parishioner with a smile, hug and kind word at the evening Mass on Saturday, where she is the on the greeting team,” he said. “Her volunteer work doesn’t end there. She is on the church choir. She is also on the church cleaning team, and she cleans the rectory and living quarters every week without fail. She drives our elderly parishioners to and from Mass and to their doctor’s appointments and on daily errands. Marie always bakes her famous cookies for every fundraiser to help raise money.”

In addition to her work in the food pantry and her time visiting the sick and homebound, Marie has been deeply committed to the SPRED Program in the Diocese of Providence. She recruits and trains catechists, prepares lessons, retreats, and organizes many parties and services for all her “Special Friends.” There are 26 Special Friends at St. Benedict’s Church and every one of them knows her name.

“I’m a firm believer that God put us on this earth to do something with our lives,” said Wilson. “And after raising my children, I needed to find something and this ministry just reinforces everything I believe in. This is where I belong — in SPRED.”

Father Simoneau shared that Wilson continuously goes out into the community to raise awareness and to recruit parish priests to become involved with the SPRED program, striving to utilize every available “pulpit” in her efforts to raise awareness. She has also been instrumental in working to secure funding for an elevator, so the program may service even more students.

“I receive more than I give. They teach me, truly,” explained Wilson. “They have so many disabilities, some of them are nonverbal, and yet 99 percent of the time they are happy. If I could teach them SPRED every night, every week, every year they would be happy. It’s awesome. No matter how tired I am, when I greet them at the door it’s like a new day. I am full of pep again. They are great people. I just love them to pieces.”

Wilson shared her gratitude for her six children, nine grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and her loving husband of 60 years, Dale, for their support throughout the years.

“My greatest blessing besides my family, and my health, has been working with the Special Friends,” she said. “I thank God every day for that. If it hadn’t been for a friend asking me to join SPRED, I never would have known. They are just like a second family for me.”

Over the next several weeks, Rhode Island Catholic will feature profiles of the 17 winners in the 10 categories of the diocese’s 2017 Lumen Gentium Awards, which formally recognize those who ‘toil in the vineyard’ in service to the Lord, and minister to those in greatest need in their parish or community. The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Wednesday, May 17. Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will support diocesan senior priests, many of whom continue to serve in our diocese well into their older years — are asked to register online at www.dioceseofprovidence.org/lumen-gentium-awards. For any questions about the event, please call 401-277-2121.