Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 25, 2005
Stewardship's saving grace
One woman's gift of time and talent gave her the gift of peace
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Becoming a faithful steward of Christ changed Alana LaPerle's self-centred way of thinking. It might also have saved her life.
LaPerle became involved with stewardship at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Sherwood Park about three years ago when her eldest son, Aiden, was to receive his First Communion. She had not been committed to attending Church and the day she returned happened to be Stewardship Sunday.
A communication consultant, she filled out a form offering to help with some writing projects to promote parish activities. She was later invited by Msgr. Jack Hamilton to join the fledgling stewardship council.
"The Lord has entrusted us with a variety of gifts and it is our job to use those gifts to essentially take the message of the Gospel out into the community," LaPerle said.
LaPerle is now chair of OLPH's 10-member stewardship council which supports the numerous ministries already underway at the parish.
But her stewardship activity does not end there. LaPerle sits on the board of the George Spady Centre, an inner-city shelter and detoxification site in Edmonton. She is a board member of the Prostitution Awareness and Action Foundation and fundraises for the Home for Healing, a rural retreat for women who were in prostitution. And she manages her sons' hockey teams.
"Stewardship in not just about social causes, but being involved in your community trying to make it better. It is always a challenge teaching children about stewardship and the concept of giving, but mine are beginning to understand."
Eight months ago, LaPerle was diagnosed with breast cancer. In January, she began chemotherapy treatments following a mastectomy.
"My final chemo session was last week. It has been an incredible journey. The important thing for me in that journey was to keep giving and volunteering. It might be easier for someone to sit back and heal their wounds and say they'll get back into stewardship when they are well. But for me, it was easier to continue to be involved with my parish," she said.
"I think it is important for people to realize we benefit as individuals when we live a life of stewardship. You give until it feels good. You don't give until it hurts."
Keeping God at the centre of her life has "definitely" helped her cope with her illness.
"I told my husband I haven't battled cancer but journeyed with it. This has made me a stronger person. It has definitely strengthened my faith. I think I'm a better steward because I can better relate to a person's suffering."
Anointing of the Sick
LaPerle received the Anointing of the Sick from Hamilton and OLPH associate pastor Father Wilf Murchland the day before her biopsy to determine if the cancer had spread into her lymph nodes. She was told it had not.
"I see that as miraculous intervention. I truly believe this experience is a gift from God to help me be a better person.
"When I felt sorry for myself, I had a more difficult time. A couple of days after one chemo session, we went out to the Home for Healing to hang blinds. I felt better because it took the focus off myself. There are people suffering a lot more than me," she said.
Many live a life of stewardship, but they have never heard the word, LaPerle said. She described stewardship as "a way of life. Everything you think, say and do is done with God at the centre."
"It means when I get up in the morning and I get my children ready for school, it is not just busy work. It is recognizing my children are gifts from God and it is my job to raise them well and to bring them to the message of the Gospel."
Her parish dedicates each Sunday in September to raise stewardship awareness, showing people how beneficial it is to give of themselves. Everyone is invited to fill out a form indicating where their talents might best be applied.
OLPH has a stewardship room in the foyer to remind people of its significance. The room contains recognition of First Communions, a prayer wall for baptisms and a memorial book honouring parish members who have died.
"We are a large parish so it is key to connect our community with the parish," LaPerle said. "We host an annual gratitude dinner where we invite everyone who has been a Christian steward in some aspect. We have a guest speaker. It is an opportunity to say thank you."
LaPerle plans to be an active participant when OLPH hosts Edmonton's third annual archdiocesan stewardship conference May 27-28.
"There was a time in my life when I thought to serve meant to suffer in some way; that it should take away from something I wanted for myself," she said.
"Stewardship has changed my thinking. I know there is no pain yet so much to gain. What used to seem important has fallen away.
"I used to think I would never have time available to be a steward. Now I ask myself 'How could I not do it?'"
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