Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 18, 2006
WCR drew woman back to Church
Colleen McFarland now uses Catholic newspaper in Millwoods outreach
- WCR photo by Bill Glen
Colleen McFarland delivers the WCR in a Millwoods townhouse development.
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The Western Catholic Reporter has been fortunate to take home its share of media awards over the years. But little compares to the honour Colleen McFarland bestowed on the newspaper recently.
She says that after some 30 years away from the Church, reading the WCR helped convince her to return. She became so convinced of the value of the newspaper that she now delivers it door-to-door in a low-income housing development.
"When I first started reading it, I thought it was interesting but nothing special," said McFarland, 54. "I read only certain parts like the columnists (including Father Ron Rolheiser) and the events page. But after reading more of it over an entire evening, I found I was waiting for the next one to come."
The eldest of seven siblings, McFarland rebelled as a young teenager and her Sunday Mass attendance was a casualty. She recalled reading a list in the church bulletin of families who gave the most money to the parish. Because her family was poor, McFarland felt like she had little value.
"Did God love them more because they had more money and could wear nice hats to church? Were we nothing? I couldn't believe that was God," McFarland said. "I never went back."
A serendipitous sequence of events leading her back to the Church began in 2001 when the remains of her patron saint - St. Th‚rŠse of Lisieux - were displayed at St. Theresa Church.
McFarland had moved into her Millwoods duplex with her husband, Brian, when she heard the display had come and gone. She had no idea the church was just a few blocks away.
Even though she missed seeing the display, the event stirred something within her.
"I went to Mass. Father (Martin) Carroll asked me what brought me and I said I was drawn. He gave me a nice blessing."
An active faith
She signed up as a member of the parish and half-heartedly checked the box to receive the WCR. She says reading the newspaper since 2001 has awakened in her the importance of actively practising her faith. She felt compelled to share some of the stories and columns with others.
"I feel it is the Holy Spirit working in me doing the will of God."
She began taking catechism and Bible studies at St. Theresa's where there was a lot of talk about stewardship.
Last February, her daughter and young grandson moved into a low-income, subsidized housing area of Millwoods. McFarland went over on occasion to babysit and shovel snow away from her daughter's townhouse unit.
She noticed there was little interaction between neighbours other than several pre-teens who banded together. To her, they seemed "wild and out of control."
She recalls thinking that she hoped her daughter could move to a better neighbourhood before her grandson began school.
Making a difference
Upon returning home, McFarland began reading her daily devotions when she realized that she might be able to make a difference.
"I had to do things that I might have a positive effect for these children and their families."
When her first marriage failed, McFarland raised her two daughters on her own. She says she knows what it's like to live in low-income housing.
"I know it's very difficult to be on the bottom rung. I think others look at those people differently. Sometimes, they don't even see them."
Flowers and statues
As spring arrived, McFarland raked leaves and picked up litter. She planted flower gardens. Then she placed statues of Mary among the flowers.
"A manager asked me if I wanted a job and I declined. I told him I just felt like doing it."
McFarland began putting a copy of the WCR into some 30 mailboxes in the townhouse development. She picks them up every week at the WCR office in the Catholic Pastoral Centre.
"I had some rejection but I thought God will reach them some other way. I feel that by doing it with good intentions, it brings a blessing to the area."
One woman eventually caught McFarland as she delivered the WCR to her door. She had been wanting to talk with her for some time.
"She thanked me for delivering the WCR, but said I didn't have to do it anymore because she and her grandson were going to church and she was receiving the paper. That made me so happy."
As the flowers began to bloom, McFarland noticed a shift in the residents' attitude toward each other. Children were playing together in the common area. The adults sat on their front steps and talked to each other across the way.
There is a sense of goodness there that McFarland is hesitant to say comes from her efforts.
"I feel this is what God wants me to do," she said. "I feel a nudge and when I deliver the WCR, I feel wonderful. I want to be a witness to God's word."