Barry Langley and John Aherne with Betsy (second from left) and other volunteers from St. Anthony Shrine. (Photo courtesy of Laura Sikora)

The place is St. Anthony Shrine in Boston. This stage of my life began when I retired as a physical therapist, a wonderful career that began in the summer of 1960 and lasted until the spring of 2002. After three pleasant months of retirement, I realized I needed to have some sort of schedule. I began per diem physical therapy work, covering for vacations, sickness, days off, and the like in two neighboring hospitals. I also started to volunteer at St. Anthony Shrine on Arch Street.

Growing up in Dorchester and later, while living in Belmont, a suburb of Boston, I would usually make a visit to St. Anthony’s. I also came to know the Franciscan friars many years ago when I worked in New York City for 10 years and my parish was St. Stephen of Hungary on East 82nd Street.

Volunteering at St. Anthony’s for me began by handing out bulletins, special event information, and bread on St. Anthony’s feast day. It gradually led to an invitation to be a lay minister and, eventually, training to be a lector. Spending more time at the Shrine, I began assisting with the Seniors Program held every Wednesday and directed by Sr. Margaret Henry, MFIC, and Gary Convertino, and in the past seven years, by Barry Langley, OFM. I am happy to be still involved in this great program.

Besty, left, and Michael Reyes, center.

Besty, Michael Reyes, OMF and Margaret Shea

Sharing Time and Talent
After being a lay minister for a while, Frank McHugh, OFM, asked if I would be a member of the Shrine’s worship committee. During that seven- to eight-year period, I met wonderful lay ministers who give and share their time at the Shrine. This community is a place where you are appreciated with a kind “thank you,” joyful dinners, gifts, annual events and, since 2014, three lay ministers each year are given a special award in volunteer ministry, the Franciscan Heart Award.

Usually a student friar is assigned to the Shrine for a year to help with some of the programs. I have been very fortunate to have worked with John Aherne, OFM, George Camacho, OFM, and Michael Reyes, OFM. With their talent and help, they brought much joy and laughter. I was grateful to be invited to Michael’s ordination to the priesthood this past January. In August, I plan to attend George and John’s solemn profession ceremony, thanks to their invitation.

Praying Together
The other part of my schedule — though not at St. Anthony Shrine, it is based on what I learned at St. Anthony’s — involves volunteering two days a week in the chaplaincy department of Massachusetts General Hospital from which I retired. This includes praying and giving communion to patients and family in the intensive care units to which I am assigned. The respect and gratitude the staff members have for the patients to receive this is very touching.

Praying with the patients, whether awake or not, and giving them and their family communion is very moving. Even if one has not prayed for quite a while, it seems that mostly everyone knows the Our Father. I have learned more of what is important in one’s life and the impact it eventually has. Giving communion in the hospital and at St. Anthony Shrine is one of my favorite activities because of the way it is received.

My scheduled activities that I enjoy are because of my association with St. Anthony Shrine. The qualities the friars demonstrate in their social interactions, programs, and tasks always include kindness, gratitude, laughter and the human element. I’m grateful for being able to enjoy an incredible pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Raphael Bonanno, OFM, in August 2009. I am fortunate and thankful for the many special friendships I have made at the Shrine.

A while ago, a good friend gave me 10 stones on which were the words of the Prayer of St. Francis with the words “Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace.” Though life is not always easy, I now have a better understanding of what the prayer means, and I am smiling. I have had a full life and at this stage, it continues to be a wonderful life and the Franciscan friars and brothers are a meaningful part of it. I am very grateful to God.

Thank you, St. Anthony.

— Betsy Quinn, a resident of Belmont Mass., served as the lay witness at the priestly ordination of Michael Reyes, OFM, in January at St Francis of Assisi Church in New York City.