APPLETON — When Judy DeYoung was in grade school at Sacred Heart School in Appleton, she remembers the older ladies who were always around church and school helping out. The kids called them the “church ladies,” and now as one of her former classmates pointed out, Judy has become one of those church ladies herself — and she’s proud of it.
DeYoung and her husband, Paul, are lifelong members of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish. They went to school together and started dating after religious education class together at Sacred Heart. They have two grown children and two grandchildren.
The decision to volunteer at the parish came when DeYoung retired at the age of 55. “I thought, ‘Here we go, I’ve got to give back to my church,’” she recalled. In the past 17 years, DeYoung has had her share of duties at the parish, including some leadership roles. Now she’s content being one of the many hands that help keep the parish running smoothly. She is at church at least two days every week but she never says no if asked to help out for other projects. “I just go where I’m needed.”
On Mondays, DeYoung is one of about a half-dozen parishioners who make up the cleaning crew. The volunteers spend around two hours tidying up the church and attending to various chores. She spends her time mostly in the sacristy. “Every Friday and Monday I take home the corporals and purificators (altar cloths) to wash and iron. You take care of little things like filling the wine and checking the laundry.”
DeYoung is also a member of Sacred Heart’s worship committee. “We talk about the upcoming liturgical seasons — the colors of the season as far as the altar cloths.” She helps with preparation for the daily and weekend Masses. Some things are as simple as bringing the large crucifix to the back of the church on Friday for the 4:30 p.m. Saturday Mass, but everything needs to be done and that’s why volunteers are so crucial for the life of a parish.
As a member of Sacred Heart’s Whole Life group, DeYoung goes to the monthly meetings and they work on projects to keep life issues in the forefront for fellow parishioners, everything from the spiritual adoption of unborn babies campaign to the Rose for Life sale on Mother’s Day, to the 40 Days for Life annual event. From Sept. 23 through Nov. 1, DeYoung, other committee members and Sacred Heart parishioners pray in front of the abortion facility in Grand Chute from 10 a.m. until noon every Wednesday.
In 2002, DeYoung and another former Sacred Heart parishioner started the Sweet Stroll which is held the first or second weekend in December each year. It’s one of the largest fund-raisers for the parish.
“What started out as a bake sale is now the Sweet Stroll,” said DeYoung. “People make candy and cookies in their homes. We start making the candy towards the end of October. We use very good chocolate from Wilmar Chocolates in Appleton. On the Saturday morning when the Sweet Stroll opens up, we have people from throughout the city waiting in line.”
While she may be a part of the older generation of parishioners at Sacred Heart, DeYoung knows the future of the parish is the hands of the younger members and is hoping they will step up and share their time and talent with the parish.
She’s encouraged when she sees young people at Mass in the evening. “Hopefully our young people are being taught about the faith. You can learn a lot of things about the Catholic Church off the Internet or by listening to Catholic radio. … If you have questions, EWTN has lots of things about learning your faith and lots of stories about coming home. My wish is that (fallen away) Catholics come home. There are people who are hurting and I wish they’d come back. If you have left your Catholic faith, you have such a gift to come back to. We have the church that Christ started.”
As for herself, DeYoung tries to get to Mass as often as she can during the week. “Going to church and receiving the Eucharist is the greatest thing in the world, it’s a gift that was given to us from God and we don’t take advantage of it,” she said. “I’m trying to be a better person by going to church.”
She wishes more people would take advantage of the opportunities to learn about their faith. “Our Catholic faith is just a gift; I love my faith.”