The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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May 11, 2001 Issue
Local News

Mother, son live out their faith together

What started as a project for Lent continues to reward them

By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor

Joanne Olson is not only teaching her son, Matt, about faith and service to others, but is doing it with him.

Rather than give up something for Lent this year, Joanne and Matt, decided to give of themselves. Together they regularly visit Robert Routheau, 88, a resident of San Luis Medical and Rehabilitation Center in Ashwaubenon.

"It's been a great experience," said Joanne. "Until you experience going there, you don't realize how lonely some of the people are and how important it is to visit them."

The Olsons chose Routheau as part of Nativity of Our Lord Parish's "Adopt a Grandparent" program.

"I picked a card at the church that included his name, room number and three of his interests," explained Joanne. "It listed that he enjoyed sports, so I thought he would be a good match for Matt."

Matt, a junior, is a member of the track and field and football teams at Ashwaubenon High School. Sports are among the topics he discusses with Routheau.

"He likes to talk about the weather, but he also tells me about when he played basketball and they won 22 games," said Matt. "He likes to hear about my track meets, school, the prom. He told me how much he likes ballroom dancing."

"He lights up when he sees Matt," said Joanne. "He is very engaged with him when we visit. When he found out that Matt won two medals at his track meet, he immediately shook his hand. They have really connected."

Routheau, who is originally from Oconto Falls, has inspired the Olsons through his outlook on life.

"He is so optimistic," said Matt, Joanne and husband Terry's only child. "He doesn't complain about anything. For so many people, it would be frustrating to live on somebody else's schedule, but he is always positive."

"Robert has a wonderful disposition," said Joanne. "Spending time with him has brought so much joy and taught us many lessons. The time is a sacrifice, but it has really added something to our life."

The Olsons, who moved to Ashwaubenon from Coral Springs, Florida, two years ago, were nervous when first meeting Routheau.

"It took a couple times for Robert to understand why we were there," said Joanne. "He told me he 'liked being adopted.'"

"We usually sit and talk with him," said Matt. "We brought him chocolate chip cookies. If you get him going, he really talks a lot."

Visiting Routheau has strengthened Joanne and Matt's close relationship.

"When we first started going, I asked Matt if he would be interested in going by himself," said Joanne. "He said that he wanted to continue to go together. When your kid is in high school and is busy with school and sports, it is tough to find time to spend together, so this has been really nice."

"This has been such a valuable experience," she continued. "Seeing a side of my son that is so compassionate and loving has been so rewarding."

The Olsons plan to continue their relationship with Routheau as long as possible. They try to visit once a week.

"I couldn't go during spring break and it's tough sometimes with track and homework, but it's nice to have someone to visit," said Matt. "Some of my friends from school work there. I think they were surprised to see me there."

Last year, Joanne gave up coffee for Lent. Matt attempted to give up soda, but didn't stick to it.

"This is a much better option," said Joanne. "I wouldn't have thought of it if it wasn't talked about at Nativity. The parish made it easy for us to get involved. It's been wonderful."

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