Welcoming new members into church ‘a touching moment,’ says Plainfield parishioner
HANCOCK — Love, respect, compassion and compromise. Those are the words that help Joyce Dunn chart the course of her life. They have carried her through five decades of marriage to husband Robert Dunn — they will celebrate 56 years together on Sept. 15.
“But that can be used not just in a marriage, but in a family and any situation that you’re in,” Dunn said.
That same spirit carries into her faith life, and she has responded with dedicated service to the church.
Originally from Illinois, the Dunns — Joyce, her husband and their youngest son — moved to Wisconsin in 1975 to start a dairy farm. They have downsized now to growing hay, corn and soybeans.
St. Paul Church is just a few miles away from their home.
“I got involved right away with the church like I did down in Illinois,” she said. “I was baptized a Lutheran. When I met my husband, I decided to turn Catholic. When you’re a member of the church, I feel that I should be a part of it. It’s part of my life.”
Her older children went through Catholic grade school and high school in Illinois. In both states, Dunn has volunteered on school and parish committees. In Plainfield, she also has taught religious education classes and served on the parish pastoral council.
In 1998, she took up a new ministry: assisting families with the sacrament of baptism. She teaches the class preparing baptismal couples for the sacrament and then assists the presider during the baptisms.
“I love working with new babies and older children, too, if need be,” said Dunn, who has seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. “They are so precious, the little ones. I love starting them out in life with their parents.”
When a baptism is planned, Dunn said the parents first meet with the priest or deacon who will officiate. She then meets with the couple to set up a date for the baptism and instruct them about their responsibilities as parents for the baptism. “I then show them a DVD with more information,” she said.
Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Joyce Dunn
Parish: St. Paul, Plainfield
Favorite saint: Joseph
Words to live by: “Love, respect, compassion and compromise.”
On the day of the baptism, Dunn sets out all the items that will be used during the ceremony, such as oils, candles and a shell for dipping water, and hands them to the appropriate person as needed.
Dunn said she sees the sacrament as a teachable moment. “There are so many young people today who truly don’t understand the sacrament,” she said. “Your baby is born again in the eyes of Jesus. I think baptism is the most important sacrament because it starts their life off.”
When the baptism is over, members of the choir sing a baptismal song while the child is carried around the congregation throughout the church, Dunn said. When the church had a resident priest, he carried the child. Now, she said, they have the parents carry the child.
“That is such a touching moment,” she said. “A lot of the moms cry. They should be proud to take that baby around and be brought into the church and be reborn. It’s a wonderful thing and very meaningful. We want the church community behind the family to support them and that’s why we do it.”
Dunn said choosing the godparents is an important responsibility that should be considered very carefully.
“We ask that they choose a couple who are Catholic and who go to church often,” she said. “That’s what you have a godparent for. Their responsibility is not to raise your child after you’re gone, but to help you raise that child in the faith. God has given you this wonderful thing in having a baby. You’re giving back to the Lord” by having it baptized.
Because St. Paul is a small parish, there are only between four and 12 baptisms a year, said Dunn.
Retired priests currently serve the parish as sacramental ministers because there is not a full-time pastor, added Dunn. However, the deacon assigned to the parish, Jim Trzinski, will soon be serving full time. Dunn said she plans to continue her baptismal ministry.
“I believe in staying involved,” she said. “I’m doing something good for the Lord and the people.”