Church service was a dream come true

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | November 13, 2013

Lasley says ministry as church sacristan is literally a dream job

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]OCONTO — Shirley Lasley’s ministry at Holy Trinity Church is truly a dream come true. The Oconto native vividly remembers being called to serve in a dream more than 20 years ago.

Shirley Lasley (Jeff Kurowski | The Compass)
Shirley Lasley (Jeff Kurowski | The Compass)

“I don’t know if it was the Lord or not,” she explained. “He wanted me to be the caretaker of the church. What did that mean? Did I have to clean the church? When I had that dream, I was in the church, which was full of people praying the Stations of the Cross. I’ve had spiritual dreams since I was 18 years old.”

Lasley’s ministry as a “caretaker” of the church developed over time. She started out driving religious sisters to Mass, appointments, errands and to bring Communion to the homebound. One of the sisters, School Sister of Notre Dame Lipharda Faber, who provided pastoral support at then St. Joseph and St. Peter parishes in Oconto, invited Lasley to regularly set up the altar for Mass.

“She told me that she was only going to show me once and she only showed me once,” said Lasley. “I’ve had a bad memory since I was 39 (years old), but this came easy to me. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I always remember everything for Mass. I think it’s the Lord at work.”

Lasley struggles with short-term memory loss. She traces her impairment back to heart surgery in 1979.

“I’ve got a bad heart valve,” she explained. “It’s been bad since I was 23 years old. I still have the same valve. It was cleaned out when I was 39. Ten years after the surgery, I had a bout with nerves which put me in the hospital at St. Vincent (Green Bay). A (religious) sister visited me in the hospital. She said, ‘If you believe strong enough, God can heal that heart.’ I don’t know if it’s fixed or not, but I’m still here.”

In addition to setting up for daily and weekend Masses, weddings, funerals, baptisms and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Lasley also tended to the church linens and altar cloths from 1996 to 2011.

“I have a lady doing that now. She does a good job,” said Lasley. “I’ve also got some ladies that help me with candles and different things like changing the altar cloths.”

Fr. Dave Ruby recruited Lasley to take care of setting up for baptisms when he was pastor in Oconto. The mother of five, grandmother of 12 and great grandmother of nine, hasn’t been afraid to offer suggestions over the years.

“I have a baptism drawer where I keep everything,” she said. “I talked with Fr. Dave and said, ‘I would like to get some holy water bottles and give the family some water from the baptism of the baby.’ This way they have holy water at home. Even some of the grandmas wanted some.”

When Fr. Patrick Beno served as pastor in Oconto, Lasley asked if she could utilize some candle holders she found in storage.

“We didn’t have any candles on the back altar, just two by the main altar,” she said. “We put three on each side and two by the statue of Joseph and two by Mary. Some young person said to Fr. Patrick, ‘You shouldn’t be spending so much money on candlesticks.’ People didn’t know that we had them for years.”

In her role as sacristan, Lasley assists Fr. Joel Sember, pastor; visiting priests; altar servers and lectors. Every priest is different, she said.

“We get a lot of visiting priests and they will tell me what they want,” she said. “Some bring their own chalice. I make sure that everything is in order, their vestments are straight and batteries are in the microphones.”

Holy Trinity is home to Lasley after some detours in life. She was born in Oconto, but her family moved to Milwaukee when she was 4 or 5 years old. They returned to the area a few years later. Lasley, a former accordion player, taught the instrument from age 16 to 23, when she got married. During her 20-year marriage, the family moved 23 times, including stints in Montana, Idaho and Washington state. When she and her now ex-husband divorced 33 years ago, she returned to Oconto and found a home near the church.

Serving the parish has enhanced her faith life and appreciation for the Mass, said Lasley. She now sees that the ministry was an answer to her prayers.

“Before I got married, I said that ‘I want four sons and I want them to be priests,’” she said. “I had four sons, but they are far from being priests. When Fr. Patrick was here, I said to him, ‘God gave me the four sons, but didn’t give me the priests.’ God did give me priest-sons to take care of. My mission is to help the priests a little bit.”

Lasley plans to serve the parish as long as she is able.

“I trust in God,” she said. “When I’m at home, I sometimes feel weak and tired. When I come here, I’m like a new person. I know I have a mission and I just do it.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info”]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Shirley Lasley

Parish: Holy Trinity, Oconto

Age: 77

Favorite saint: Blessed Mother

Words to live by: “Leave everything in God’s hands.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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