[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]APPLETON — Patty Parker invites everyone to “Mary’s table” in her dining room. To most of us, it looks like an ordinary dining room table. But to her weekly rosary group, it is a very special place.
For 39 years, Parker has gathered friends and a few strangers together on Thursday mornings to pray the rosary. They socialize, munch on snacks and laugh. “We laugh a lot,” she says with a twinkle in her eye and a smile that lights up the room. “A sense of humor is very important. We have supported each other for all these years.”
“It’s a big table, and we always have two coffee pots going,” she said. One member brings sweet treats.
The group now numbers about 13, ranging in age from 47 to 87. She chooses not to reveal her own age, but admits she leans to the higher end of the age range. They had been 14, but one person moved away. Now they start their meetings by talking with her on the phone.
Years ago, Parker hesitantly started the group with two friends when she and her family first moved to Appleton from Illinois, where she had been a member of the Blue Army of Our Lady. The two neighbors invited her to go for a walk. She began talking about her faith and how people don’t pray the rosary much any more. They decided to get together and pray.
The group started small and there were two times when no one showed up. “The first time that happened, I felt bad. The second time, I said, ‘Blessed Mother, if you want them here, they will come,’” Parker said.
The idea caught on and now it is considered one of the small groups that are part of St. Bernard Parish, though not all participants are members of that church.
They come from parishes in Appleton and Greenville. And, most are involved in other ministries of their parishes, including prison ministry, prayer shawl ministry, Bible studies, Elizabeth Ministry and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion. Parker, herself, is a eucharistic minister and former faith formation teacher, giving 20 years to that role.
She views the rosary as both a personal prayer that can be prayed by one person and as a community prayer that deserves to be shared.
“It used to be we would say ‘We’ll pray for you,’ but after the Renew program, we now say ‘We’ll pray with you,’” she said. Members of the rosary group offer prayer intentions. “There are times when people come with special intentions. We pray for anyone.”
There also are times when people who are not regular members of the group come with a special request. Everyone is welcomed in and they pray together.
Parker is a teacher by profession and after years of teaching elementary school, including St. Francis Xavier Elementary, State Street campus in Appleton, she was asked to volunteer in her retirement at both St. Francis Xavier, State Street and Marquette Street campuses. She works primarily in reading and math, but there are also opportunities to share about the rosary and the saints.
“I love to hear people’s stories,” she said.
Her love of teaching was inspired early, she said. “My best friend’s mother was a teacher and she let us help her correct papers. I was taught by Sinsinawa Dominican sisters and they fostered my love of faith,” Parker said.
“I received a wonderful education at St. Robert’s in Shorewood. Then I went to Holy Angels Academy in Milwaukee. We had weekly devotionals to Mary,” she added. All of this nurtured her devotion to Mary and the rosary.
“I chose to be a Catholic when I was 7,” she said. “My dad was Lutheran; my mom Catholic. I asked to be a Catholic and I was baptized. Then I asked to go to Catholic school. I made some very good friends, many of whom remain friends today,” she said.
Parker bubbles over with enthusiasm as she talks about faith and spirituality. She loves sharing it with everyone she meets.
“I’ve always had a relationship with Jesus and his mother. It’s a gift. Everything is gift. Every day is a gift,” she said.
Her family plays an important role in her life. These days, she also is busy serving as a caregiver for her husband, who is suffering with Alzheimer’s disease.
“If I could give my children or grandchildren anything, it would be faith. All that matters is God,” she said.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info”]Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Patty Parker
Parish: St. Bernard, Appleton
Favorite saint: Blessed Mother
Words to live by: “To Jesus through Mary.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]