Her life revolves around faith

By Jean Peerenboom | For The Compass | July 13, 2016

Trust in God helps Martha Franco open her arms to helping others

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]APPLETON — Martha Franco agrees with her favorite saint, Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” Service is her way of praying.

This deeply spiritual native of Mexico came to the United States in 1998. Settling first in Neenah, then in Appleton, she has made a lifetime commitment to the Catholic Church and to helping others.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Martha Franco (Brad Birkholz | For The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Martha Franco (Brad Birkholz | For The Compass)

Today, most of her volunteer work is through St. Therese Parish and the Hispanic community that meets there. She is a lector, Communion distributor and coordinates Quinceañera celebrations for 15-year-old Hispanic girls. She also takes Communion to people who are in the hospital and visits those in jail or prison.

“Anything they need, I will do,” she said. “For me, my prayer is my service. I’m not the kind of person to sit and pray every day. St. Francis is my saint, and I follow Matthew’s Gospel where the Lord says, ‘When I was hungry, you gave me to eat …’”

Franco came to the United States looking for a better job. She lived in Neenah and attended St. Gabriel Parish for 12 years, then moved to the Appleton area to be closer to her son and daughter. A single mother, she raised three children, today ranging in age from 27 to 40, and now enjoys two grandsons, ages 2½ and 7.

As she talks about her life, she begins with her family in Mexico. She has brothers and sisters still living there and last year, after 19 years of being away, she returned for an emotional visit. “I saw family and friends. They embraced me and welcomed me like I’d never left. Now, we connect through social media.”

“We’re a very close family,” she said. “We have a lot of respect for one another. Before I moved to America, I was active in my church in Mexico.”

She made a Cursillo retreat, which deepened her faith. Afterward, she said, someone handed her a rose. She remembered that when she came to St. Therese Parish, pointing out that St. Therese is known as the Little Flower. She made a novena to the Divine Mercy.

Franco is a hard worker who relies on her faith. “Learning English — it was hard. I was a single mother. It was hard, but I pray to God and trust in Jesus. Without God, I wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

She is also proud to live the American dream without assistance.

“I didn’t ask for help from the government, you know, for food and that. I got through it all with God’s help,” she said. “I really, really believe that God will provide. God gives me hope. … I know I’m here because it’s God’s promise to me. He says I’ll be with you till the end.”

She cleans houses for a living and finds that is a time to pray and talk with God. “I realize how merciful God is. At first, when I started doing my cleaning jobs, I was a little embarrassed by it. I never thought I’d be in such a position. But after thinking about humility, I felt humbled by it all. I felt gratitude that God gave me this. So, I’m happy and proud to be working for these homeowners. They are grateful for the service I provide.”

This message of hope is what she shares as she helps others meet their own needs and cope with their own struggles.

Unfortunately, she said, her family isn’t as close to the church as she would like. “But I believe the Lord works in all of us. I know they will again be with the church.”

Franco cited Pope Francis and the late St. Pope John XXIII as role models. When she goes to church on Sundays, she goes with an empty heart. “After Mass, my soul is full with the love of God. I can go with hope. This is something I cannot live without. You know, people can have a lot of knowledge, but be empty in their hearts. I tell people, if you are not highly educated, you can still have a full heart.”

She credits her parents with instilling in her a strong faith. “My parents always told us God is love, God loves the sinner, but not the sin,” she said. “My parents always gave to people who needed food or something. I learned from them. Now, I give food to the hungry when I can.”

“My daughter once asked me, ‘Why do you smile at people you don’t know?’ I said, ‘You never know what a smile will do for someone.’ I learned this from my parents and I pass it along to my children and grandchildren.

“I put my life in God’s hands,” she added. “Everything I do says God, I love you. I try to treat all people with compassion and it’s something I’m trying to teach my grandsons. We pray before meals in restaurants. Again, it shows God is with me. … I try to set an example for others. I love my God with all my heart, soul and mind. I also love my neighbor — as the Gospel says.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]

Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Martha Franco
Parish: St. Therese, Appleton
Age: 57
Favorite saint: Francis of Assisi
Words to live by: “I cannot do something by myself, but if God is with me, I can do it.”


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