NEENAH — Lisa Durocher’s volunteering interests change as her faith changes. “It has evolved as I’ve evolved,” she said.
Active in her parish and the Neenah-Menasha community, Durocher is grounded in her penchant for social justice. She has a social work degree and today works as a massage therapist, which goes along with her desire to help people.
For the past 23 years, she has been a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish and was a religious formation teacher for the first 10 years when her children were small. She also volunteered with the Neenah-Menasha Emergency Society, which provides financial assistance to those in need, and was director of the Fox Valley Community Table, a Neenah soup kitchen.
There have been many other volunteer commitments, including the Parish Life Committee, over the years. She also serves as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and participates in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at her parish’s adoration chapel.
Today, Durocher’s efforts are devoted to the Human Concerns Committee, which allows her to go back to her interest in social justice that led to her social work degree. Each month, the committee plans something devoted to helping those in need. She has led parish efforts for a Habitat for Humanity Build. Her efforts also include serving meals — for whatever reason. “I seem to cook a lot of meals for people,” said Durocher with a laugh. This can be for parishioners or neighbors — anyone in need. She also helps with meals for the Spiritus missionaries at Mount Tabor Center in Menasha and other community organizations.
She and her husband, Dennis, have been involved in international outreach to St. Margaret Mary’s sister parish in Haiti and they have traveled to Guatemala to build houses.
No conversation about her volunteer efforts and her faith would be complete without mention of the Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh. “My evolution has much to do with my going to the Jesuit retreat center for the past 10 years or so,” Durocher said.
“I was raised Episcopalian,” she explained. In college, she attended the Newman Center with her roommate. She married her husband, a Catholic, and about 25 years ago decided to become Catholic.
Her faith drives her volunteer efforts, she said. She treasures her adventures of helping people in other countries and is happy they have moved her out of her comfort zone. However, Durocher said, “I find that it is very important to volunteer locally. I think helping your neighbor is very important.”
After her early retreats in Oshkosh, she began attending daily Mass whenever she could. That is something that also has changed her. “I like this community of faith and strength I get from going to St. Margaret Mary. I see people aging. I see young families coming in and growing up. It gives me strength and I know I’m not alone,” said Durocher.
Volunteering has personal benefits, she said. “It makes me get out of thinking about my own needs. It keeps me from being too self-absorbed, and I really enjoy doing things for other people. I find great joy in that. I find I have a lot of faith and hope, and great joy.”
It has also taught her a valuable lesson: how to accept help from others, too. “That is something I have struggled with. We all want to be independent,” she said.
That is a lesson driven home when Durocher was volunteering in Haiti. “We Americans are very independent. But in Haiti, where people don’t have a lot of stuff, they have each other, and they have great joy in their lives.”
Family is another one of Durocher’s great joys. The family has a tradition of volunteerism. Some things they do together; some individually according to their own interests. Lisa and Dennis are the parents of two sons, ages 29 and 27. One is married and one is soon-to-be-married.
Getting others involved in volunteer activities is a challenge.
“It is one of the things we talk about at committee meetings. People are so very busy,” she said. “I tell them to take a small step and see where that takes you. See what happens from there. They will benefit in so many ways, and it may make them move out of their comfort zone.”
Always looking for new challenges, Durocher and her husband recently looked into the issue of human trafficking. “It’s a new effort for us. It’s something that is going on right here in this area and there are some great groups out there working on this,” she said.
“My husband and I continually talk about how we, as Catholics, should be living a life of hope and joy. I try to do that and I find great strength in it. I try to bring it all back to my faith whenever I can, said Durocher.