Her faith is a sight to behold

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | August 23, 2018

Despite blindness, Boerschinger continues to love life and give thanks

GREEN BAY — For the last 40 years, Pat Boerschinger has been legally blind. And while she cannot see, her faith in God and devotion to the Blessed Mother guides her every step.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Pat Boerschinger (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Boerschinger was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare, inherited degenerative eye disease, in 1978. “It was devastating,” she said. “When I first lost my eyesight, the doctor told me, ‘You’re going blind. There’s nothing I can do for you. There’s nothing you can do. You might as well just go home and not cry about it.’

“I cried all the way home,” she recalled. “Then I got home and I thought, ‘Who is he to tell me I can’t do anything about it?’”

What she did was turn to God and to “Mama Mary.”

“I always grew up thinking that our Blessed Mother was my favorite,” she said. “From the time I reached the age of reason, I always thought that if I had her on my side, I could not go wrong.”

As long as she can remember, Boerschinger, 74, has turned to Mary for strength. The devotion likely stems from her upbringing and proximity to what was called “The Chapel,” now the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, where the Blessed Mother appeared to Adele Brise in 1859.

According to Boerschinger, her great-grandfather, when he was about 7 years old, escaped the Peshtigo Fire with his family by retreating to the shrine.

Born in Green Bay, Boerschinger grew up in Tonet, about two miles east of the shrine.

“I don’t think I was even in school yet” when she first visited the shrine, she said. “We used to go there all of the time.” Her family would attend May crownings every year and she and her sister would participate in the procession as flower girls.

The feast of the Assumption on Aug. 15 was also a memorable day, she said. “People would walk from all over. We had a big porch on our house and they would stop in and ask us how far they had to go yet,” she said.

Boerschinger continues to visit the shrine on the feast of the Assumption. She and husband Jack attended Mass at the shrine on Aug. 15.

One of the earliest times Boerschinger recalls asking the Blessed Mother to intercede in her life was when her father struggled with alcohol.

“When he was a child, my father ended up in the orphanage, which happened to be at The Chapel at the time,” she said. “He had a terrible background and he ended up as an alcoholic. But he made a complete turnaround 25 years after he married my mom,” she said. “I was always afraid to see my dad come home from work, so I talked to the Blessed Mother a lot when I was growing up. It worked because my dad was just a wonderful person after he straightened out.”

Boerschinger met her husband, Jack, in 1968 and they were married on Dec. 29, 1968. The couple operated Jack’s Landscape Nursery in Bellevue for 31 years before selling the business in 1999. They continue to run a smaller nursery business with the same name, and Pat assists by answering phone calls.

Despite the loss of her eyesight, Boerschinger has continued to stay active and practice her faith. She volunteered at Relevant Radio for nearly 11 years, taking telephone pledges during the Catholic radio station’s pledge drives. About twice a year on Fridays, she joins Drew Mariani on the air to recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

She prays the rosary four times a day, dedicating her prayers to the needs of others. “I heard on Relevant Radio that people were doing that,” she said. “You know what, there’s always something to pray for. … My prayer list looks like a scroll. I’m sure by now the good Lord and Mama Mary are very sick of listening to me. That’s why I ‘walk to Mary’ every year.”

Since the annual walking pilgrimage from St. Norbert College in De Pere to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion began in 2013, Boerschinger has walked the entire 21-mile distance. Last May, she was honored to help carry the Marian statue across the Claude Allouez Bridge in De Pere.

“I am planning on doing it next year, too,” she said. “I get a little sore, but who doesn’t?” At the end of the walk, she sits down and drinks a bottle of water. “By the time Mass is over, I feel fine again. I’m used to walking because I run,” she said.

With the assistance of her personal trainer at the YMCA in Bellevue, Craig Congdon, Boerschinger runs about three miles each Tuesday and Thursday. “I’ve been training with him for like 10 years,” she said. “I started when I was 64 and I started walking to Mary when I was 68.”

The walking and running keep her active, said Boerschinger, which helps her prayer life.

“If Mary could have walked, about 70 miles when she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, I should be able to walk 21 miles — although she was a lot younger than me,” said with a smile.

Staying active and staying positive are results of her love for the Blessed Mother and her son, said Boerschinger.

“I figure that if the good Lord put me down here, and the reason was that it had something to do with being blind, then I’m going to work with it and figure it out,” she said.

 

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Pat Boerschinger

Parish: Resurrection, Allouez

Age: 74

Favorite saint: Blessed Mother

Words to live by: “Always trust in the Lord. Let Mary put it in God’s hands.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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