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Living the Gospel by Bringing Comfort and Dignity to Haiti
By Frank Wilcox 

In 2015, the parishioners of St. Mary of the Lake partnered with Reiser Relief to provide relief, hope, and dignity to the poor, elderly, and homeless people of Haiti.  Reiser Relief was founded by Fr. Bernard Reiser, former associate pastor at St. Mary of the Lake.  Reiser Relief has been a presence in Haiti for many years and has developed relationships with people and organizations, ensuring financial support has the greatest impact.  The people of St. Mary of the Lake are grateful to join with Reiser Relief in some of their efforts.
Let's start with a few statistics:
  • Haiti has the distinction of being the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
  • 80% of Haitians live under the poverty line and 54% live in abject poverty.
  • The average per capita income in Haiti is $480 a year.
  • Haiti has the highest percentage of orphans of any country in the Western Hemisphere. Before the 2010 earthquake, the United Nations estimated there were 430,000 orphans living in Haiti; slightly more than the population of Minneapolis. 
But statistics are sterile and impersonal. They fail to convey the human pain and suffering of the people living in Haiti. The statistics also fail to tell of the efforts to bring comfort and dignity to the Haitian people by organizations such as Reiser Relief and the parishioners of St. Mary of the Lake.

Two projects made possible by St. Mary of the Lake
One of the projects funded involves a home for 31 abandoned adults in Marfranc, Haiti. The residence operates under the direction of Sister Evelyn Moliney and two other hard working and dedicated nuns and provides physical, emotional and spiritual care for the residents.  Through its partnership with St. Mary' s, Reiser Relief purchased and shipped a storage container filled with food for the residents and replaced leaky roofs on the men's and women's dormitories.

A second joint project between St. Mary of the Lake and Reiser Relief is the construction of an elementary school in Marfranc.  The first phase of that construction, a building for the youngest students in the village, is nearing completion.  The goal is to add grades as resources are available.

The parishioners of St. Mary of the Lake have also contributed to other Reiser Relief projects, including an orphanage in Port au Prince, a school named Reiser Heights, and organizations assisting the elderly and abandoned and dying babies.     
How can St. Mary of the Lake continue to help?
When asked how we can continue to help the people of Haiti, Matt Palkert, Outreach Coordinator at St. Mary's, offered the following suggestions:  
First, with our prayers. This is so important because our efforts in regard to Haiti will bear the most fruit if they are led by the Holy Spirit and rooted in our love of God and a humble love of neighbor.
Second, get to know the country and people of Haiti.  Attend a presentation after the parish-sponsored trip to Haiti.  Go on a trip yourself, if you're able.  Read a book about Haiti from our parish library. 
Third, material, and especially financial, donations can go a long way. For example, $125.00 can pay for a year's tuition for a child. $50.00 can purchase a goat or pig for a family. Financial donations have the added benefit of supporting the local economy in Haiti. 

St. Mary of the Lake is sponsoring a mission trip in March that will involve visiting some of the organizations that partner with Reiser Relief and spending time with the people supported by these organizations. We will assist with various tasks such as delivering potable water where it is needed, but our service will mainly be offering our caring and compassionate presence to those we encounter.

Watch the Sunday bulletin for information and announcements about how all of us at St. Mary of the Lake can "be the hands and feet of Christ."

More about Reiser Relief
This Reiser Relief Vision Statement offers a clear and succinct statement of our belief as Christians:

We believe in the sanctity of all life.  The impoverished and orphaned children and elderly of Haiti are beloved children of God and should be treated with faith, respect and dignity.

Those of us who are blessed with good health and earthly treasures are called by Christ to help the less fortunate who don't have the means to help themselves.

More information about Reiser Relief can be found at and  

Matthew 25:40-The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
St. Mary's Teens Serve Community, Church

By Joe Simms

But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak." (Jeremiah 1:7)

Austin Timermanis, a young member of St. Mary's parish, recalls volunteering his time at an assisted-living center in Mahtomedi during the annual Summer Blast event. He sat for two hours talking with an old man--a war veteran. Austin could tell that he and the man had made a "strong connection," and that his visit had made his new friend very happy. That made Austin happy, too.

Austin's story is just one of many from our teen parishioners who have given their time and talents in service to the church and the community. Their stories and reflections help to demonstrate that service is at the heart of St. Mary of the Lake's mission as a parish, and the youth are taking a significant role. Though they give generously, Austin Timermanis and two other St. Mary's teens, Veronica Waalk and Annikki Neubeck, say that they have received so much more in personal satisfaction, and they encourage their fellow youth to get involved as well.
Austin is a 16-year-old junior at White Bear Lake Area High School. He keeps very busy at school, with involvement in football, baseball, Chemistry Club, Link Crew, and Ambassadors, and yet he still finds time for community service in the form of Summer Blast, the annual multi-parish event in which groups of teens go into the larger 
Austin (center) plays mini golf with other Summer BLASTers at a fellowship site.
c ommunity to serve those in need (while also taking some time for  fellowship and recreational activities like Valleyfair).  

Helping others has helped Austin as well. He says, "It makes me a better person. I have a lot of good things in my life, and I'm helping those less fortunate."
His advice for other young people: "Get involved in service. Take every opportunity. Service makes you a better person."
Veronica Waalk, a 17-year-old junior at White Bear Lake Area High School, is heavily involved behind-the-scenes of high school theatre. She is a techie, running cues on a sound board for school musicals and plays.

As for church-based service, Veronica looks back on the various ways she has made a contribution to St. Mary's and the larger community. "I was one of Fr. Talbot's first servers. I helped him out nearly every Saturday at the 5:00 PM Mass.

A long-time server, Veronica was in demand during special Masses that required more experience and knowledge.  Easter Vigil, with its lighting of the "new fire" and all the candle activity that goes with it, is her personal favorite.

Veronica recalls a bit of wisdom passed along to her from some senior citizens while she was volunteering at Cerenity Care Center. "Everyone at my table of ladies was wishing things. I said, 'I wish I were eighteen.' Immediately everyone said things like 'Oh, honey, don't wish your life away!' I learned that they're right. If I hadn't had that experience, I wouldn't appreciate living in the now as much as I do."

Veronica (top right) poses with her crew.
More recently, Veronica has been involved with the annual Workcamp trip. Each year, a group of St. Mary's teens and adults goes to another state where residents are in need of assistance. While there, they build, paint, repair, and do whatever is needed so that people in unfortunate circumstances can have improved living conditions.
Helping to fix someone's home is only the beginning, says Veronica. "You meet people from all walks of life. It's a very humbling experience when people open up and describe what they've been through. It's sad, but it's inspiring. Here we are--we're meant to be here, we're meant to help you, and I'm glad we are."

Veronica points out how she has benefited from serving others: "It has made me a patient, understanding person. You recognize that everyone has been through something which has affected each individual in its own way."

"It's okay to want to help people; it's even better if you do it. If you don't know how to get started, ask a teacher! Ask Fr. Talbot! Join Workcamp! It's important to volunteer because it shapes you into a better person. Plus, it's loads of fun when you do it with friends."
Annikki Neubeck, 16, attends Mahtomedi High School, where she is a junior. She's quite involved in school sports as a gymnast and diver. She also coaches middle school gymnastics and manages the varsity baseball team. Still, she makes time to volunteer in numerous ways. Annikki has been a server and roadie at Masses, and she currently helps with childcare in the Faith Formation program and participates in Workcamp.

"As a Workcamper, I have met so many kind and compassionate kids who have donated time and money to give back to the communities we visit," says Annikki, adding that the people they help "have shown me the most compassion by welcoming me and thanking me for just helping. The children and elderly I've helped have cared and shown me more compassion than I could ever imagine."

Annikki poses with the resident of the house where she built a ramp.
Annikki carries a particularly vivid memory of an elderly gentleman named Willy from her second Workcamp. Willy's wife had recently died, and his son had suffered a stroke. "He explained that for our service project, we were building a wheelchair ramp for his son, for it was the only way his son could get into the house. At that moment, I realized all of this was bigger than I could imagine, and I was so honored to be helping out such a wonderful man."

As for how her service has affected her personally, Annikki, points out numerous examples. "I have learned that everyone has a story, so we should show kindness to all. I have also learned that every little thing helps. No matter how insignificant you think it is, it could mean the world to someone else."
Austin, Veronica and Annikki are just three of many young St. Mary's members who put their faith in action through acts of service. Their contributions are significant, but there is always more to do, and room for more to get involved. To young fellow parishioners, Annikki's advice on service is straightforward: "Just do it. It may be scary and intimidating at first, but the reward of seeing a project through and the happiness it can bring to another person is all worth it in the end. Just participate; it really makes a difference!"
Issue: 15
February 8, 2016
In This Issue
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St. Mary of the Lake

4690 Bald Eagle Ave

White Bear Lake, MN 55110

(651) 429-7771