Mary Ann Kamler didn't think she could serve in a role of taking Communion to hospital patients.
She was an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at her parish, St. Francis Borgia in Washington, and about 14 years ago one of the women religious working at what is now Mercy Hospital in Washington asked her to take on the additional role with the pastoral care department of the hospital. "They go around every day and call on everyone who's Catholic," Kamler said. "(Someone) said, 'Oh, just go with me sometime,' so I did."
Kamler's reluctance to volunteer eased as she found she enjoyed the experience. They went again the next day, and about halfway through the rounds, Kamler was given the task of introducing herself to patients and giving them Communion. "I wasn't afraid of it like I was before. It gave me a good feeling to be there with them, know they were glad to see us and grateful that we came. We always say a little prayer and visit if we have time and they're up to it," Kamler said.
When she gets home, Kamler feels good about the visits and is grateful for being blessed with good health.
"They're always happy to see me come," Kamler said, expressing her admiration of the patients and staff of the hospital.
Kamler is one of 26 women in the archdiocese, and one of two volunteers at the Washington hospital, who will be honored at the 2017 Catholic Women's Recognition Ceremony with the Health of the Sick Award Aug. 6. The 26 women are recognized as inspiring women who actively work to heal — spiritually, emotionally and physically — as the members of Christ's body in their respective community. The model for the award is St. Hildegard of Bingen.
Kamler, 88, said that if no encouraged and guided her through the role, she never would have experienced what she now appreciates so much.
Her efforts in the community and at church are extensive. She volunteers to visit people in area nursing homes and takes people to medical appointments. She has been a part of the St. Francis Borgia Food Pantry, Ladies Sodality, East Central Missouri Right to Life Committee, Resurrection Choir, Scout leader and other efforts.
"I've just been blessed with good health and am able to get around and do something," she said. "That's why God kept me here, and I might as well be doing something."
Kamler, who worked for the tax department of the Franklin County government before retiring, was a member of the board of the City of Washington's Child Welfare Association for 20 years, helping make decisions and recommendations about children who need help, from wheelchairs to transportation.
People "are grateful for everything you do for them when they're in need," she said.
Connected all her life to the Church, she said. "You feel so at home when you go to church. You can connect with God and talk to Him right there. It's been a big plus in my life."
Ruth Lottmann of St. Gertrude Parish in Krakow has served as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at Mercy Hospital in Washington for 33 years. She had a job in retail when she began, and once a week took a night shift in order to volunteer at the hospital.
A deacon at her parish asked her if she'd do the hospital ministry. "It has been very rewarding. I meet some very interesting people," Lottmann, 79, said.
She and her sister-in-law, Dolores (Tootsie) Trentmann, help organize the funeral luncheon committee at St. Gertrude. The families are going through a hard time, "and they're happy to have someone do this for them," said Lottmann, who also cared for her husband for many years through stages of Alzheimer's before he died in November. Like Kamler, she was surprised, honored and humbled by the award.
The 2017 Catholic Women's Award honors women in parishes who take after Mary's intercession of "Health of the Sick." Pastors, parish council members or agency directors nominate women who are healers through presence, touch, profession or words. The awardees will be honored by the archdiocesan Office of Laity and Family Life Sunday, Aug. 6, for understanding the interweaving of healing the body, soul and spirit.
The awardees and their parishes are:
• Marian Amsler, St. Stephen Protomartyr
• Connie Apperson, Most Sacred Heart in Eureka
• Sally Baumbach, All Saints in St. Peters
• Kim Davis, St. Matthew the Apostle
• Sue Ewing, St. Ann in Clover Bottom
• Cynthia Marie Foster, Our Lady of Guadalupe
• Brenda K. Gebhart, St. Clare of Assisi
• Anne Grant, St. Joseph in Manchester
• Julia K. Heditsian, St. Anselm
• Nancy Hollenstein, Immaculate Heart of Mary in New Melle
• Marlene Holt, Holy Spirit (posthumously)
• Mary Ann Kamler, St. Francis Borgia
• Jeanne Marie Kelly, Sts. Peter and Paul
• Josephine Leiendecker, Mary Mother of the Church
• Ruth M. Lottmann, St. Gertrude
• Dottie Melching, St. Francis of Assisi in Oakville
• Virginia Mueller, St. Paul in St. Paul
• Rose Murphy, St. Dominic Savio
• Carolyn Myers, St. Alban Roe
• Linda Roggeveen, Sacred Heart Church in Florissant
• Joan Kershaw Ross, Our Lady Queen of Peace
• Josephine A. Rustemeyer, St. Joseph in Farmington
• Rita Marie Saulino, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
• Anne Stilinovic, Office of Young Adult Ministry
• Sister Carlene Welker, Our Lady of the Holy Cross
• Marilyn Woebeking, Immaculate Conception, Dardenne Prairie RELATED ARTICLE(S):'Good News magnet' describes women's award recipient