Kathy Butler Witness Talk
Kathy Butler Witness Talk on Grateful Giving
November 2017 Mary Immaculate Parish Bellport, N.Y.
Good Morning. I’m Kathy Butler and I have considered Mary Immaculate my home parish for more than 60 years. I grew up here in Bellport, a couple blocks away and remember going to Mass, first communion‘s, confirmations, weddings, baptisms, and yes funerals for family and friends. While I moved away after college to pursue my career, my parents continued to live here so this is where I spent most Easters, Thanksgivings and Christmases whenever I could get home.
When Father Bill asked me to talk to you about stewardship, to me that translated into giving back, a goal I had more for my retirement, since I admit, most of my adult life was focused on work. While I participated in the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics and other events, and continued to contribute to the Catholic churches I attended as I moved several times. I admit I just didn’t make giving back a priority.
But a pretty significant life altering event in my life changed that and gave me initial direction for my give back. And that day was September 11th, 2003. Now September 11 is a day that will live in infamy because of the tragic events that occurred on that day in 2001. But for me, 2003 was also a key day in my life. On that day, on my way to work listening to the radio as they discussed 2001, a driver weaving through traffic lost control of his car hitting mine causing mine to turn upside down, breaking my neck in 4 places. I can tell you with certainty God was with me that day as he always is. He sent me a gentleman I called my guardian angel.
As I was upside down in the car, Mitch came up to the car, held my hand and asked me if I could feel it. I told him I could not, and he said don’t worry about it, there’s a lot of metal and they’ll get you out. At that point I knew I was in trouble and I said a quick prayer I remember well. It was “God I think I’m in deep yogurt and I’m going to need your help”. Well God was listening and he helped. Mitch, a NY Telephone worker trained on accidents, had seen the angle of my head and made sure no one moved me until the EMTs got there and later helivaced me to the hospital. He stayed with me the whole time and averted my spinal cord from being severed or damaged further.
As a result of the accident, I initially could not move or feel anything below my neck. But look at me today. After 18 months of hard work, love and support from God, family and friends, I was able to get back my life and most of my function. I have a clipped wing and a bit of a limp...it’s my new normal. But I am convinced that God heard all the prayers from family, friends and colleagues from around the world, including the prayers from a Buddhist priest in China, and he decided I was worth his support.
If I may, a funny recollection of that day was seeing my brother Paul, a priest, coming towards me with a Stole around his neck. I told him “you better not be planning to give me last rites because I have no plans to die” and Paul waving his hands and saying “oh no, I’m doing the anointing of the sick.” Admit feeling relief.
In reflecting back on my accident, I believe I became a better person. I learned more patience, that 80% was good enough, and there were more important things in life then just work…God, faith, family, friends and yes, giving back.
So I got involved in a number of charities in CT where I lived including the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and the Alzheimer’s Association. But when I did retire and moved home to Bellport, I realized I needed to give back to local charities and most importantly to my home parish, Mary Immaculate.
Initially, my support has been on the financial side. Father asks us each year to try to increase our donations as expenses rise, and I have tried to do so. But I realized there was something else I could do. And that was joining “Faith Direct”. There are weekends that I don’t come here to Mass because I am fortunate to have a brother who is a priest and he says Mass at our homes for my parents and family members. By joining “Faith Direct” I was able to ensure that Father Bill knew that I was committed to the parish and that he could count on specific donations every month and every year. It’s like an automatic bill payment. The major thing I had to adjust to was passing the basket without putting in an envelope, and thinking, I hope people don’t think I am not contributing. But I figure God and Father Bill know.
I still don’t have as much time as I might like to spend helping on Mary Immaculate programs. And there are so many of you who do give your time and talent. So I hope you will accept a big thank you. I truly believe you make the most valuable contribution and make Mary Immaculate the amazing parish it is today.
I will try harder. To that end, I hope you won’t mind a quick tickler. At the ecumenical dinner with other churches in our area, we agreed to support the Habitat for Humanity bike ride together that some members of the Episcopal Church have sponsored over the last several years. So if you like to ride a bike and to give back, the date is May 5th and the event starts here in Bellport. You will hear more about it as the time approaches.
Thank you for your time and attention and have a blessed and safe day.