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Feature Articles

Strength Among Us: The Associate of Spring Hill, Florida
By Associate Deborah Garland

(Back row, from left) Florida Associates Deborah Garland, Leona Davis, Darcy Mason Rivera, Cathy Palmer, Peggy Brockman, (front row, from left) Helen Snoha, Genny Sample, Fran Geronimo, Nicole Rooney, Kathleen Trubiano and Geri Anderson. Not pictured are Anna Nelson and Zulema Ramirez.

No matter what your own political views are, what is certain is the new presidential administration has stirred up passion in America. As Associates in Spring Hill, Florida, we each have our own heartfelt feelings on a variety of hot button issues feeding the press daily. Yet, we don’t let our emotions take over, but react with our hearts and souls. As a group we are strong in our devotion to service and showing Christ’s love by our actions and deeds.

Associate Geri Anderson is the current leader of our group, filling the empty spot S. Loyola Mathia left when she retired from St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Roman Catholic Church in Spring Hill. Geri is the wife of Deacon Bob, and serves as the director of R.C.I.A. She’s sacristan, Eucharistic minister, coordinator of Communion to the sick, and prayer shawl minister, as well as shares in her husband’s ministry. When she finds the time she likes to knit, cook and bake.

Geri is a mother of four, grandmother of nine grandchildren, and has been a mother hen to our group. With her patience, she has encouraged every one of us to dig deeper in our reflections of what it means to be an Associate. Together, with her guidance, we have developed into a group that is serving our church and community in a variety of ways.

Associate Peggy Brockman is now in the position to take over as leader of our group as Geri steps back to focus on her many other responsibilities. Peggy has a daughter and son-in-law and four grandchildren. In her spare time she enjoys needlework, oil painting, bird watching, cooking, gardening, and traveling. She is a retired business owner and private pilot. She serves as Eucharistic minister and is involved with the Council of Catholic Women (C.C.W.) and “Breaking Open Word,” as well as taking Communion to the homebound. Peggy is well organized, has a good eye for detail, and is a wonderful fit to lead our group.

Associate Leona Davis is a widow and mother of four, grandmother to 11 and great-grandmother to seven. She has worked in many fields and is a retired nursing home assistant. Leona makes use of her many talents by crocheting hats for newborns, caps for the military and beautiful prayer shawls that she donates to the church for raffles. She also volunteers her time in the gift shop, C.C.W., Respect Life, and R.C.I.A. In her spare time she builds beautiful miniature train gardens for Christmas and Halloween and enjoys playing the piano.

Associate Catherine “Cathy” Palmer is married, a mother to four daughters (two who are nurses, one is a teacher, and one works in health care). Cathy is the chairperson for the Respect Life Ministry, for all lives from conception to natural death. She is a Eucharistic minister and teaches religious education. For the second year in a row, Cathy has organized a “Mother Mary Tea Party,” to honor Our Blessed Mother Mary. This fun event is well attended and there are several donated prizes to be won. Cathy has worked as a secretary in schools and hospital settings most of her life. She is quick to open her home for various meetings and is a most gracious hostess. In her spare time she loves all forms of crafting and especially loves quilting. She has an organized and well-equipped craft room where she makes lovely gifts for family and friends.

Associate Anna Nelson became a widow in 2013. She is the mother to three sons, grandmother to 11 and great-grandmother to three. When she was only 15, Anna came to America with her family, and lived in a Jewish community where she had to overcome prejudice and a language barrier. She learned English in school and eventually worked as a stenographer until she met and married her husband and then stayed home to raise her family. Anna gives of her time in Christian Formation, R.C.I.A. and Respect Life Ministry. In her spare time she likes to cook and bake. Anna is always willing to help and is very giving. She donates unwanted toys, clothing and blankets for People Helping People and the Dawn Center.

Associate Genny Sample is married to husband, Randy, a mother to six, grandmother to 15 and has four great-grandchildren. She is involved with Eucharistic ministry, volunteers at St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store, C.C.W., Respect Life Ministry, Daughters of God, and as sacristan and church opener. In her spare time she likes to sew, garden and has a “stash” of tools that she says she uses quite often. She has been a Navy wife for 22 years, worked as a forklift operator, CNA and in retail. Genny is a very giving person and passionate about helping wherever she can.

Associate Darcy Mason Rivera is married and has one school-aged daughter. Her daughter is very talented and has been involved with the church choir. Darcy works full-time as a hairdresser and is involved with her daughter’s many after-school activities. She is a Eucharistic minister and is also very active in the youth ministry program.

Associate Kathleen Trubiano is married, has one child and one grandchild. Kathleen is a retired teacher with over 35 years of experience in New Hampshire. Her hobbies include reading, Mahjong, Tai Chi, golfing, kayaking and enjoying nature walks. She has been involved as a Eucharistic minister, Sunday School teacher, lector and currently is working with the Hospitality Committee and Rosary Makers. Kathleen has strong feelings on social injustices and feels every human being deserves to know how valuable they are as a creation of God.

Associate Deborah “Debbie” Garland is married, has two sons and six step-children, 16 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She is currently a full-time real estate agent, and worked more than 25 years as a medical assist. Her hobbies include sewing, reading, gardening, photography and kayaking. Debbie helps fill in for the church photographer, when the occasion arises. She is involved with collecting donations for the Dawn Center and People Helping People, and is on the Respect Life Committee. Debbie is the volunteer Southeast Regional Associate representative for the Sisters of Charity, providing support and building relationships among Associates in her region.

Associate Nicole Rooney is married, has two school-aged children and in recent years, earned her degree as a social worker. She currently is full-time for the Hernando County Public School System working to help students and parents. Nicole is the president of the Parish Council, director of the Family and Young Ministry and is also in charge of the parish website. Previously Nicole had owned her own insurance company for many years. She is very family-oriented and is always willing to help out where needed. She had worked closely with S. Mary Loyola Mathia in the R.C.I.A. program prior to Sister’s retirement.

Associate Zulema Ramirez is married and has four children. Zulema and her husband were born and raised in Peru. They later migrated to America in 1982. Currently she is employed part-time as a receptionist at Notre Dame Catholic School. Zulema loves to dance and post about her love of our Lord on Facebook. Her posts are always uplifting and encouraging to all. She works in the church gift shop, is involved with the women’s retreat and Daughters of God. Last year she was part of the pregnancy center. Zulema also faces a daily challenge with her son who has special needs. She is very passionate about her Catholic faith and became an Associate at the urging of her good friend, Cathy Palmer.

Associate Helen Snoha is married and has four daughters, 13 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Helen is a Eucharistic minister, president of C.C.W., sacristan of the Holy Hours of Adoration on Wednesdays as well as takes Communion to the homebound and hospitalized. In the past Helen volunteered with Hospice in New Jersey for several years. She is retired from General Motors. Her hobbies are reading, traveling and filling in Word Search puzzles. Helen’s life was touched with tragedy several times within her own family, as two of her sisters and her mother died from cancer at early ages. In spite of the hardship of these tragedies, Helen’s faith never wavered and she is passionate about her faith and especially the Divine Mercy. Anyone who has a chance to talk with Helen will soon realize she has a very rare spirituality about her.

Associate Fran Geronimo is a recent widow, with her husband passing after a lengthy illness. She has several daughters and a son. Fran is a Eucharistic minister and takes Communion to the homebound. Since her husband’s passing Fran has temporarily cut back on her involvement in church activities as she focuses on her children’s and grandchildren’s needs. When she was contacted for information for this article, she stated she didn’t feel entitled to be included since she was not able to make any meetings this past year. She expressed that she still wants to be an Associate and once she is able will be participating again. We all agreed she is an Associate showing the true spirit of charism whether she can attend meetings or not, and our prayers are with her and her family.

The person who is most responsible for bringing this dynamic group of women together is S. Mary Loyola Mathia. S. Loyola singled us out one-by-one and in her gentle way touched our souls with her warmth and intellect. She directed our steps to becoming Associates and serving our church and community. S. Loyola led by her example of what charism is, and was amazing in her tireless effort to help everyone around her. She gave of her time when no other person or resources were available.

Each one of us has a story to tell about how they met S. Loyola and the great impact she has had in our lives. Though she is dearly missed in Spring Hill and Citrus County, she has taught us well and we continue to strive to be better people because of her.

Special mention should be made of Nancy DeLorenzo, whose passing on Feb. 22, 2017 has left an empty spot in the hearts of many. Nancy became the first Associate in 1983 and was very instrumental in helping S. Loyola meet the expectations of representing the Sisters of Charity. Nancy will be missed by her family and those who knew her. Our prayers are with her family.

The greatest thing about being an Associate is the opportunity to work together with one goal in mind and that is to express the charism of Charity in service to others. As a group we are collecting donations for several outreach programs to help the poor, the hungry and the abused.

Our donations of gently used clothing and household items are given to the Dawn Center, which is a place where abused women and children can find temporary lodging and support. At the Dawn Center women are able to find business attire to wear for a job interview and taught how to prepare a resume. There are many other resources at the Center to help the women eventually find a home for them and their children as well as councilors to help with their emotional needs. Their location is secret to protect everyone, but there are drop-off locations that will make sure the donations are delivered to the Center.

Another program we help support is People Helping People, which is a group of volunteers who feed the homeless, prepare backpacks with food for school-aged children and their families for the weekends, and serve dinner to senior citizens once a week. We provide them with our collection of canned goods, cereal, pasta and other items we bring to our monthly meetings. When the weather turns colder we also collect blankets and coats for the homeless.

Recently we have decided to collect plastic bags to help the needy at St. Vincent De Paul’s thrift store and to start making plastic mats for the homeless.

We gladly offer up ourselves to share our love and charity with one another, to the church, the community and our families, and most importantly, to Christ who directs our steps. It is our hope that Mother Seton would have approved.