Thursday, November 20, 2014

(147) The Great Dignity and Value of the Developmentally, Mentally, and Physically Disabled: The Funeral of Theresa Pappas With the Dignity She Deserved........81 years institutionalized, her life had meaning.


A work crew of GDC residents and staff that often cleans up the grounds  
at parks and cemeteries to give something back to the community.
"Disabled does not mean disabled."  Because of privacy laws, GDC could
 not release a photo of Theresa.
          Theresa Pappas died on October 30 at the age of 88 after 59 years at the Gallipolis Developmental Center ( in Gallipolis in southeastern Ohio.  She died without family because she outlived them all.  She was actually institutionalized since the age of seven, a total of 81 years.  No one knew of her death except the GDC residents and staff and anybody who might notice her name in the obituary section of the local newspaper.  The Gallipolis Development Center was a Civil War hospital and in the years that followed treated mainly epileptics and later the developmentally and mentally disabled with special needs.  At its peak GDC had about 2,700 residents, but in the last ten years the State of Ohio like other states has elected to de-institutionalize and put the residents into group homes in their original communities.  Thus the number at GDC has dwindled down to 88.

            Since Theresa was baptized Catholic according to GDC records, the Administration asked Fr. Thomas Hamm to conduct a service at the Cremeens Funeral Home and bury her at the St. Louis Church Cemetery.  But then we thought:  “Is that all?”  According to her great dignity as a human being created in the image and likeness of God and for whom Christ suffered and died, Theresa deserved much more than that.  Thus a family yielded its Mass intention for Monday November 3, the day of her internment and Fr. Tom with Fr. Tim Davison, concelebrated a memorial Mass to honor Theresa’s life and pray for the repose of her soul.  Father began by announcing the Mass intention.  He designated three scripture readings and a Gospel suitable for a funeral.  His homily was special for Theresa as were several beautiful hymns that we sang with Martha Edelmann, our choir director, at the piano.
Theresa Pappas
            Allie Clark, who happened to be the lector at the Mass, exclaimed with great surprise:  “I knew her while a nurse at GDC in the 1990s!”  We also attended the funeral service and burial on a crisp but beautiful, sunny day.  GDC, an entity of the state, did all it could to give Theresa a funeral and burial with dignity.  It was simple but beautiful.  Laid out in a white casket and wearing a nice red dress, one would never guess that Theresa spent most of her life at GDC.  Appearing very peaceful and dignified, one would think that she was a prominent senior citizen of the community.  Over 30 members of her GDC family (residents and staff) were present for the service and internment, including Margaret Mossbarger, the superintendent.  All those present received a memory card in Theresa’s honor.  Gratifying is that GDC, a state institution, treated Theresa Pappas at the funeral, not as a number in a bureaucratic way, but as a person with great dignity.

            Theresa was placed in GDC 59 years ago because of developmental disabilities and special needs.  Allie Clark, a retired nurse, remembers Theresa as a “happy person, always smiling, a beautiful person, very aware although a little slow in grasping.  She had a great sense of humor, frequently laughed, and was fun to tease”.  She enjoyed teasing the staff as well.  Allie observed: That behavior is not typical of retarded people; she may have been misdiagnosed" when admitted as a youth. Theresa was transferred from the Columbus State School to GDC in 1955, when Elvis Presley took the country by storm.  She remained an Elvis fan until she died and was buried wearing an Elvis Presley bracelet.

            Rita Hager, another retired nurse of 29 years at GDC, described her as "sociable and would come to talk to people.  She liked to participate in the Activities Center and was active in the GDC Garden Club.  She was able to take care of herself, bathe, and dress.  She did not have any behavioral problem."    Mary Holly, an administrative assistant at GDC, described her as "a happy and kind person, loving, friendly, and funny at times.  She would get attached to people and ask for photos of them and their families."

            Theresa is typical of GDC residents, according to Ms. Clark.  They are happy for the most part and do not want to leave after living in that secure environment for many years.  Their simplicity is beautiful, enjoying the little things of life.  As the children Christ talks about in the Bible, they’ll probably get to heaven before all of us.  Some are developmentally disabled; others are mentally ill.  Some have multiple physical and mental disabilities and ailments, even bedridden under total care.  Allie Clark remembers one patient who was blind, deaf, and speechless as Helen Keller.  Yet their lives have tremendous value and dignity.

            Fr. Thomas Hamm believes that "because of their mental disabilities and physical handicaps, Society looks upon them as not important, as disposable.  Putting them on the streets uncared for is really passive euthanasia."    

Theresa Pappas
            Was Theresa’s life a waste?  Absolutely not!  Did she have a purpose in life?  Yes indeed!  Theresa taught the people around her that one can be happy with a simple life if treated well.  There was no bitterness or any complaining or whining attitude regarding her lot.  Theresa’s kindness indicated that she was able to communicate love, an example to all.  Theresa was certainly prepared for eternity and is probably holier than most of us.  She was not weighed down by possessions and “stuff” nor did she have the competitive drive to obtain wealth and more “stuff”.  

Theresa must have learned a lot about the faith since Fr. Adolph Golubiewski (1950-1980) and Fr. William Myers (1980 – 2011), past pastors of St. Louis Church, Gallipolis, Ohio were employed as chaplains at GDC for much of Theresa’s life.  They said Mass there every Sunday for many years.  According to Ellen Schopis now well into her eighties, “Fr. G sometimes fought for the needs of the residents as for pajamas in one case and for their rights.  The Catholic Women’s Club of St. Louis Church would go to GDC every Sunday to visit them”.  Ellen enjoyed the visits, calling the residents "beautiful people".    

Furthermore, those who took care of Theresa as employees depended upon GDC for employment over the last century.  They as well as volunteers had the opportunity and satisfaction of giving a little of themselves to the residents and students of GDC, Galco, and the Guiding Hand School.  That experience is enriching and facilitates spiritual growth.  The members of the St. Louis Council of the Knights of Columbus have been enriched by holding an annual special Olympics for the Guiding Hand School for the last 15 years or so.  We enjoyed their enthusiasm and simplicity.   Seeing GDC residents forces us to recognize that we cannot take our personal gifts for granted and to realize that we have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day and always.

Pope Francis practices what he preaches.  In the top two photos he genuinely communicates love to two boys with cerebral palsy.  The bigger boy is wearing a World Cup Soccer Champion Argentina

On the right he embraces a man with a severe skin disease.  The Pontiff demonstrates  Church teaching in action........ that every human being has the same dignity and value.

“Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).

Most families with developmentally disabled children consider them to be a blessing despite the difficulties.  These special needs kids add their beautiful simplicity and a lot of love to the family which makes the members realize what is really important in life.  When an abnormal baby is found in utero, many couples sadly elect to abort and snuff out what could be a difficult but beautiful and even fruitful life.  There is a reason for it all. 

St. John Neumann beautifully described the inherent dignity and value of the developmentally, mentally, and physically disabled:  “Everyone has a mission; has a work.  We are not sent into this world for nothing; we are not born at random.  God sees every one of us.  God creates every soul for a purpose.  God needs every one of us.  God has an end for each of us; we are all equal in God’s sight.  As Christ has his work, we too have ours; as He rejoiced to do his work, we must rejoice in ours also.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

(146) Bob & Mary Murphy: 60 Years of Marriage They did it; so can we..........or until death do us part.


-Published in the Gallia Hometown Herald November 7, 2014.  Click on 

- Published in the Sunday Times Sentinel (Gallipolis, OH) November 9, 2014 p D1 

Mary and Bob Murphy After 60 Years Together
      Today marks the 60th Wedding Anniversary of Bob and Mary Murphy, pillars of St. Louis Church since 1992.  What a tremendous witness to the institution of marriage which is so fragile and devalued today!  So many marriages can’t get past 10 years and they made it to 60!  By word and example what can they teach us about marriage as God intended it to be and how to keep it going?
         Bob and Mary are products of the “Great Generation” that grew up during the Great Depression and won the war that completely absorbed the Country.  Bob lied about his age (then 17) to serve in the United States Navy for four years toward the end of World War II.  In 1949 Bob returned to the B.F. Goodrich Tire & Rubber Company to work on the assembly line during the night shift and as a student studying History at the University of Akron during the day.
         In the early 1950s Bob was introduced to a beautiful Chemist by the name of Mary Bussan, who was working in the lab of his company’s competitor, Firestone next door.  Akron was then the Rubber Capital of the World.  Mary had graduated from Clarke College, a small all women Catholic school in Dubuque, Iowa with majors in Math and Chemistry.  Their friendship grew and Bob proposed.  During the marriage preparation, Fr. Wenchester discovered that Bob was not Catholic and so invited him into the fold.  He became a strong and devout Catholic and today never misses his daily rosary.  There's a lot of truth in the observation of more than one priest:  "The best Catholics are converts" because they discovered the truth.  Cradle Catholics tend to take the faith for granted.  Bob and Mary were finally married on November 6, 1954.

The Newly Weds on November 6, 1964
 Bob and Mary did not have the unrealistic expectations that ruin so many marriages today right from the start…….i.e., illusions of a fairy tale marriage in which everything would be bliss and they would live happily ever after.  When it doesn’t happen that way, there comes the breakup.  Bob and Mary took their marriage vows seriously…….. “for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.”  They knew that their marriage would have ups and downs, joy and grief, triumphs and disappointments…….and so it was.  Divorce was never an option.  In fact it’s impossible when there’s firm resolve, true and complete mutual self-giving, and dying to self with God at the center.  

         Bob climbed up the corporate ladder within the sales force to the executive level as Coordinator of Private Brands, but at a great price.  As many successful sales people under pressure, he fell into alcoholism while entertaining prospective customers on a daily basis, but Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and especially his wife Mary helped him through the recovery.  In retirement Bob used that great victory over self to help others conquer their addictions.  It was unflappable Mary who helped Bob keep his Irish temper in check; she kept the peace.  When things got tough, they confronted it and tapped the graces of the sacrament of Matrimony.  Belonging to a Catholic charismatic prayer community also was a big help.  They both have a solid faith and love that kept their marriage together.  More than once in our many conversations in the past has Bob verbalized his gratitude to the support of his wife Mary over the years.  Many a successful man attributes his success in life and even salvation to the loving support, encouragement, and prayers of his wife.  Of course, that works both ways.

       The fruits of their marriage were six children. Mary was a full time mother.  They lived through the grief of losing baby Kathleen a day after birth, but God blessed their family with a religious vocation as Sister Mary became a dedicated missionary nun, giving her life to God and His people of Mexico.  There’s also Coleen Smith, Maureen Kormanik, Patty Wallen, Kevin Murphy, and Bridget Cline.  Like many other heartbroken parents of the best of families that did everything right, they are praying two of them back into the Church.  Their family of eight continues to multiply; the extended family includes 16 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren that have come along with more to come.

           Retirement in 1992 did not slow Bob down.  Born in Vinton, he returned to his roots in Gallia County with Mary and became an alcoholism counselor for almost five years.  During his spare time, he became a staunch fighter for the pro-life cause and was the grand knight (president) of the St. Louis Council of the Knights of Columbus.  Mary was a CCD teacher and ran the Vacation Bible School for many years.  She helped Bob with his pro-life work.  Today Mary continues as a Eucharistic Minister and a member of the choir. 

        Although Bob could not be as active in his 80s, he’s still there hauling his grandkids to the Parish School of Religion and McDonalds too for motivation.  Bob (86) and Mary (83) also help their widowed daughter to raise the five grandkids who live next door.  Having helped her parents raise her nine brothers and sisters plus her own six, that’s no big deal for Mary.  For Bob with only one sibling, a lot of kids was an adjustment and over the years he became very good with them.

         I asked them several questions to find out what kept their marriage ticking for 60 years.  Their answers are summarized below.
        Joys and Problems.  There were many joys........the births, the baptisms, the weddings, etc.  There were many problems to overcome as described above.  Mary observed:  “I don’t see obstacles.  I just deal with them, riding with the bumps.  That’s life.”  Bob’s greatest joy is “being married to a lovely woman who had faith and trust in me, taught me how to be a Christian, and brought me to the Lord.” 

           Secrets in Keeping a Marriage Going for 60 Years.  Mary simply says: “Put one foot in front of the other and keep going”.  She doesn’t get upset and stays on course with a quiet determination and faith…….a real gift.  Bob believes the secret is in faith, trust, kindness, tolerance, and patience.
            What made your marriage work?  What kept it together?  Mary credits it to prayer and faith:  “Make choices along the way and trust in the Lord”.   Clearly, prayer, faith, and trust in God form the foundation and the core of her great inner strength.  Bob seconded that and added “trusting each other, mutual kindness, patience, and tolerance”. 

       Advice for Struggling Young Couples.  Mary urges them to “talk things out; keep communications open; share your fears”.  Bob reemphasizes: “keep the faith and develop tolerance, patience, and kindness. 
          The parishioners of St. Louis Church and friends are invited  to the 10 am Mass on Sunday November 9 to celebrate this great 60 year milestone and immediately following honor Bob and Mary at the monthly Knights of Columbus Benefit Breakfast for a memorial to the unborn in the cemetery .  You can send cards to the Murphys at 13467 State Route 160; Vinton, OH 45686.