The psalmist once wrote, “Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty, if we are strong” (Ps. 90: 10). It is fair to say that Mrs. Evette Moreland, a longtime parishioner at Our Lady of Victory Church, was a strong woman; strong in character, strong in faith. She passed away this week, days short of her 99th birthday. I first met her when I was a deacon. An elderly woman often assisted by her niece, or sometimes aide Ms. Marie Castel, whenever she would attend Sunday Mass. With a twinkle in her eye and in her Southern drawl, she would regale me with stories of her upbringing, her marriage, but most importantly, her Catholic faith and the love she had for her parish church.
When Mrs. Moreland’s health declined, I would visit her home to administer Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion. She was happy the church came to her when she was unable to go. After receiving the Blessed Sacrament, she would burst into prayer and praise. The last time I saw Mrs. Moreland was on Holy Saturday. A worried Ms. Castel insisted I see her as she was not eating. Upon arriving at the nursing home, a nurse struggled to feed her. As a matter of fact, she was not very responsive. When the nurse told her that a priest was there to see her. Her eyes lit up. For an hour I sat there not only serving her spiritually, but physically, as I fed her some peach sauce. We even spoke and laughed. For me, the moment brought to mind Christ’s words to St. Peter after the washing of the feet, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.” (Jn 13: 16-17).
A group of parishioners visited Mrs. Moreland last Sunday. They did so to celebrate her birthday. I am told she was very excited once again to see her church family, but also receive their their love and support. Fitting for the occasion, Mr. Jonathan Sims sang one of the church mother’s favorite hymns, “He Lives.” Despite, physical weakness she sang along, mouthing the greatest truth of Christian faith, the Resurrection. Though our bodies will come to dust and ashes, God, in the fullness of time, will raise us anew to everlasting glory. Until that great day, we pray for Mrs. Moreland imploring God to receive her into His kingdom, where blessed Mary and all the angels and saints are triumphant, and for the peace and consolation of those she leaves behind. Moreover, for us her church family, we ask for the grace to preserve in our faith that, like her, we may be true to Him, so we may hear at journey’s end, “Well done, good and faithful servant… Come and share your master’s joy!” (Mt. 25: 23)
Fr. Daniel O. Kingsley