My Saint Michael’s Story: Lorrie LaBranche

Posted by on Sun, Oct 13, 2019 in Giving

My introduction to St. Michael’s was when  my husband, John Schaeffer, retired from parish ministry and was called to be interim. I was working as a flight attendant in those days so my church attendance was sporadic.

When Mother Ann Lukens was called as rector, she graciously invited us to make St. Michael’s our parish home. This was a particularly welcome invitation as we missed having a church family. It was shortly after 9/11, and that horrible event brought home the reality to me that we indeed are living in a very uncertain world, and that a spiritual connection is very important. As we settled in, John would preach occasionally, and I become involved in the life of the parish. After a few years, John developed Alzheimer’s Disease, Mother Ann retired, and I had to cut back on my church involvement.

We were delighted when Mother Katherine was called as rector of St. Michael’s. I remember her first Sunday when she asked John for a hug of support before walking down the aisle to preach her first sermon as rector. That was important to John as even in his mental decline, he felt he still had a priestly role. The kindness and understanding that was shown both of us was impressive. John continued to feel like “Father John” and I felt very supported in my care-giving role.

Unfortunately, when John’s decline went from slow to rapid, we had to discontinue attending church. Thanks to Katherine’s prayers, notes, and visits, and your prayer notes and visits, I never felt forgotten or disconnected from my church.

John died on All Saints’ Day 2106 at home while our friends, “the 8 o’clockers” were worshiping. I felt your prayers and believe John did also.

Since John’s death, I’ve had to make a lot of life changes, and St. Michael’s has been a very big part of that. For me, being a Christian can be confusing, challenging, and comforting. I continue to be confused by the world and challenged and comforted by Katherine’s insightful and thought-provoking sermons. I continue to find what I need at St. Michael’s, although my life has changed dramatically.

I especially enjoy the Last Wives Club, a group for women of St. Michael’s who have lost their spouse or partner through death. Although this sad event is the common thread that unites us, we have a great time together doing fun things, laughing a lot, and having interesting conversations. Our spiritual journeys may be individual, but we don’t need to walk them alone. There are many helpful groups and there is always Katherine’s good counsel of which I’ve availed myself several times.

I’ve long been impressed by the way St. Michael’s reaches out to the greater community and is there to help those in need, some who may never come through our doors. Their cultures and religious disciplines may take them on different paths, but St. Michael’s can always be a bright spot in their spiritual journeys.

There’s great opportunity for spiritual growth at St. Michael’s. I believe one of my sources of such growth comes from you—my friends. It may be conversations we have in a gathering or over a cup of coffee at coffee hour, but mainly it’s the way I see you lead your lives. To me, you are St. Michael’s. I am blessed to share my journey with you.