BY BILL SKOWRONSKI
Director of Communication and Marketing Central Province, USA
Faithfully, a woman named “Mary Lou” dialed (312) 226-0020 every Thursday until she died last year at the age of 91. She’d ask to have her prayer intentions placed at the Dominican Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus inside St. Pius V Church in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. She’d carry on a conversation about her son who died, her friends at the nursing home, and even her cat Coco. But, Mary Lou rarely spoke to one of the six spiritual directors who served the Shrine since 1997, a Dominican Friar at the parish, or any priest. Instead, she spoke to Maria Matsumoto, the voice of the Shrine for 17 years.
“She felt lonely,” Maria said. “She didn’t have anybody to talk to.”
Mary Lou was far from the only person to regularly call the Shrine Line. And speaking to her—or rather, listening to her—was far from the only of Maria’s responsibilities as Gifts Administrator at the Shrine.
“Just as people have come to believe in the intercession of St. Jude, they have come to rely on the friendly, calm voice, and attentive ear of Maria. She has truly ministered to the patrons of Shrine. We are immensely grateful for her service and her peaceful presence,” said Bob Dixon, Executive Director of the Office of Mission Advancement for the Central Province. “We will never know the number of people she has touched and whose lives she influenced, but they are surely in the thousands.”
If you’ve sent a donation in the mail, a request for a Mass, an order for St. Jude blessed oil, or $2.00 along with a prayer intention, you’ve known Maria in some way—and she has known you.
This fall, Maria retired from the Shrine in order to enjoy her remaining years of good health with her husband, their two small dogs, their children, and grandchildren. She took with her a close bond with the patrons of the Shrine, though most never knew her.
Most of the Shrine patrons, devotees to St. Jude Thaddeus, the named saint of hopeless, or impossible, causes, never knew how many requests, donations, and orders Maria processed personally. Few may have met her at one of the Shrine’s five Solemn Novenas each year, where she helped distribute booklets and sell religious articles.
Maria knew them though, and she noticed the alarming trend that continues today.
“In the beginning, I saw all this mail coming in and I thought WOW, St. Jude is really powerful,” she said. “All these people write and send money. Now I wonder what happened. It’s changing. It’s not like it used to be, but I don’t know why.”
She may not miss the congested Chicago commute, but working at the Shrine impressed upon her the rare opportunity people have to enjoy a healthy life after retirement. After absorbing countless thousands of prayer requests from Shrine patrons for good health, freedom from mental and physical illness or financial troubles, Maria hopes to return to the small town near Santa Maria de los Angeles, Mexico, where she was born. God-willing, with the intercession of St. Jude, she’ll make it one day.
“I was thinking people don’t retire until they’re sick or they can’t walk anymore,” Maria said. “I’m glad I’ll be able to take walks and enjoy a few more years.”
Pray with us
The Dominican Shrine of St. Jude is located in the Church of St. Pius V at 1909 S. Ashland Ave.,
on Chicago’s near southwest side.
Visit us online: www.The-Shrine.org
For times of Shrine services: 312.226.0020