Widows, widowers find friendship at annual Our Lady of Lourdes breakfast

  • Written by Morningstar Stevenson
  • Published in Local
Helen McDaid, left, Marie Ferderer and Sue Varrasso attend the annual Widows and Widowers Breakfast at their parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Vancouver. Photo: Courtesy Mary Hernandez Helen McDaid, left, Marie Ferderer and Sue Varrasso attend the annual Widows and Widowers Breakfast at their parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Vancouver. Photo: Courtesy Mary Hernandez

VANCOUVERJudy Kuhl wasn’t prepared when her husband Jerry was diagnosed with dementia. When Jerry died two years ago after 45 years of marriage, Kuhl moved from Montana to Vancouver to be closer to her daughter, and began attending Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.

But Kuhl didn’t feel like a part of her new parish until she received an invitation to the annual Widows and Widowers Breakfast in November 2015.

“At the breakfast, I was greeted so warmly,” Kuhl said. “That group of people I met became my closest friends.”

For the past eight years, around All Souls’ Day, Our Lady of Lourdes has hosted the event for all parishioners who have lost a spouse. “We try to make it as special as we can,” said Mary Hernandez, the parish’s volunteer coordinator, who has organized the breakfasts for three years.

Widows and widowers breakfastErin Chan, a student at Our Lady of Lourdes School, serves Helen McDaid during the Nov. 2 Widows and Widowers Breakfast at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Vancouver. Photo: Courtesy Mary Hernandez

The Nov. 2 event included morning Mass, followed by a breakfast made by parishioner Greg Repman and a team of volunteers, Hernandez said. The menu included spinach frittata, fresh fruit and blueberry coffee cake. Older students from the parish school helped serve the meal, while students in the fourth and fifth grades sang for the guests.

Invitations are sent to all parishioners who have marked their status as “widowed,” Hernandez said. Typically a third of those invited come to the breakfast; this year, 97 invitations were sent and 35 people attended.

“It’s usually a roomful of women, three [widowed] men, and our priest,” Hernandez said.

One of those men, Tony Malone, lost his wife Barbara 22 years ago. “She was the mother of our six children and my high school sweetheart,” Malone said. When Barbara died, everyone in the parish was very supportive, he added.

Malone has been attending the breakfast since the first one in 2009, usually with the group of eight women he hangs out with every week after Sunday Mass.

“Mary does a delightful job,” Malone said of Hernandez, and the breakfast always provides “camaraderie, friendship and love.”

Widows and widowers breakfastSiblings Jackie Harry, left, Greg Repman and Jim Repman are among volunteers who prepared food for the annual Widows and Widowers Breakfast at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Vancouver. Photo: Courtesy Mary Hernandez

Finding that support from her fellow parishioners was just as important as finding support in her faith, said Kuhl, whose husband was a deacon for 20 years.

“God’s plan has been working in my life these past two years,” she said. “I prayed about what was supposed to happen. I feel led to stay here and be present to my children and grandchildren.”

Even though some time has passed since her husband’s death, Kuhl found comfort in the words her pastor, Father Woody McCallister, spoke at the event’s morning Mass: “At the table of the Lord we’re all together.”