Reflection

Utica’s Prayer Powerhouse

 Jane Domingue

Maria Beck, CSJ Associate

At our yearly CSJ Associate Commitment weekends in the Albany Province, we promise to pray “individually and communally with the Sisters of St. Joseph.” Associate Maria Beck takes that promise seriously. No matter when you visit her home, you will find her with her prayer books carefully placed on a small shelf attached to her walker. Maria is no longer able to leave her home due to crippling arthritis. She has become a kind of “Julian of Norwich.” When you visit her, you are inspired by a woman who has the wisdom of a life well-lived.

During these COVID-19 days of isolation, Maria remains connected through our monthly Zoom meetings. She participates by phone in the prayer and reflection, and she gets a chance to hear familiar voices. She hasn’t given up on learning technology that will help her see everyone too.

Maria worked as a medical technologist with the local blood bank and Red Cross until her retirement. She is the mother of seven, six sons and one daughter; a grandmother of seventeen and a great-grandmother of nine.

Maria’s capacity to love the dear neighbor led her to volunteer at Thea Bowman House in Utica New York. She taught kitchen skills to the children and was lovingly called “Mrs. Cookingham” by all. She eventually became head cook at the center and prepared colorful and exciting meals.

She was famous for reminding us that “presentation is everything.” She and her mother also developed the clothing ministry that continues to thrive at our St. Joseph’s campus. Maria was involved in the founding days of Hope House, a hospitality center/soup kitchen in Utica and just about all the others that developed on Hospitality Row in our community.

In the “monastery” of her home, Maria finds time to reach out to her friends in nursing homes. She finds time to listen to a troubled family member or friend. She keeps in touch with her Rosary group and her church friends. And yes, she is always praying for a world in need.

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Category: Reflections, Stories

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