By LIZ QUIRIN
Each year, for the past ten years, people have gathered to honor individuals who have taken their faith out of the pews and into the marketplace – into the lives of the working men and women of our diocese, to the clients and customers who will reap the rewards of these laborers, in the clinics and hospitals, caring for the sick, in the courtroom making sure justice is served, in the lives of grief-stricken families, in the care of our children and “walking the talk” of faith in everyday life. The gift each person receives is a ceramic bowl that is unique, similar to the others but not exactly the same because each was made by the hand of an artist, making each distinct, a one-of-a-kind vessel, as a reminder that each of you is a treasure in an “earthen vessel,” one that holds the promise of being filled to overflowing as you have reached out to those in your places of work and beyond. Five people were honored Sept. 9 at a reception and dinner at Bellecourt Manor in Belleville, and following are snapshots of who they are.
Counselors and staff sometimes invite Belinda “Lindy” Hudson to give them advice because somehow they know she has their best interests and that of the foster children at Caritas Family Solutions at heart. She’s not a counselor or social worker at the regional Caritas office in Mt. Vernon, but she can calm situations, lend support or just listen to staff that might be dealing with difficult situations. Sometimes her quiet advice helps a new person figure out the copy machine, or it could be that a family visit at the regional office is not going as hoped. Lindy might step in quietly and make suggestions as to the right behavior in the office. Whatever she says, it seems to work, staff said. Lindy said her husband, Ron, a retired Mt. Vernon police captain, recognizes her ability to persuade people with less than stellar behavior to make adjustments so they speak and act according to what a situation demands. He has apparently seen her do it. With a degree in business administration, Lindy is the foster care coordinator, supervising transporters and as such, does “a lot of paper work, and a lot of listening.”
Transporters pick up foster children from one location and take them to a place where they can visit their parents and then returns those children to the location they should be. And while everyone wishes parents knew how to discipline and love their children, not all do, Lindy said. Many of the transporters are in their early to late 20s, she said, and what they see when children are with their biological parents sometimes weighs heavily on them. Lindy listens and supports them, telling them these children they transport “don’t have homes like you have.” Transporters monitor the visits, and they see and hear things that can be “discouraging, and they sometimes need advice on how to respond to youngsters who have been abused,” she said. While Lindy has been at Caritas since 2012, she worked with the late Ed Breeze, a pharmacist in Mt. Vernon who received a Faith in the Marketplace recognition in 2008. Although she interacted with customers at the pharmacy, Lindy said she knew God called her to do more. When her daughter – a lead supervisor at Caritas – told her of an opening at Caritas in the business department, she knew that was the right place for her. Her coworkers are pleased that she is at Caritas as well.
Diane Kroftz, administrative coordinator, said: “Social work, particularly foster care, is extremely difficult. It is ever changing with a great deal of emotional stress. Belinda is the calm in the storm. Her example helps staff through tough situations.” Pam Flota, lead regional director said: “Adversity is present in the foster care field on a nearly daily basis. Belinda keeps calm and guides staff to a successful conclusion to a problem. As a result, staff have the confidence that they can handle future situations.” Lindy has raised three children with her husband, Ron, and she came from a Catholic family with six brothers and sisters who remain very close, she said. Saying she likes “to be around people,” Lindy also recognizes everyone has a background that defines the way they behave. “Life throws curve balls to everyone,” she said, and “if I can keep that frame of mind, it’s easier to deal with people.” However, she said, one of the hardest things to deal with is why a child who has been abused still wants to remain with that abusive parent. Lindy said she is not afraid or reluctant to tell people who ask that she is a Catholic Christian. “I own it,” she said. “I’m here for a reason. I don’t know exactly what it is but maybe it is to help others (here) to do their jobs.”
While the seeds of faith are planted in the family, Lindy said, those seeds began growing in earnest when the family moved to Mt. Vernon in 1984. When her children were small, Lindy became a religious education teacher (PSR) and taught for 11 years. Ron is now the sacristan at St. Mary’s. “I love ministry and would be lost if I couldn’t do it,” she said of her parish work. At work, she approaches any situation with a respect for those in conflict or upset, and sometimes that calms a situation down, she said. “She treats all persons with respect,” Kroftz said. “Our clients are dealing with children taken from them for many reasons, and Belinda treats them with understanding and empathy for their situation. She trusts her faith for support and guidance in dealing with any situation that arises,” leading with “quiet example.” In Lindy’s mind and heart, “God works through me.” Lindy and Ron have three grown children and 13 grandchildren.
Some people just like people and like to interact with them. Don Collier, a funeral director at Hughey Funeral Home in Mt. Vernon says that he really likes to meet people, discover what they need and then find ways to support them. Don has been a funeral director at Hughey since 1977, with this his 40th year. How does someone become interested in the funeral home business when it isn’t your family’s business? Don said growing up in Salem, his best friend’s father owned a funeral home. He became acquainted with what a funeral director does and decided he’d like to do that. He went to SIU in Carbondale and graduated with a degree in Mortuary Science and Funeral Service. Soon he was hired as a funeral director at Hughey in Mt. Vernon. A funeral director meets with families, schedules a funeral, contacts all of the people involved and counsels families about arrangements.
“I’m proud to have been here” for the past 40 years, Don said. “I love people; I love helping them.” Don said his blessings include his family with his wife, Anne who teaches first grade at St. Mary School in Mt. Vernon. Until very recently, the Colliers lived in an apartment above the funeral home but moved recently to a home in Woodlawn near their daughter and her family. “It was important to me that the people in town knew I lived here,” and was available to help them when someone close to them died. The hardest part about his job, Don said, is when children die or when close friends die. The best thing he can do for his friends and their families, he said is “helping them through the terrible times.” Because he shares the intimate details of a family’s life as they prepare to say good-bye to their loved one, Don said he feels “a closeness with a family you’ve helped. “It’s not over when you die,” he said, relying on faith to bring solace.
However, for those who have no faith or maybe no church home, Don said it’s difficult. “They’re lost,” he said of the family members. “They have no light at the end of the tunnel.” These families need guidance, he said. They need to hear suggestions about how to handle a service for their loved one. “People need closure, and a service helps.” When people gather at the funeral home to make arrangements for a parent or older relative, it doesn’t always go smoothly. There could be many reasons for that – they might argue because they have no money for funeral, or maybe because the family members just don’t get along. Carmen Hughey-Deichman, a co-worker and owner of the funeral home said: “There are many times when a family is at war with one another.” In these situations, families that are feuding can interrupt the grieving process, their own and that of other family members.
“Don has always handled each case specific to its own needs and is one to show grace with loved ones that can be harsh or confrontational to him as an innocent bystander,” Carmen said. “God made Don with tough skin to be able to make quick decisions and call the important shots during stressful times in the workplace. When other employees experience these tense or difficult situations, “He takes charge in situations where the employees need guidance and is a beacon for how to get the job done right,” Carmen said. Funeral director, Mike Lampe, concurs with Carmen’s assessment of Don’s gifts. “Don has been called to take care of families that are grieving, that are lost and that are struggling with their faith in God because of a death they are experiencing. Don understands their hurt, their pain and their anger. He is always there to help them through that part of their life that nobody else can.” Always ready to help in these tough times, Don likes “helping people even if they don’t have anything” because “everybody deserves a service.” Don and Anne Collier have two children and two grandchildren.
A member of the Collins & Sons team for more than 25 years, Kevin Colbert knows about selling and installing flooring. And many people in the Metro East know the reputation of Collins & Sons to be reliable and trustworthy. In the early years Kevin sold the products, but now he is installation manager and scheduler for the installations, working with a few or several teams of installers every day. If the products have defects, like manufacturing defects, Kevin troubleshoots the product with the customers and directs the installers as to what to do next, “always with an eye to get it right for the customer,” Kevin said. Owner, Tim Collins said “Kevin has an amazing ability to listen and find products and services to help even the most challenging persons. “Many customers tell us how helpful he was,” Tim said. “Often new people will come into the store and mention that their friends enjoyed working with him.”
And the Collins family thinks highly of him as well. “Kevin is a stabilizing influence in our company,” Tim said. “He is always a team player and keeps a great balance between the needs of the customer and the needs of everyone else on the team.” From St. James in Millstadt, Kevin said he has known the Collins family for many years.”They’re wonderful people,” he said. His busiest time at work is morning when he assigns installers to various jobs. Later during that day or the next, he visits the job sights to make sure the installers have what they need and everything goes smoothly. While that is not always the case, he makes himself readily available to meet the challenges of his job. And although he doesn’t wear his faith on his sleeve, “I try to treat colleagues as well as I would treat the customers.”
Kevin describes his work this way: “What we’re doing here is flooring; it’s not life or death, but it’s certainly important to the people we deal with.” In the parallel universe of sports in which he has also lived for many years, he uses some of the same techniques of dealing with people with his teams and his coaches. Speaking of teams, Kevin has also been a coach 30 years and athletic director 26 years – recently retired – at St. James School in Millstadt where he is also a parishioner. Principal, Steve Kidd, said the school has 10 sports programs at the school, and Kevin oversees the program and the hiring of coaches. The coaches are often long term and rarely “one season wonders.” “He has experienced longevity because he puts the right coaches in place,” Kidd said, and “he values teaching ability and integrity foremost and this theme runs throughout the program.” Kevin said he enjoys coaching and working with young people and also enjoys dealing with customers at Collins & Sons. And in coaching children, “faith is hugely important here. I rely on faith, and it helps me keep a positive state of mind,” Kevin said. Part of being athletic director has been to teach students at St. James to be “respectful to coaches and opponents as well as teammates,” he said.
He’s proud to say: “Our teams are well behaved, gracious in victory and in defeat.” Kevin decided when he and Jean were married that he wanted to become a Catholic. “It was important that we all went to the same church,” and looking forward to a family he wanted to “raise our kids in the same faith.” Kidd said, “One of the proudest parts of his program is that during every diocesan tournament, he assures the teams attend Mass together. It doesn’t matter whether they are traveling or at home,” and “they always sit up front in church together and pray as a team.” In both at work and as a coach, Kevin assures his “teams” he cares about them. That makes a big difference, he said. And while he is retiring from his coaching role, he looks forward to moving into a different position on the courts, as a referee. Kevin and Jean have three grown children and three grandchildren.
Kevin Templin lives a full life: as an orthopedic physician’s assistant at the Orthopedic Center in Chesterfield, Mo., as a candidate in the Belleville diocesan diaconate program and as the father of three adopted children. And as his friends, neighbors and fellow parishioners at St. Bernard in Albers know, he’s a person who is willing to talk to them about their pains – in their knees and their shoulders – and tries to help set them up with appointments at the Center where he works if they need assistance. Kevin’s life intersects with so many others on a daily basis at work and at church, and he uses his skills and his faith to encourage others whether in social activities or at work. Friends and family members seek his advice when experiencing problems, like Ken Morris, a friend from Albers.
“Because Kevin has been a trusted friend for many years, I sought his advice and assistance regarding a recent shoulder injury,” Ken said. Kevin facilitated appointments to the Center, and “even visited my home several times after surgery to check in with me and make sure all was well,” Ken said. “I truly appreciated his thoughtfulness, dedication and kindness.” Dr. Mark Miller, the orthopedic surgeon with whom Kevin has worked for many years, describes Kevin. “My first impression of Kevin was a warm, welcoming, unassuming person who just radiated a generous light,” Miller said.
“He was a tireless worker in the therapy department who never said no and never complained.” Kevin has worked closely with Miller since 2002, and six years ago returned to school for certification as a surgical assistant with Miller’s encouragement. “Kevin is now in the operating room, functioning as my first assistant,” Miller said. “With Kevin in the room, I know I always have God on my side; he keeps me calm and focused so we can provide the best service possible.” Miller’s practice focuses on rotator cuff repairs, ACL reconstruction, knees and shoulders, Kevin said. “We specialize in arthroscopy.”
Kevin described himself as “an extra set of hands to hold the camera, pass instruments, drill holes and stitch people up.” Wearing his smile early and often, Kevin said: “I have a good job and a good doctor to work with.” “I honestly do not know a kinder or more generous soul than Kevin Templin,” Miller said. “Between surgical cases or clinic visits, Kevin is often reading his religious texts and articles.” Although spiritual reading uplifts and strengthens Kevin, he may be doing a bit more reading because he is a candidate in the diocesan diaconate program, looking forward to being called to ordination as a permanent deacon in 2018. Kevin has shared his faith with others, but not in an ostentatious or grandiose way. A colleague, Ron Williams, described his sharing this way: “He never show-boated his faith, nor did he judge others. Kevin walked the walk and set a stellar example.” Each day, Kevin drives 55 miles to the Orthopedic Center because it’s the place God has given him the opportunity to serve. With many Catholic churches along the way, Kevin said he can attend daily Mass before he begins work. He’s grateful for that. And lest everyone believe everything has fallen into place for him and life has been easy for Kevin and his wife, Kristen, it has not. Hoping to have a family, the couple discovered infertility issues, so they decided they would adopt children who were a bit older who needed a good and loving home. Now grown, they have three adopted children, one of whom who has special needs and learning disabilities. They also have two grandchildren, one born July 24.
Being parents of adopted children requires exceptional balancing skills. “We were naive,” he said, and he added: “I have a genetic disorder – I can’t say ‘no.’ I say ‘yes’ and figure out how to do it later.” As a deacon candidate, he thinks more about God and how God flows throughout his life. “I have been thinking a lot about that lately. I’ve become more aware and intentional about God being a presence in my life.” Kevin’s faith radiates out from his family, describing his mother, Paulette, as “a big spiritual warrior.” His wife, Kristen, not a Catholic when they married, decided she wanted to join the Catholic faith and went through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. While Kevin touches so many people, Miller pointed out one of Kevin’s strengths this way: “He’s a gentle shepherd with my flock of patients, making their lives better each and every day.”
Brian O’Neill, MD
While many describe Dr. Brian O’Neill as a family man, he is clearly also a man of faith, according to his office staff. The idea to pursue medicine just sort of popped into his mind, he said, but the “concept of helping people was always at the top of my list of priorities.” His faith guided him to the profession and is evident in how he treats his staff and his patients. According to his office manager, Carol Pollard, he is often heard saying, “We need to remember we are to be Christian.” Born and raised in Greenville, Mississippi, O’Neill was raised by Irish Catholic parents who he says “never missed Mass.” His father was a career military officer, and O’Neill followed in his footsteps with three years of active duty in the Air Force before he began medical school.
After meeting Judy, his wife of 51 years, a retired registered nurse, the couple moved to Belleville and raised their four children – daughters Nancy, Trisha and Karen, all living in St. Louis, and David, a physician. He followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the O’Neill Family Practice at Memorial Hospital 22 years ago. The couple also has 15 grandchildren. His efforts in the diocese and his love for helping others has extended into ways to share his time and talents. As a parishioner of St. Teresa’s Parish in Belleville for 28 years, where his four children attended school before attending Althoff Catholic High School. O’Neill served as the medical director for Hospice. He also volunteered as the house physician at St. John’s Orphanage and at St. Henry’s Seminary.
He is an active member of the Serra Club that promotes vocations. With 15 grandchildren, he hopes he might see a priest in the family yet. He has also worked with the Oblates, providing medical assistance as needed. “The experiences have been more beneficial for me,” O’Neill said. “When you realize you are dealing with holy people, people doing God’s work, it’s gratifying.” For 45 years, he has volunteered as the team physician at Althoff Catholic High School and now shares these duties with his son, David. He is a strong supporter of athletes and has provided sports physicals for many of the players. Whether he is volunteering at an athletic event, attending to the needs of the local Oblates, or working in his practice that he has maintained since 1972, the idea of intermingling faith and family is his guiding principle.
Many of his staff members have worked for O’Neill for more than 20 years. “It is a family,” said Pollard, who has worked with the O’Neills for 28 years. When he talks about his own family and how he is proud of his children’s and his grandchildren’s faith, Dr. O’Neill beams. O’Neill, now a parishioner at St. John the Baptist in Smithton, said his children have embraced their faith in all that they do. “Our children absorb a lot of our views and attitudes about life,” he said. His staff and his patients take notice, too. “When I started working with Dr. O’Neill, it was apparent immediately that he was a Christian and shared it in the workplace,” said Pollard. “This was demonstrated by his honesty, compassion and kindness that is extended to employees as well as patients.”