Posted Online: May 10, 2013, 2:50 am

Top church volunteers put faith into action

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By Claudia Loucks,

Photo: Claudia Loucks | correspondent
Rita Nelson, left, and Sharon McClain recently were named Volunteers of the Year at St. Malachy’s Church in Geneseo.
GENESEO -- Putting their faith into action netted two Geneseo women Volunteer of the Year prizes at St. Malachy's Church.

Sharon McClain and Rita Nelson recently were honored for their service.

Church Altar and Rosary Society members chose and honored them at a Mass and luncheon in Peoria. Peoria Diocesan Bishop Daniel Jenky led Mass. Mrs. McClain and Mrs. Nelson also received certificates of appreciation.

Both women have been involved in numerous ministries at St. Malachy's for many years.

Mrs. McClain is treasurer of the women's circle and a past president of the Altar and Rosary Society.

She has served as treasurer of the annual all-church Winterfest event, has been a reader for the youth group's presentation of the Stations of the Cross, a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) teacher, Eucharistic minister, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) team member, Divorce Care team member and is notary/auditor for the Tribunal church court.

Mrs. McClain also has helped at luncheons after funeral services, at Winterfest activities each year, with church cleaning and packs food for Back Pack Blessings, a community program that provides food for area children in need.

Mrs. Nelson has served as a lector at Friday morning Masses, and is an "Extraordinary minister" at First Saturday Masses each month.

She sets up "Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament," coordinates rosary volunteers and leads the rosary at the First Saturday Masses during Benediction.

Previously, she also took communion to the home-bound, wrote prayer petitions for Masses, taught CCD, served on the Liturgy Committee at St. Malachy's, cooked and served at the annual spaghetti suppers in conjunction with Winterfest and helps at funeral luncheons.

Mrs. McClain's volunteer work began when she was in her teens and helped with vacation Bible school.

"I belonged to another religion at that time and in my early 20's, I converted to Catholicism," she said.

After Vatican II, Mrs. McClain attended an RCIA class and really began to understand her faith in a much greater depth, she said. "When our parish began a RCIA team, I volunteered to be a member."

Her involvement in the church's Divorce Care team stemmed from a personal experience, she said.

"About 20 years ago I experienced a big change in my life and went through an annulment process," she said. "When I moved to Geneseo in the early '90s, our diocese was preparing auditor/notaries to help people who were seeking annulments. I was compelled to seek this training and to serve since I had experienced this process myself and knew it was something I should share with others."
"I also serve on our Divorce Care team because support is very important to people experiencing an unwanted situation in their life," she said.

Mrs. Nelson chose to share only one comment about serving as a volunteer, and said, "I choose quietly to serve Him in what our Lord is calling me to do."

Sharon McClain
Family: Husband, Dale McClain; sons, Tim McClain, Roanoke, Va.; Jim Walk, Austin, Texas; daughters, Diane Walk, Paris, France, and Teresa Spelios, Odessa, Texas; 10 grandchildren.
Hometown: Storm Lake, Iowa.
Experience: "My favorite positions have been the 10 years I served as parish office manager at St. Malachy's and the 15 years I was in the business office at Dowling High School, Des Moines, before moving to Geneseo in 1991."
Favorite Scripture: "John 3:16 speaks to me of God's awesome love for us and a way to journey to an eternal life with Him."
Favorite Biblical character I'd like to meet: "Jesus, of course, but also Moses."
One thing I feel strongly about: "The sanctity and dignity of all of life for everyone."
I wish I knew how to: "Hang glide."

Note: Rita Nelson declined to provide additional biographical information, other than saying she and her husband, Ron Nelson, have three children.