Blame Lex… and Wanda.

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021

Wanda Ferrauiola

That’s the short and purposefully comic response I tell people when good natured parishioners or friends ask me how I remain at OLMC for all these years (fifteen!).  Of course, I’m being mischievous.  The truth is I’ve been blessed with so many people who have nurtured me along the way – so many talented colleagues, generous Academy parents, and countless parishioners have helped me do what I do – namely, participate in the ministerial life of a parish, but really it is just easy to blame our Deacon Lex Ferrauiola and his beloved wife Wanda. (You can read his blog, Presence, HERE.)

When I first arrived in Tenafly, in my father’s oversized suit, I knew I wanted to serve – to give my first professional years in service to our shared Catholic Church, a little deal I made with a God who is so giving to me. The pastor who hired me and the staff that welcomed me gave me a lot of leeway.  I think they could see my energy and my desire to help, and I surely wanted to, the only problem was I didn’t really know how.  Every fall I seem to walk along our Church and Academy campus thinking of those first warm evenings when I would sneak into our Church and just sit wondering how I was supposed to do this job. When will the time come when I’d be found out as a phony? Are they going to ask for my first paycheck back? It was my first real one!

Then one evening I was asked to attend a committee meeting led by Deacon Lex in the basement conference room of the rectory. I didn’t know anyone – though they were very welcoming – and I sat and listened to Lex go through the

Deacon Lex Ferrauiola

different ministries they were involved in. There was the group of parishioners handing out food in New York, there were financial causes to support – concern after concern was rattled off by Lex, a calm leader.  The work was serious but the heavy-handed seriousness that usually accompanies social justice work was gone.  Lex was matter-of-fact, almost nonchalant in his approach working with and for the poor. The near infantilizing of the poor was gone, the arrogance of thinking those who serve can dictate how those being served should live or act – all sins so many of us commit when working with our embattled brothers and sisters – weren’t present at all.

I sat stunned and excited. I’m sure my early exchanges with Lex are now clouded in my memory, but my takeaway from those early conversations with Lex was simply: “Just go out and serve. Don’t feel the need to apologize or wait for a signal to start. Just have at it. Serve.” Lex gave me permission to not ask for permission, to not be afraid of failure (and yes, there were failures).  I began calling shelters and wasn’t worried if I had the credentials.  It all led to our first-ever parish-wide Service Day eight months later.

I got to know Lex and Wanda (a force of generosity in her own right) throughout the years. When I needed professional advice, they were there.  When the impossible happened and I lost a mentor and then a mother, they were there. When a college debt stopped me from taking additional classes for professional development, they were there (with a check). The countless hours of spiritual direction were guideposts for me, as they were when I fell in love and married Kathy. And, of course, every summer at our temporary shelter for working homeless families there was Wanda and her famous watermelon salad.

I thank you all for YOUR hard work and generosity that financially allows me to be able to serve and, yeah, I blame Lex for keeping me in this wonderful, busy, blessed life. He keeps showing me the way. I will need his example. There is a big mess we will need to help clean up. We have just gone through so much in this horrible pandemic, the moratorium on evictions is ending, housing prices are skyrocketing leaving many behind, our congregation can feel exhausted and deflated, just when it’s time to get back to work again. I’m not sure how exactly…hmm…better call Lex.

Event Signup Forms
View Signup Forms