Called to Testify: Millie Clark

Photo credit: June Caldwell’s mother Millie Clark enjoys a moment with her great granddaughter Madelynn. Photo circa, 2017.

We conclude this last week of women’s history month by recognizing the vital role which mothers, aunts, grandmothers and great grandmothers often have in passing on the faith to the next generation. In this guest reflection, June Caldwell shares a picturesque memory of her late mother Millie Clark’s influence on her faith formation as a lector. -Ellie 

The summer before I was in junior high school – which was 12 years after the Bonner Bridge connected Hatteras Island to the mainland of North Carolina – my family took our first vacation on the Outer Banks. My parents, three of my four brothers, paternal grandmother, and I stayed in a sun-bleached one-story ocean view cottage on stilts in Avon. Across Highway 12 the realty office was open for coffee, questions, and a swim in the community pool. We arrived on Saturday in time to unpack, go for an ocean swim, and eat dinner. In the mid 1970’s the island had minimal development compared to today. All the stores were mom and pop’s – no big box stores. 

The next day of our vacation was Sunday. My father most likely would have preferred to go surf fishing. My mother squelched that idea by insisting we look for a Catholic church so we all could attend Mass. Our family traveled up and down Highway 12 in my grandmother’s overcrowded blue Chevy searching for a Catholic Church. After a long morning, an island native suggested trying the U.S. Naval Base in Buxton near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church in Buxton had not been built yet.) By the time we got to the naval base it was too late to attend Mass, so we toured the lighthouse instead. My whole family, minus my acrophobic grandmother, climbed the spiral staircase to the lantern room. A stunning ocean view complete with surfers awaited us.

When we walked into the naval chapel the following Sunday, a priest was seated just inside the entry door. As we filed in to search for a pew, the priest reported that he needed a lector. For some unknown reason he asked me if I would be the lector for Mass. My mother thought it was a good idea, so I agreed. I have my mother’s insistence to attend Mass during our family vacation – and a priest who took a chance on inviting an adolescent girl to read – to thank for this beginning of my long ministry as a Proclaimer of the Word. 

June Caldwell

June Caldwell

June resides in Coudersport, Pennsylvania where she serves as a lector at Saint Eulalia Parish. Following this experience of a family vacation that opened up her call to serve as a lector, June struggled to serve at her home parish because she was female. However, she was then welcomed into this vocational role as a college student at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

DD postscript: If you would like to testify to a woman who has shaped your faith, particularly in diaconal calls to liturgy, Word and service, please email Ellie Hidalgo.

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“We raised so much awareness from our event, of both the ongoing Synod and of St. Phoebe and her ministry. Together, we learned of the power of the intercession of St. Phoebe, and how significant her feast day can be to carry the message of women’s roles in the Church.”
The Church of St. Francis Xavier
New York, NY
“The most meaningful parts of our celebration together included a standing ovation following the witness reflection, the power and strength of the reflection itself, and the procession at the start of mass. In the procession, young women carried in and presented symbols of St. Phoebe including an icon, the commission of St. Paul, a deacon’s stole and a pitcher of water to symbolize our shared baptism.”
St. Barnabas Parish
Chicago, IL
“Preaching on the Feast of St. Phoebe, and supporting and training other women to preach, was a joyful and invigorating experience. It is beautiful to see women claim the truth that they are called and gifted, and equally beautiful to see the People of God’s receptivity to women’s preaching, ministry, and leadership.”
Rhonda Miska
St. Phoebe Day Witness at St. Thomas More Catholic Community in St. Paul, MN; Founder and Co-convener of the Catholic Women's Preaching Circle; Catholic Women Preach Advisory Board Member

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