As Catholics, we are called not only to parish membership and worship, but, more importantly, to be willing to offer our time and talent for the support our parish. Parishioner involvement and commitment are what make parishes thrive and are important elements in our worship experience.
Turning 98 this January, Julie Fedie has come full circle on her path to holiness through her many years of good works at St. Henry Parish in Eau Galle.
From a young age, Julie was no stranger to hard work and commitment. Raised on a farm in rural Mondovi, she attended Catholic grade school. However, with the country still recovering from the Great Depression, Julie was unable to attend high school, as she was needed at home to assist her parents on the farm. Helping the family survive took priority over everything else.
Julie married her husband, Ben, in 1942. A year later, they moved to the countryside of Eau Galle and began a lifetime of service at St. Henry Parish.
Over the years, the Fedie farmhouse filled with children. Ben and Julie’s family grew to nine children, with one child tragically dying in infancy. As devout parents, all their children attended Catholic elementary school, with two of the girls making the trek to Lima to attend Catholic high school.
Ben’s hard work supported the family and Julie recalls taking on several jobs throughout the years to help make ends meet. She worked in the area pickle and bean factories, along with many other places doing odd jobs. Julie said, “If they needed help, I helped out.”
For enjoyment, Ben and Julie loved traveling around the state as members of the Eau Galle Polkateers. “It was a lot of fun!” Julie recalled.
Though life was busy, they always made time to be involved at the parish. Julie enjoyed singing in the church choir and for funeral Masses. She was sacristan, led the rosary and belonged to the parish quilting bee. As an active member of the PCCW, Julie held terms as president of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and was honored as Mother of the Year for the Durand Deanery. Julie’s commitment to the parish didn’t end here. If something needed to be done, she did it; if someone needed her help, she helped out.
As the years passed, Ben became the parish janitor and Julie helped with housekeeping and other chores as needed at the rectory, church and parish school. She enjoyed cooking for the resident priests and supporting them however needed. Julie was passionate about maintaining the Grotto of the Virgin Mary, nestled in the woods behind the church.
“Working in the rectory while priests were around is what I liked the best,” Julie recalled. “I enjoyed talking with them and cooking for them.” Julie enjoyed working for the priests so much that she continued doing so for 42 years. “I had to do something. I started and liked it, so I kept on doing it.”
After 51 years of marriage, Ben passed in 1993 and Julie moved from the family farm into a house located across from St. Henry Church in downtown Eau Galle. She continued her service to the parish and its resident priests until 2013, retiring after serving for 42 years.
With failing eyesight, Julie thanks the Lord she can “still see a little bit.” Her eldest son, Joe, now lives with his mother and is her caretaker.
“I just wish I could do more,” said Julie.
Joe lovingly responded to his mother, “You’ve done your share already.”
The Fedie service to St. Henry Parish doesn’t end here. Following in his parents’ footsteps, Joe is now the parish janitor and helps with the needs of the faithful.
“If it hadn’t been for my mother,” said Joe, “I wouldn’t be as involved as I am now.”
Julie continues to love her parish. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else. It’s so friendly here that I feel like I’m in God’s hands.”
Story and photography by SHARON SLIWKA
Published December 2020 Catholic Life Issue