June Parishioner Profile
This month’s Parishioner Profile is Cathy Burns, a life-long member of Church of Our Redeemer who shares some of her memories of growing up in our faith community.
Cathy recalled fleeting memories of different events from when she was young such as “being in the youth choir and singing a solo in church. I remember attending a children’s service in the Great Hall and I arranged the flowers for the altar. I remember attending “Sunday” School on Thursday afternoons, after school.”
She also remembered Reverend Handley very well and said she was in awe of him. “He had a commanding voice and I remember his sermons being very long – but I was a kid, so who knows whether they were really that long!”
Some of Cathy’s other fond memories included our many ministers and interim ministers over the years and what they accomplished here: Ted Petersen, Jep Streit, Retired Bishop Ben Arnold, Ted Todd, and Alden Flanders to name just a few.
I asked Cathy about what it was like to grow up in Lexington when she did. She told me that her parents moved to Lexington from Baltimore in 1963, when she was 5 years old. In Baltimore they lived close to Cathy’s maternal grandparents and her father was an engineer and he got a job in Massachusetts. She recalls her father commuting from Baltimore for a while and eventually her mother moved up here to be with him.
Cathy’s parents separated a year or so later and divorced when she was a teenager. Today her mother lives in Billerica and my dad now lives in Sedona, Arizona. Cathy has a younger brother, Joel who is married and lives in West Springfield, and a younger sister, Sue, who lives in the Baltimore area, near her daughter and her husband.
Cathy attended three elementary schools in Lexington, Franklin, Fiske, and Bridge School and attended Diamond Junior High (now Diamond Middle School) for 3 years and Lexington High School for 3 years. Her freshman year was spent at Diamond, doing double sessions while the Clarke School was being built.
I asked Cathy what role did faith and religion play in her life growing up. She told me that, “Church was really important to us. We grew up attending Sunday services and going to Sunday school. Church was the center of our lives. My mother sang in the choir and we often socialized with church families.”
She met Steve when he was a sophomore and she was a freshman at Lexington High School and they started dating in 1974. Both graduated from LHS and both attended Ohio Wesleyan University. They graduated a year apart, Steve in 1979 and Cathy in 1980.
On June 20, 1981 they were married at Church of Our Redeemer, with Reverend Ted Petersen officiating. Cathy says, “Steve will tell you that I chased him down until he proposed but it wasn’t quite like that. We were very young when we started dating and basically grew up together.”
Steve and Cathy have two daughters, Jennifer and Emily. Jen will be 26 in June and Emily will be 23 in August. Both are out of college but still living at home with Steve and Cathy. They grew up in the church and were baptized and confirmed at Redeemer. Jen and Emily show up at Redeemer from time to time; Emily often sings in the choir at Christmas and Easter.
Cathy is a third grade teacher at the Thomas Ditson Elementary School in Billerica. When asked what she likes about her work, Cathy replied, “Almost everything! I love working with 8 and 9 year olds. That age is so much fun and the curriculum is fun to teach. One of my favorite subjects is social studies and I get to teach my students about the American Revolution. I love sharing with them “the rest of the story” – the role that Billerica played in many of the events in 1775 and beyond.”
In her free time, Cathy likes to sew, read, garden and travel. She is a member of “Sewing For A Cause,” a group of women who meet monthly to make dresses for little girls. The dresses are sent all over the world to needy children. Cathy took dresses on two of her trips to El Hogar in Honduras. Cathy also loves to read, garden and travel and spending time with her daughters, mother and Steve’s father.
Cathy is active in various ministries at Redeemer. Currently she chairs the Casserole Patrol and serves on the Community Team.
She and Steve have been working with the Redeemer Youth Group for five years, starting when their daughter Emily was a senior in high school. Cathy says she “loves working with the teens and getting to know them through our many meals and adventures together. It’s fun and they put up with us!”
Steve and Cathy have been on mission trips to El Hogar 3 times. I asked Cathy what she liked best about the experience and what the biggest challenge was. She told me that they loved it and would love to go back someday, if possible. “We loved the relationships we built with the boys and with the team that went each year. The most challenging part was that neither of us speaks Spanish. We managed to communicate despite our deficiency.”
Cathy has always been active in the Redeemer Community. In addition to her current ministries in the community she has, in the past, served on the Nominating Committee, Worship Committee, and served as President and Treasurer of the Episcopal Church Women when it still existed at Redeemer. She has also taught Sunday school, cooked soup luncheons and helped with rummage sales over the years.
As someone who grew up at Redeemer and raised her family here and continues to be active in the community, I asked Cathy what she loves most about Redeemer.
“I’ve been at Redeemer so long that it definitely feels like home. Many of our older parishioners have known me since I was a little girl. Steve and I have made lots of friends at church over the years and we both feel loved by the people of Redeemer.”
Parishioner Profile by James M. Surprenant
This article appears in the current issue of Redeeming Features, Church of Our Redeemer’s monthly newsletter. See the complete issue here!