St. Frances parishioner receives St. Jude Medal

Published January 27, 2007

SPRING HILL - When Harold Reynders learned that he would receive the St. Jude Medal from the Diocese of St. Petersburg, he had one question: "Why me?"

After thinking about it, he decided there was only one answer: "It's God's will, not mine."

One of approximately 70 recipients throughout the diocese to receive the honor recently, Reynders said: "I always think so many people are more deserving than me."

The medal, named in recognition of the brother of Jesus Christ and the Patron Saint of Lost Causes, was first given by Bishop Robert Lynch in 1999 "to honor individuals who have consistently given of themselves to living the gospel of Jesus Christ by their generosity and service," according to the Rev. John Blum, associate pastor at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, which Reynders attends.

Reynders, a 73-year-old married lifetime Catholic, was born in Lancaster, N.Y., and had his own construction business in Buffalo, N.Y. After 37 years of work in brutally cold winters and undergoing three back operations, Reynders decided to move to a warmer climate. He arrived in Spring Hill in 1988, and began attending Cabrini in 1989, when construction of the church on Mariner Boulevard was being completed.

Monsignor John Cippel became rector of Cabrini in 1996 and after noticing Reynders working around the sanctuary, Cippel asked him if he came to church every day. When Reynders said yes, Cippel showed him the doors and handed him the keys. Reynders has been opening the church doors every morning ever since.

A church bulletin pointed out that after receiving the keys "Reynders became a sacristan, an extraordinary minister and a lector at the early Sunday Masses." In addition, it was pointed out, Cippel "found a few things for Harold to build just to keep him proficient and not lose his talent of woodworking. When it comes to stewardship, Harold is extremely generous with his time, talent and treasure."

Blum, who has been at Cabrini 41/2 years, said one member from each parish in the diocese has received the St. Jude honor each year. Eighteen members from Cabrini have been recognized over the years.

Asked about the importance of the medal, Blum said, "I think it's very important that men and women are recognized for giving up their time, talent and resources. It's a great honor for them and an opportunity to acknowledge them.

"We try to not only acknowledge the individual, but also the organization or ministry they represent. For example, Harold is a sacristan (who prepares the altar for the Mass and cleans up afterward), and so in that respect we are also honoring the others who have participated (in those duties)."

Reynders' wife, Corinne, said she was proud of her husband and felt he was "very deserving (of the medal). He puts a lot of time into the church. I was thrilled when we received the letter from Bishop Lynch."

The awards ceremony was conducted in November, on the Feast of Christ the King Day, at the Cathedral of St. Jude in St. Petersburg.

"The ceremony was breathtaking and gratifying," Harold Reynders said. "It gets to your heart, knowing that after all these years something like this happened. It made me feel good, and I got a warm feeling."

As a member of a church with nearly 14,000 parishioners, Reynders said, "It was awesome to be the one (chosen) out of so many. Not serving the church every day would be blasphemy. I come every day and get a hug from God."