A legacy of loving service

Categories: Around the Diocese

Grandfather inspires grandchildren, others to ministry

menahga

Butch Shepersky gets ready to serve at Mass with his 12-year-old granddaughter Helen Pickar at Assumption of Our Lady in Menahga Aug. 9. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Like most altar servers, Marvin “Butch” Shepersky started serving when he was about 11 years old. Unlike most, he is still serving at age 66. But there was a long span when he wasn’t. At 16, his grandmother died and he was asked to serve at her funeral Mass.

“I couldn’t serve after that,” he said. “It was just too hard.”

menahga2

Father Arlie Sowada, pastor of Assumption of Our Lady Parish in Menahga, watches as Butch Shepersky and his 12-year-old granddaughter, Helen Pickar, get ready to serve at Mass Aug. 9. Photo by Dianne Towalski/The Visitor

About nine years ago, at his parish of Assumption of Our Lady in Menahga, he noticed there weren’t very many people volunteering to serve. The parish is home to about 70 families. Oftentimes, the priest was on the altar alone. This struck a chord for Shepersky.

After a few weeks thinking about it, he finally asked the priest if he would like him to serve. “I also thought maybe if I volunteered, I could get some of the grandkids involved,” Shepersky said.

And he was right. His 12-year-old granddaughter, Helen Pickar, now serves beside him whenever she can.

“I thought it was cool to get up there and help,” she said. “I just really like helping people.”

Pickar’s younger sisters and brother aren’t quite old enough to serve yet but she thinks some of them might follow in her footsteps. As for Shepersky, he hopes they will.

Shepersky’s wife, Joanne, loves to see her husband and granddaughter at the altar together, and on some weekends she joins them as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion. “We just feel that it is an honor to be able to serve,” Joanne said.

Inspiring others

Marcia Cole, a fellow parishioner, has known Butch Shepersky for about 10 years, first, from afar.

“I remember seeing him up at the altar and I always thought how wonderful that was for a grown man to get up and do that,” Cole said. “Then when he started serving with his granddaughter, it became even more special to watch.”

menahga3

Shepersky and Pickar put away the Roman Missal after Mass. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

Cole grew up at a time when only males could serve. So a few years ago, when the parish didn’t have a lot of children at the age to serve and it had an interim priest, she mulled over the idea of stepping forward to help .

“I thought it was such a shame that there were times no one was available to help serve on the weekend or at funerals,” she said. “Finally, I approached [the late] Father Mark [Ostendorf]. I was a little unsure about it but I asked him if I could serve and he said, ‘Of course!’ so I signed up to go through the training.”

Later, when Cole showed up for the training, a new priest had been assigned to the parish — Father Arlie Sowada.

“He looked at me and he looked at the kids and then he asked me if I was there to teach the training. I said, ‘No, I’m here to learn, too!’ ” she laughed.

Coincidentally, Pickar was in the same altar server training session as Cole, who has watched her grow from a toddler to an almost teen.
“Helen does such a good job serving,” Cole said. “It has been so fun to watch her mature.”

Cole also has had the opportunity to serve with Butch.

“I have always told Butch that he was my inspiration,” she said. “I probably would never have had the courage to become an altar server if it wasn’t for his example.”

For Butch, new memories, happy memories, have been made through his ministry — serving at his grandson’s baptism and serving alongside his granddaughters and fellow parishioners, for example.

Occasionally, he said, his hands shake a little but that is why he says it is nice to serve together with Pickar, who is always ready to help. When asked how long he will continue to serve, he said, “As long as they’ll have me.”