Parish Pioneer

Ruth O’Keefe

I’ve been a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima Parish since 1961. My late husband and I joined the parish after purchasing our home, which is only about six blocks from the church. At first, we weren’t too active in the parish but after striking a friendship with George and Anne Nichols, and their friends the Schroeders, well, we got a lot more involved.

Our Lady of Fatima offered a lot of activities for young and growing families. I remember when Mass was celebrated in the gymnasium, which was quite a while ago. For many years, I attended daily Mass, and on many of those days, I walked from home to the church.

I feel that I connected with the parish in many ways because of its name. Our Lady of Fatima is special. I am rather unique in that I may be one of the only living parishioners born in 1917, which is the same year the Blessed Mother appeared to the three children. I am amazed at how often the year 1917 comes up these days. I will be 100 years old next February and look forward to the celebrations our parish family will have at the 100 Year Anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima.

Being a parishioner means being informed about Our Lady’s visits. I was so in awe when I learned the details of Mother Mary’s relationship with those children and how much they offered up and suffered.

 Fr. Harley Schmitt, second Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish

Fr. Harley Schmitt, second Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish

We have been blessed with good and caring priests. I admired Monsignor Schmitt very much, as he was a wonderful pastor, and a dear friend. I remember him as having a sense of humor and at the same time being a very devoted priest. He carried a missal with him at all times. His sincerity and the depth of his care for me, as one of his flock, meant the world. He came to visit when my late husband was very sick, which I appreciated. He celebrated the funeral Mass for my husband and then for our son, Michael, who died a young man. I remember asking Monsignor so many questions when my son died, and he helped me through that grief. When Monsignor retired to Mullen home, I visited him there several times, and when he died, I attended his funeral at Our Lady of Fatima, along with hundreds of other Catholics. He was a jewel and so well regarded. I miss him!

I’ve been a member of the Altar and Rosary Society since the beginning. It is a wonderful group of women. Everyone is so caring. I never feel lonely at our parish because of groups like this. I also belong to the bridge group. In fact, I belong to four different bridge groups in the area. I think playing bridge keeps me sharp!

When Monsignor Nickless was assigned as Bishop of Sioux City, I thought it was very significant. I mean to know that our small parish had a future bishop, well, that was something.

The truth is that our parish is special. No one will ever take me out of this church. Mainly I come because He, Our Lord, is here, and I always know I have the Lord! But I believe we have a holy parish and it is because of the Blessed Mother, who watches over us. The fact that we have a school that is firmly established is testimony to that. The school means a lot to me personally. My son, Michael, attended first through eighth grade.

I believe I am a better person because of Our Lady of Fatima Parish. I consecrated my life to the Blessed Mother on December 31, 2015, and that means so much to me. I say two rosaries daily in gratitude and thanksgiving for my life. To sum it up, I know that at age 99, I am living the life God wants for me, and being a parishioner here has certainly given me a deeper faith.