When in Doubt...Make the Call

left to right row 1: Associates Diane Summa, Irene Remillard, Janet McKone
row 2:  Sr. Paula Despathy, Sr. Marian St. Marie, Toni Burkdall, Sr. Gertrude Lanouette

FFor DHS Associate Irene Remillard, making phone calls has become her ministry.  However, she had not anticipated that making a call could lead to the development of a relationship that proved to be life-giving, theralpeutically healing and durable.

On the 13th of September, 2005, Irene picked up her phone and dialed Associate Toni Burkdall’s number to wish her a happy birthday.  That is what Irene does for each Associate...calls them up on their birthday whether or not she knows them personally.  This is how Irene stays connected and reaches out to others to share best wishes, the promise of prayerful support and good old-fashioned listening.

What Irene learned through that phone call to California  would impact both their lives for years to come.  A few minutes into their conversationToni explained she was undergoing some severe physical issues and welcomed the opportunity to chat and to share her concerns.  What happened next clearly speaks of the compassionate Christ who has inspired Irene throughout the years.  Irene got into the habit of giving Toni a call each day, just to touch base, empathize and encourage.  Gradually, Toni’s health improved, and she set her sights on paying Irene a visit to collect the hug that could not be transmitted via the phone.

So it happened 12 years after their initial contact that Toni boarded a plane in California and headed to Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks, CT and then to Irene’s home in Chicopee, MA where they finally met ‘up close and personal’ and shared that hug, promised many years earlier.

Irene Remillard and Toni Burkdall

After several days of visiting the region and meeting and greeting other Associates from the Pittsfield area, Toni and Irene, along with fellow Associates Connie Knowles, Janet McKone and Diane Summa accepted an invitation extended by Sr. Gertrude Lanouette, Provincial Team Leader when she met Toni during her recent visitation to California, to come for a tour of the Provincial House and to join Sr. Paula Despathy and her Community for lunch.  “A dream come true” as Toni stated while the small group gleefully reminisced, asked questions and planned the best maintenance program to nourish and nurture the close bonds that had been in the making for a long time.

Toni has returned safely to her home in California and, as Irene recalls the special moments shared during the “fastest week of (my) life, the first feeling she remembers is that of being “flabbergasted and thrilled to have Toni here, to see how well she adapted and fit in with everyone”. Then Irene adds that she had no idea when she made the first phone call that so many “good things would come of it... I just wanted to wish her a happy birthday. We never know what the Spirit has in store or in mind.”  Remillard concludes by saying, “Now, when I hesitate to make a call, I simply remember this moment and make the call”.  Indeed a good lesson for all of us as we sing God’s praises for people and occasions such as these.

Both Irene and Toni would be happy to share their experience with you  Simply contact them as follows: Toni:  toniburkdall@yahoo.com   and Irene, of course, by phone: 413 594-6092.


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