On Saturday, July 13, 2019, Sr. Lucille Carreau and I had the pleasure of joining DHS Associates Donna Bertholf and Raylene Wittwer, as well as many family and friends, to celebrate the 100th birthday of DHS Associate Alta Jones. Twenty-two years earlier, in 1998, Alta had been invited by her friend Mary Brush, who has since passed away, to join the DHS Associate Program, which had begun in California in 1991. At that time, she was a 79 yr. old widow, actively involved in church ministry, especially Eucharistic ministry and outreach to the sick and poor. In her own words, she was searching for ways “to get closer to God, to get more involved in things concerning the Church, and to increase my spirituality.” The values she saw in the lives of the DHS and DHS Associates she knew included their sincerity and their dedication to helping the sick and the elderly. She said in her Covenant: “I want to be an Associate of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit because they encompass all the virtues that Our Lady demonstrated: humility, love, joyfulness, patience, gentleness…”
Now, 22 years later, Alta remains an active DHS Associate, regularly attending monthly meetings. The bright sparkle in her eyes and her radiant smile have not dimmed with the years. She is the humble, joyful, gentle witness to the love of God that she has always tried to be, with an energy that belies her years.
Looking back over those years, I marvel at how tiny seeds, planted by our simple, momentary presence in an area, can blossom and bear fruit. When I began working in Madera, California in 1984, Sr. Claire Coutu and I decided to relocate from Merced to be closer to my work. Mary Brush, whom I had recently met, suggested that we look for housing in the small town of Chowchilla, where she lived. She contacted Raylene Wittwer, a local real estate agent, and, thanks to both of them, we soon were comfortably settled in that small farming community. We became active members of the parish of St. Columba and remained a simple presence among the people there until I left for Nigeria in 1989. Sr. Claire then moved across the valley to Patterson but kept contact with the people of both Merced and Chowchilla. So when Sr. Imelda Michaud arrived in California in 1990 and initiated the Associate Program, seeds had been planted. In 1992, Mary Brush became the first Associate from Chowchilla, followed in 1997 by Raylene, Donna and Eva Ryals, who has since passed away. They then recruited Alta, who became an Associate in 1999. It was heart-warming to be back in this place among these faithful women who continue to witness joyfully to the DHS Charism in their local community.
Happy 100th Birthday, Alta!
We thank God for your life and for your call to be a DHS Associate.
May the Spirit continue to lead and guide you as you walk into a new century of life!
– Sr. Paula-Jean Despathy, DHS