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‘I didn’t have to go; I wanted to go’

May 26, 2021

Editor’s note: The following is an installment of an ongoing series featuring how Catholics of the Diocese of Ogdensburg are living out their faith. To suggest an individual to be featured in this series, please call the North Country Catholic at 315-393-2920 or email dfargo@rcdony.org.

By Jonathan Monfiletto
Contributing Writer

POTSDAM – Mary Enslow made her faith her own at the moment she realized she had been given a second chance at life and wanted to share the gift of life with others.

In January 1978, Enslow – who lives in Potsdam and attends St. Mary’s Church – was involved in a serious car crash, “which could’ve gone the other way,” she said. She was sore from the bumps and bruises and everything else, but three days later she was getting ready to go to church.

“Just growing up Catholic, it was always instilled in me, you went to church on Sunday,” Enslow said.
Still, her mother told her she didn’t have to go to church.

“I know I don’t have to go to church. I want to go to church. I want to thank God I’m alive,” Enslow recalled her response to her mother.

In the crash, her car skidded on a patch of ice and then she slammed on the brakes before hitting another vehicle. The way she hit the other vehicle, she noted, she was lucky to come out with only minor injuries.

At the time, Enslow and her family attended Mass at the Newman Center at SUNY Potsdam. She doesn’t remember anything about the homily that day, she said, “all I know is it was funny because it hurt to laugh.”
But she does remember a poignant moment from that Mass.

“Going up to Communion, I’m hobbling up,” Enslow said. “As I come to go away after receiving, (the priest) just says to me, ‘Mary, I’m glad you’re here.’ If I had not gone to church, I would never have gotten that statement from him.”

Her brother was helping out around the center and had called the priest to tell him what was going on. That meant the priest knew who to look for when she went up to receive Communion.

“I was so close to tears after he had said that,” Enslow said. “Why did somebody like him say that to me and not my family? That was really instilled: I didn’t have to go; I wanted to go.”

Six months after the crash, Enslow learned the center was looking for people to help with Communion or to be readers at Mass. She immediately decided she wanted to become a Eucharistic minister, so she attended training – basically a talk from the priest – and received a commissioning – essentially a blessing from the priest.

“I’m sitting there and thinking, ‘I basically got a second chance at life. Let’s take this one step further and repay that,’” Enslow said of becoming a Eucharistic minister. “That’s when I decided that becoming a Communion minister would be me giving someone else life through the Eucharist.”

Shortly after her commissioning as a Eucharistic minister, Enslow attended a Mass when she noticed the priest needed help, so she jumped right in with her new training.

“I didn’t even think about doing it. I just went up and did it, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said.

And Enslow hasn’t limited serving as a Eucharistic minister to the physical church building; she brought the Eucharist to her parents when they were still alive, and she has spent nearly 20 years bringing the Eucharist to those who can’t get to church.

In 2002, two years after her mother died, she began bringing Communion to residents of a local nursing home and patients of a local hospital.

“This a great way to extend that (gift of life) for those who just can’t get to church, especially the ones in the nursing home and the hospital,” Enslow said. “When my parents were both living, it was difficult for them to get out and go to church, so after Mass I would bring them both Communion. And I’ve done this for other people too. Being able to share that with them has been many times an awesome experience.”

Because of the pandemic, though, it is an experience she has not been able to enjoy in recent months. A new experience she has been enjoying, on the other hand, is virtual prayer with a couple of groups.

Enslow said she has been saying morning prayer along with Father Bryan Still through his Facebook page. She has also been saying evening prayer with a group of nine women who are both from the diocese and from outside the diocese.

“It’s been a wonderful experience, even if it’s just half an hour with these women, just to laugh and share our day and what’s going on next week with us or whatever,” she said. “Just praying with other people. … This has been a wonderful thing to have, there’s actually somebody here that I can talk to

Her faith, Enslow said, has gotten her “through some very difficult times … through some very wonderful times.” Like she did more than 40 years ago, she encourages people to make their faith their own – not by having to go to church but by wanting to go church, even if that means adjusting to one’s comfort level.

“This is a difficult time for a lot of people, but if you can get back to church, get back to church,” she said. “If you don’t feel comfortable going to your weekend Masses, go to your daily Masses. If you feel comfortable going to another church that’s bigger than yours, then go to that church. You have to quote-unquote bite the bullet and just do it.”

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