May 21, 2021

Readers share stories of Blessed Mother’s role in their lives

A statue depicts the Madonna and Child in Holy Spirit Church in Indianapolis. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

A statue depicts the Madonna and Child in Holy Spirit Church in Indianapolis. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

(Editor’s note: In honor of May as the month of Mary, The Criterion recently asked readers to send in their stories of the impact of the Blessed Mother on their life and their faith. This week presents the third of four installments featuring the responses received. From Floyds Knobs to Greenwood, to Indianapolis and Bloomington, this week’s reader responses honor Mary and her desire to help her children at all stages of life.)

By Natalie Hoefer

Member of St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish knows that Mary is the ‘way to Jesus’

Growing up Catholic, 64-year-old Joseph Blunk says he has “always held a special place in my heart for the Blessed Mother—she’s always been a part of my life.”

She is so much a part of his life that the member of St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in Floyd County begins each day praying a Hail Mary.

“All while I was growing up, my mother always had the most beautiful Blessed Mother statue in her bedroom,” he recalls. “When my mother passed away a couple of years ago, it gave me great comfort to obtain that statue.”

Blunk says it was his mother who explained to her children “how special the month of May was in honor of the Blessed Mother. This gave me such a warm and secure feeling not only in the month of May, but always—I knew that I could ask the Blessed Mother anything to help intercede with a difficult time I may have been experiencing.”

Blunk now follows in the footsteps of his mother, praying the rosary—“or at least a decade or two”—every day.

“I pray to the Blessed Mother every day, knowing that she is the way to our Lord Jesus Christ,” he says. “She didn’t have to say ‘yes’ to be the mother of our Savior, but she did, showing us what a beautiful person she is and giving us her unconditional love.”

After years of avoiding Mary, Greenwood man realizes ‘she still loves you’

Bob Siefker was not raised in the Catholic faith. So in 1967, when he was received into the full communion of the Church before marrying into a family with three Franciscan sisters among its extended members, it became a Catholic baptism—by beads.

One of the Franciscan sisters “presented to me a beautiful rosary she had hand-crafted,” recalls the member of SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood.

“I had been assured by the priest who gave me instructions that saying the rosary was not a requirement for being Catholic and, with my two decades of Protestant background, I appreciated the gift but had no intention of ever using it.”

Siefker put the rosary in a drawer “and never thought about it after.”

A few years later, he was mowing the grass when his wife approached him.

“I could see by her somber look that something serious had happened,” says Siefker. “I shut off the mower and she said, ‘Your sister just called.’ ”

As he suspected, the news was not good. In fact, it was devastating—his nephew had been killed while riding his bicycle.

“I could barely breathe,” Siefker recalls. “It was as though someone had hit me in the chest with a 2-by-4.”

What happened next caught him by just as much surprise.

“Then I heard a voice that sounded just like mine saying, ‘Would you pray a rosary with me?’ ” says Siefker. “My wife, looking a little surprised, responded with great love and tenderness, ‘Of course.’

“I still have no idea why I said that or where the idea came from.”

The grieving couple went into their house and prayed the rosary—“my first ever—with tears streaming down our cheeks,” he recalls.

“Ever since that day, the rosary and the loving tenderness that our Blessed Mother offers us has been an important part of my life.

“Just because you ignore her or put her in a drawer, she still loves you and is there for you when you are ready.”

Bloomington man relishes ‘real and personal relationship with Mary’

James Montgomery can identify the event that drew him close to the Blessed Mother. It was 1988, and he was on pilgrimage to the Shrine at Fatima in Portugal.

“The church grounds were ringed with merchants selling every kind of religious article,” recalls the member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington. “But the moment I entered the church, I knew I was on holy ground.”

He purchased a rosary and asked a local priest to bless it in Portuguese.

“That was the beginning of my real and personal relationship with Mary,” Montgomery says.

His dedication to Mary led him to become a member of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal many years ago. The organization seeks to spread devotion to Mary and the Miraculous Medal, which was designed by St. Catherine Laboure based on her visions of the Blessed Mother in 1830 in Paris, France.

When his grandson was deployed with the Army to Iraq following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Montgomery says he “gave him my Miraculous Medal and told him to keep it with him always, and told him I would say the prayers associated with it for him and his safety.”

That grandson, a helicopter test pilot, will retire from the Army this August unharmed after 20 years, two deployments to Iraq and two deployments to Afghanistan.

“I credit the Blessed Mother for watching over him all these years,” says Montgomery.

He himself went overseas during those years three times—but not to the Middle East. Rather, Montgomery traveled to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where it was reported in 1981 that six teenagers were experiencing apparitions from the Blessed Mother. The Vatican has still not determined if the apparitions are of supernatural nature because they are reported to still be occurring.

On his first pilgrimage to Medjugorje in 2010, Montgomery witnessed a private, personal sign that he still ponders.

“To this day, I still don’t understand parts of [what he experienced] and what it means, but I have thought about it on a daily basis since,” he says.

“Needless to say, it has changed my life, and I am more convinced than ever that Mary is the greatest intercessor we could ever have, and that she always points the way to her Son, Jesus.”

Indianapolis woman connects with Mary through Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’

One could say Gina Langferman has had a close relationship with Mary from birth.

“My parents named me Regina [meaning “queen”] because my birthday falls between the feast of the Assumption [on Aug. 15] and the feast of the Queenship of Mary [on Aug. 22],” explains Langferman, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.

Given the gift of a beautiful voice, she began using her talent as a cantor when she was just 16.

“I learned how to sing Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’ by hearing my older sister sing it,” says Langferman. “As an adult, I’ve been blessed to sing it at many weddings and funerals … . Each time I sing it, I fall more in love with the Blessed Mother.”

As a cantor at St. Barnabas Church, Langferman now faces a statue of Mary as she sings from the sanctuary.

“So each time I sing this special song, I look across the church at Mary and sing it as a prayer to her,” she says.

Of the many times Langferman has been blessed to sing this well-loved song, one particular instance comes first to her mind.

A few months after singing Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’ at her mother-in-law’s funeral in 2002, Langferman was sitting in a church in the Dominican Republic waiting for Mass to begin. It was a trip the entire Langferman family chose to take as a way to enjoy time together after the loss of their matriarch.

One family member suggested Langferman start singing the well-known song, since people from many countries were there and would likely recognize it.

“I protested and said, ‘Look, I’m on vacation. Besides, how do I know that they would want me to sing?’ ” she recalls whispering in resonse.

Then the chapel musician walked up the aisle, sat down at the organ and started playing the prelude to Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria.’

Langferman “knew right away” that this was a prompting from the Holy Spirit.

“I walked right up and asked him if I could sing the song that he was playing,” she says. “He agreed, and there I was, in the Dominican Republic, on a resort, at a beautiful open-air chapel singing the song that has defined my life.

“I knew my mother-in-law heard it, too. And so did our Blessed Mother.” †

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