Madeline Bridgewater, 67
Who is she? Retired last month after 20 years as the front-desk receptionist at Wynhoven Health Care Center in Marerro. Known to patients and co-workers as “Mamma Maddie,” the Vacherie-born Bridgewater has been a parishioner of St. Joseph the Worker in Marrero for 65 years. She is the mother of six, grandmother of 17 and great-grandmother of one.
What ministries have you served? Fund-raising Committee chair of Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary (based at All Saints Parish); third- and fourth-grade CCD teacher; extraordinary minister of holy Communion; choir; food pantry.
What was your favorite parish ministry? “Teaching CCD, because it helps the children understand their religion, and I find that children respond to me pretty well. They feel comfortable asking me questions about their faith – why we do certain things in church and how they should carry and conduct themselves as Catholic children.”
Her most memorable CCD lesson: Teaching the true meaning of Christmas by asking students to give one of their gifts to a less fortunate child.
What makes St. Joseph the Worker a special place? “St. Joe is more like a family. The priests that we have had – from Father Doug Doussan, to Father Ferdinand Cheri, to Father Paul McQuillen, to (current pastor) Father Otis Young – are the ones who brought it together.”
How did you come to Wynhoven? Intending to pursue a social work degree after a career as a school cafeteria cook and cafeteria manager at All Saints, Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph the Worker, Bridgewater accepted what she thought would be a temporary job answering phones at Wynhoven. “But God puts you where he wants you to be,” she said.
What is your work motto? “When a person walks into a building, you never know what that person is going through. So you always try to be pleasant. Your problems go on the backburner. You might be the only pleasant person they see that day.”
Who are your role models? In addition to her late parents, who raised seven children but still found time to be active at St. Joseph the Worker, she points to the example of her sister Cathy, who died of cancer in 2009 at age 56. “She never complained once during her illness,” Bridgewater said. “She helped me to appreciate everything.”
How do you share your faith? Bridgewater has texted a daily Bible quote and reflection to her 100-person phone list for the last two years. “My theory is if just one person is curious enough to see if what I’m saying is correct, they’ll open their Bible. Sometimes, I’ll just get an ‘Amen,’ or a ‘thank you,’ or a ‘Ms. Maddie, you were right on time!’”
What are your retirement plans? After moving to Monroe to be closer to her two daughters, she hopes to sew for underprivleged children. “Some families are struggling and can’t afford to dress (their children) nicely.”
What prayers do you turn to the most? “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23); and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). “He gives you the courage to do anything you want to do.”
– Beth Donze
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