Beloved Lumen Gentium winner is the ‘heart and soul’ of her parish

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PROVIDENCE — Patricia Draper’s love for religious education runs as deep as her faith, says her son, Tim Draper, one of many who nominated the director of religious education for a Lumen Gentium Award in the category of Catholic Education. Working in the St. John Vianney Religious Education program for more than 40 years, her son explains that she has been a like a mother to all the children.

“I think my mother is an excellent candidate for the Lumen Gentium Award because in her world, Matthew 19:14, ‘Let the Children Come to Me’ is more than a quote from the bible, it is her way of life.”

A teacher by trade, Draper’s undergraduate work was in the field of education, but to bring that into religious education was another important step for her.

“My faith came from my mother and father of course, but my mother was such a model of her Church, her prayer and her service to others so that’s been with me all the time, as well as the mentoring that I had when I came into the religious education field — that has been really helpful,” said Draper. “So my faith has been fed all along my journey by people who have helped me to see God in everyone.”

Draper’s length of service is not the only thing that is so remarkable, explained co-worker Kathryn Lagasse.

“It is also her desire to continually improve the program year to year so that the children have the best chance of learning to know and love God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and develop a deep and lifelong friendship like she has,” said Lagasse. “St. John Vianney parish has been blessed for so many years to have Patricia Draper as its DRE. Her joy, compassion, love and concern for all its members has been a gift and an inspiration to so many including myself, who has been privileged to work with her for the past eleven years.”

The list of ministries and committees that Draper has been involved in and continues to be part of is extensive. She began her journey as a volunteer catechist, eventually earning her master’s degree and becoming the Director of Religious Education. Some of the many areas she has been instrumental in creating and/or developing include CLOW, SPRED, Bible Camp, the Christmas Pageant, Passion Play, Adult Faith Formation, Women’s Club and Parish Picnic. Draper has also been on numerous committees on the deanery and diocesan level. She has also mentored many religious education catechetical leaders and catechists to impart the teachings of the Church in an appropriate and sensitive manner.

Her pastor, Father Raymond Theroux, shared that Draper is a “woman of faith, a light to all, especially our children.”

“Like a mother who is the heart of a family, Patricia has been the heart of our parish family,” said Father Theroux. “Pat Draper epitomizes what Lumen Gentium is all about. She has let the Light of Christ shine through her everyday life and would well represent the recipients of the Lumen Gentium Award.”

Deacon Paul Lambert has known Draper since he began his ministry as deacon and music director at St. John Vianney 25 years ago.

“Over the years I have to come realize that she is the heart and soul of this wonderful parish,” he said. “Her invaluable connection to the countless students, parents and teachers that she has come to know over the years and the love and appreciation that they have for her is truly is a testament to the efficacy of her vocation. As music director I provide the music for the many funerals of our parishioners and whether there are many or just a few people attending, I’ve come to notice that Pat is usually there, in her quiet manner supporting the families with her deep faith and her personal presence.”

Draper shared that she cannot imagine leaving her ministry, adding that there is new life in her parish which continues to motivate her and many others.

“My pastor is just a wonderful man and working for him is a real joy. As long as he is there, I am there. I don’t really want to leave my ministry,” she said. “I don’t know how I can express it, but it’s always there, my faith, my love of God and I know how much he loves me. I am overjoyed at being nominated for this award — God has been so good to me.”

Over the next several weeks, Rhode Island Catholic will feature profiles of the 17 winners in the 10 categories of the diocese’s 2017 Lumen Gentium Awards, which formally recognize those who ‘toil in the vineyard’ in service to the Lord, and minister to those in greatest need in their parish or community. The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Wednesday, May 17. Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will support diocesan senior priests, many of whom continue to serve in our diocese well into their older years — are asked to register online at www.dioceseofprovidence.org/lumen-gentium-awards. For any questions about the event, please call 401-277-2121.