For woman with cerebral palsy, parish is joyful stop on faith journey

| Susan Klemond | August 25, 2015 | 0 Comments
Terry Adamson, left, talks with Marcelle Diedrich before Mass Aug. 20 at St. Joseph in West St. Paul. “She lights up this church,” Diedrich said of Adamson, who goes to daily Mass several times a week. “Sometimes after Mass everybody has to take a number to talk to her. Everybody smiles when they see her.” Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Terry Adamson, left, talks with Marcelle Diedrich before Mass Aug. 20 at St. Joseph in West St. Paul. “She lights up this church,” Diedrich said of Adamson, who goes to daily Mass several times a week. “Sometimes after Mass everybody has to take a number to talk to her. Everybody smiles when they see her.” Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Almost every day Terry Adamson takes a Metro Mobility bus from her New Hope apartment to St. Joseph in West St. Paul. When she arrives, fellow parishioners are drawn to her joyful, loving presence.

“Terry has become the heart of the parish,” said Marcelle Diedrich, a St. Joseph parishioner and friend. “She brings the light of Christ to all of us. . . . I think she’s opened people’s eyes to what it’s like to have a disability and live in a wheelchair.”

Adamson, 55, has cerebral palsy. Along with growing in her faith, she said she tries to share her joy with people she meets. She tells how Christ filled her with his love when she came back to the Church and how he’s helped her deal with anxiety, depression and the difficulties of her disability.

“My biggest joy is coming into church and learning about how kind, merciful and loving God is, because I didn’t know,” said Adamson, who uses a power wheelchair. “Going to [St. Joseph] was kind of like going to a lay person’s seminary where I learned all about Jesus and Mary and what they do.”

For the past three years Adamson has sought housing closer to the parish but hasn’t been successful. She believes God wants her at St. Joseph, and the travel offers an opportunity to evangelize.

Adamson, who is a greeter and concierge at an Eden Prairie hotel, plans to attend the annual Mass for Persons with Disabilities at 3 p.m. Sept. 13 in St. Mary’s Chapel at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. The Mass will include a celebration of the sacrament of confirmation for people with disabilities who’ve completed confirmation classes.

Closer to Christ

Adamson has happy memories of growing up Catholic in the 1960s in Kenosha, Wisconsin, with her brother and sister. Most buildings — including her family’s home and parish — weren’t wheelchair accessible then, and often she was carried up and down stairs.

Anxiety she struggled with in high school later caused her to leave technical school.

“I knew there was a God, but I thought he was far off doing the big huge things,” she said.

Adamson spent the next nine years at home alone each day while her parents worked, with her father coming home during his lunch hour to care for her. She now sees that God was there through her suffering.

“I always had the hope and the knowledge back in my head that I had more to do than stay home and veg,” she said. “I didn’t know when, but I had this dream of being in my own apartment and having own my life.”

Looking back, Adamson said she is grateful to her parents for taking care of her for 29 years, at a time when there were no personal care attendants and fewer services for people with disabilities.

Relaxation tapes helped her overcome anxiety enough to consider living on her own. When a friend told her about what is now Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley, Adamson moved there in 1990. She thrived in the new environment and a year later got her own apartment. Still, she wasn’t happy.

In 2000, someone suggested she see a chiropractor in West St. Paul. Thinking it was crazy, she made the two-hour round trip to Endris Chiropractic Inc.

She liked the clinic and became friends with the greeter and scheduler, Paul Cernohous, who said of Adamson, “She’s kind of a kindred spirit. We’ve got a lot in common.”

What they would share most is faith. About five years ago Cernohous invited her to the Divine Mercy cenacle at St. Joseph, two miles from the clinic. She’d been away from the Church for almost 40 years.

Around the same time, her friend Diane Vorwald of St. Pius X in White Bear Lake introduced her to eucharistic adoration at Jesus Heals Ministry in St. Paul. She discovered praying in adoration lifted her depression. Adamson said she heard God asking her to pray for everyone who crossed her path.

“I just know that is my function because I can’t volunteer and do the physical stuff other people do, but I can pray,” she said.

Cernohous later brought Adamson to St Joseph’s perpetual adoration chapel where on most days she prays for the parish, its priests and others.

Adamson returned to confession and hasn’t had further anxiety problems. She loves parish activities, but her face lights up as she talks to parishioners such as Diedrich and Florence Stifter, widows who attend daily Mass. Both care for Adamson, but Diedrich especially has filled in for Adamson’s mother, who still lives in Wisconsin.

“People just go to her [Adamson] because they know she’s a woman of prayer, wisdom and insight with a heart full of kindness for anyone that approaches her,” Cernohous said.

In turn, Adamson said the parish’s welcome has helped her find more peace with her disability.

While Adamson finds joy in her life, she also thinks about her heavenly home. Recalling a friend’s vision in prayer of her dancing in heaven in a beautiful dress, she said, “I just sit there and try to imagine it. Everything we go through is worth it.”


Annual Mass for Persons with Disabilities

When: 2:30 p.m. singalong followed by 3 p.m. Mass (includes a sign language interpreter) with Bishop Andrew Cozzens Sept. 13

Where: St. Paul Seminary (St. Mary’s Chapel), 2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul

The sacrament of confirmation for persons with disabilities who have completed confirmation classes also will be celebrated. Stay for socialization and light refreshments after Mass.

 

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Category: Featured, From Age to Age