Barb O’Brien has gotten used to being nudged by the Hand of God. “God is very good at getting you to do things even if you don’t think you are prepared for them,” she said.
Barb was nudged to help with communion calls to the homebound. She was nudged to travel to the Holy Love Ministries in Ohio, and, most recently, she was nudged to organize weekday Adoration in St. Damien Parish. As one thing has led to another, Barb’s prayers have deepened. Her faith has grown. Her bonds with the church community have tightened, and, we all could agree, the parish is better off for all of it.
Several years ago Barb was asked to drive Sister Roberta on her weekly communion calls to homebound parishioners. When Sister Roberta retired, Barb sought help to continue the visits. “I prayed for priests to come with me,” she explained. The next day she saw visiting priests, Fr. Imlus and Fr. Thomas, on the altar at St. Frances Cabrini Church. She dared to ask. Both were gratified to help. When summer ended, Father Al Diaz stepped in. He makes the rounds with Barb every Tuesday to approximately 15 shut-ins. Barb appreciates that Fr. Al brings “consecrated hands” to the visits. He can give communion, hear confession, and bless homes. During visits Barb stays alert to any needs that she might help with. On one visit to Bayview Apartments, she heard of a new resident who arrived without any household provisions. Over the next two weeks, Barb encountered friends and neighbors who just happened to be giving away the very things that were needed. “Hand of God,” she concluded.
Barb said her faith “exploded” after a friend invited her to visit the Holy Love Ministries at Maranatha Spring and Shrine in North Ridgeville, Ohio. At this active Marian apparition site, Barb has recited the Rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet with thousands of people at a time. Approximately 40,000 messages have been received there since 1985, and Barb has “seen miracles with my own eyes,” some of which she has captured on camera. To her the Holy Love message is direct: “Pray, love God, love your neighbor in the present moment.” Barb has made the pilgrimage several times, always bringing along others, and organized a Holy Love Prayer Group at St. Damien. The group of about ten parishioners prays, especially for the parish, and reads and discusses Marian messages that come through Holy Love Ministries (holylove.org).
Two years ago Barb found herself increasingly drawn to Adoration. “It was becoming part of my daily bread,” she explained. Even though our parish had only limited Adoration at the time, she would stop at other churches, between errands, to sit in the presence of Christ. When she attended the Joy of the Gospel convocation last spring and discovered that Adoration was a diocesan priority, she asked Father Michael Rush if St. Damien could expand. “I was thrilled when he said yes,” Barb said. In what seemed like no time, Adoration was launched, attracting hundreds of people of all ages. The parish now sponsors Adoration for more than 16 hours each week. Barb organizes 45 volunteers to watch over the Blessed Sacrament. “My prayer is to see the church full,” Barb said. She believes Adoration can be a cornerstone of the New Evangelism, a way to draw all people closer to the faith: children, teens, and adults of all ethnicities; summer residents and full times residents. “Get people to Adoration and God is going to take care of the rest,” she said.
In addition to special projects, Barb continues to teach third graders in the religious education classes one semester each year.
Barb and her husband have lived full time in Ocean City for the past eight years. They have a 26-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old son. Barb knows that as God asks, God gives. One gift is friendship. “I meet wonderful, humble people through the church,” she said. “Sometimes I feel as though I am surrounded by saints.”