Romans 8:16-34, 37-39
Friday, 10-30-20 - Debbie Ann Hintz
Our heartfelt concern and promise of continued prayers go out to each of you: Gladys, Jean and Jeff, The Van, Laurie and Tom, Dave and Rachel, Tim and Elizabeth, Angie, Fr. Dick, and all Debbie’s aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, friends and co-workers.
There are times when human words, usually so reliable and comforting, fail to convey the depth of our sadness and sorrow. The unexpected news of the end of Debbie’s brave fight with leukemia was such a moment for us. But, she apparently was better prepared for that possibility than we were. She wrote these notes sometime this past spring.
“If you are reading these notes to prepare for my funeral, it has come much sooner than I had hoped. I have never doubted God’s presence in my life, or that God has the power to do all things. I have a prayer to Jesus the Healer during this journey, since being diagnosed with leukemia. At the same time, I know we will all die someday. Who is to say that this wouldn’t be my time? What is to come has already begun. God restores all! Apparently I wasn’t meant to be cured for a longer life on earth. But, for whatever God has in store for me, I know and believe that it is far more beautiful and glorious than any of us can imagine. there is a time for everything.”
This devoted, faith-filled teacher continues to instruct us in the purpose and value of human life. She is more than familiar with Ecclesiastes. “God has made everything appropriate for its own time, and has placed that which is timeless into our hearts.”
And then Debbie quotes this line: “When one finds happiness in one’s work, this is truly a gift from God.” And her comment: This has been very true in my life. My ministry of 43 years has been my passion. I have been so blessed to help others come to know God more fully during these years.”
Her passionate love for God, and all God’s children, began to be shared as a Catholic school teacher at St. Margaret Mary Parish, Milwaukee. After three years of teaching, she served as Pastoral Minister at the parish and completed a Masters Degree in Pastoral Ministry at Boston College. One of her professors at the time, and dear friend across the years, Tom Groome, wrote this week: “I was privileged to have taught her a little and to have her as my student, though she quickly became more of a collaborator and a friend. She was a path-finder for us all and for the Church at large.”
With steadfast zeal and characteristic joy, Debbie served God’s people as Pastoral Associate at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, New Berlin, and St. Matthias Parish, Milwaukee, and, for the past fourteen years, as our Parish Director at St. Catherine.
Her choice of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans conveys a deep personal trust that God is always present to us, no matter what we are asked to endure. Paul was writing to recently-baptized Christians who were being persecuted and even put to death for following Christ’s “new way of life”. In other words, if we believe that God is our lifelong companion, what have we to fear? Didn’t Jesus teach through His death and resurrection that death is not the was word! Paul wrote: “We will conquer overwhelming through Christ Who loved us…for neither death nor life, present or future things, nor any other creature, can separate us from the love of God.” Not even the return of leukemia!
On Sept. 15th, Debbie’s entry into Caring Bridge included these words: Well, my leukemia is back. Not to the degree that I had when I was first diagnosed, but it’s back nonetheless…So I started 2 chemo again yesterday…I never doubt that God is with me, but I am feeling lousy and exhausted.”
I wonder whether Martha and Mary felt somewhat lousy and exhausted, when Jesus, their dear friend, Who frequented their home, often at mealtime, did not show up, when their brother, Lazarus, was dying. Jesus purposely postponed His visit in order to work an unprecedented sign of His power and so give glory to His heavenly Father. Martha not only trusted that God would give Jesus whatever He asked for at the moment, but believed that He was the Christ, the Son of God, and all who believed in Him would be raised to live forever on the last day.
Debbie professed that same kind of faith in the resurrection as she noted earlier. But she also believed that life is a gift, given to us one day at a time, in order that we might serve others through all their dyings and risings of daily life.
Dave, you already mentioned how special Debbie was to you and all the family. When I met with you, Laurie, Angie, and Jean, you mentioned the vital role that Debbie played in the lives of her nieces and nephews. Debbie loved all God’s children but you, her nieces and nephews, were special. She was more than just an aunt; she was the “village” who helped raised you the children. She was godmother to three of you and a cherished guide for all of you in making wise decisions. I’m told it was a kind of “rite of passage” on each of your birthdays to see how you measured up to your aunt’s modest, physical height. And, while eventually each of you passed that mark, you agreed it was a greater challenge to try to match her spiritual status. I remember how thrilled she was in Sept. to meet her newborn first great-nephew, Russell, before returning to the hospital.
She was meticulous about remembering family birthdays and providing memorable ways of celebrating each one. She started the tradition of winter family vacations, and become the travel specialist arranging for the pace, the house, and available tours. Then, she provided a souvenir video with music that captured the highlights of the vacation. From her hospital bed, she designed the camp shirts for the family’s 50th camping reunion this past July and participated as Zoom would allow.
She was a gifted writer, authoring several books of prayer services, a weekly parish bulletin column, welcome Christmas letters, and the personal notes we received when she shared our joy or our grief. She was a creative artist who not only designed vestments and wall hangings but made individual memorial candles from last year’s Easter candle to give to each parish family who lost a loved one in the past year.
As Debbie loved her family of birth, and many friends, she passionately embraced ministry to God’s family in each parish she served. Whether teaching in a classroom, catechizing young couples for the baptism of their children, conducting adult formation, preparing couples for marriage, visiting the homebound and hospitalized, or sharing a reflection on God’s Word at a Communion or Reconciliation Service, her commitment to the Church’s ministry was obvious. Because of her love and knowledge of the Sacred Scripture, she longed for a time when on-ordained Parish Directors could once again break open God’s Word at Eucharist. As our Parish Director, she inaugurated Calendar Raffles and pre-Lenten “Casino Nights” to offer additional means of stewardship. through her support of the St. Vincent DePaul food pantry and meal program and other Human Concerns ministry, she deepened our resolve to be a welcoming faith community that reached out to the wider neighborhood.
While gifted with a calming faith-filled presence, Debbie never took her leadership role for granted. During her 2017 sabbatical at Chicago Theological University, she took classes in Theological Reflection, Spiritual Direction, and Parishes in Transition. In her copious notes, she underlined these words from Pope Francis: A church that gives faith is a church whose doors are open” and “It is not enough to go to church, we must become Church” and “God does not expect us to be a Teresa of Calcutta or Francis of Assisi. God wants us to pattern our lives on the blessedness of Jesus and to stay in our own Calcutta, serving our families, our neighbors, our parishes.”
No wonder in January of 2019, she was just one of a few laypersons invited to Boston College to join a group of 40, chiefly cardinals, bishops, seminary rectors, and theology professors, for a Conversation Seminar on “Priesthood and Ministry for the Contemporary Church”. No wonder, a year ago, she accepted a 5-year part-time position at Cardinal Stretch University as Program Coordinator for a national study of parish directors in the United States. Recently, she was still an active participant by way of Zoom from the hospital.
On August 26th her final column in the parish bulletin began with these words: Today is my last day as your Parish Director. It is also my official retirement date after 43 years of professional ministry.” And her concluding paragraph: “Whenever my doctor approves me being back with large groups again, I will be back to say goodbye. Know that you will always be in my prayers. It has been my privilege to minister with you and for you over these years. You have been a blessing to me and this parish community will always have a special place in my heart. May God continue to bless you all abundantly.
Debra Ann Hintz, you have been a faithful and selfless steward of God’s many gifts to you. Thank you for being a blessing to all whose lives you have touched. Now you belong to a much larger group that includes your brother Michael, your father Norman and so many others who preceded you to God’s eternal embrace.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you eternal life and peace.