‘Bringing beauty to God’s house’
December 6, 2023
Kelly Linder bows each time she passes the tabernacle as she goes about preparing St. Bernadette Church in Bellevue for Advent.
There is a reverence to her movements, even in the simple tasks of changing out flower arrangements to reflect the season.
The mother of nine is in her fourth year of bringing beauty and reverence to St. Bernadette for each of the Catholic Church’s six liturgical seasons.
“You don’t want to distract from what’s going on, but you want to add to it to bring glory to God,” said Linder, who was handed the baton from Jean Circo, who was the church decorator for three decades.
“I like bringing beauty to God’s house, and if it brings anyone closer to God, even better,” Linder said.
She said she finds personal satisfaction being in the presence of the Holy Eucharist as she shares her time and talents with God and her parish family.
Linder is not alone at St. Bernadette – or among parishioners throughout the archdiocese – in sharing her skills, talent and love of the Church.
Through the numerous and varied ministries of Catholic parishes, men, women and children are presented an opportunity to navigate their unique paths to draw closer to God.
Some find their calling of service at Mass as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, choir members, lectors, altar servers or greeters.
Some find their calling as catechists or members of a Ladies Guild, Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent DePaul Society or as Scout leaders or coaches.
Cleaning is another way to serve. At St. Bernadette, more than 20 people, mostly women, form eight groups of cleaners. They form the Heavenly Dusters, a ministry closing in on 25 years of service to the parish.
Theresa Yost has coordinated the Heavenly Dusters for nearly a decade. The groups, which range from two to six people, rotate each week and usually assemble on Saturdays to sweep, dust, mop and perform general cleaning tasks in preparation for weekend Masses.
Yost, who joined the Heavenly Dusters in 2010, said it’s important to make the church an inviting place for all who enter.
“It’s Christ’s home. It’s God’s house,” she said. “We want a special place for people to come and worship. You want that feeling of reverence, peace and beauty.”
Father Jeff Mollner, pastor of St. Bernadette and Holy Ghost Parish in Omaha, said the volunteers’ work is often underappreciated – but it shouldn’t be.
“The church, the worship space, is the place that people are meant to gather,” he said. “It goes beyond cleaning with them. For them, they see it as a service to the parish but also service back to God.
“They are keeping the space beautiful not only for God, but for the people who come there to worship.”
While churchgoers may take for granted or not even notice clean carpets or hymnals put in their proper place, it’s hard to not appreciate the aesthetics of their surroundings.
Father Mollner said he’s grateful Linder and her family have made beautifying St. Bernadette Church a priority among their many parish commitments.
“As a pastor you have to have trust, and I do with her,” he said. “She understands the liturgy, she understands the liturgical seasons – it’s not just decorating for the sake of decorating. It’s decorating to emphasize the mysteries that we are focusing on during these different church seasons.
“It gets done with very loving care.”
Holy Week, Easter and Christmas require more time and the help of 10-12 men who volunteer to do the heavy lifting. During less busy seasons, though, Linder spends about an hour a week at St. Bernadette to “make sure everything is in its place.”
Much more goes into Linder’s responsibilities than where to place Easter lilies or Christmas wreaths. There is planning, organizing and knowing parish traditions in addition to understanding how the visual connects parishioners, including herself, with God.
With her longtime affection for flowers, Linder has formed a bond with and finds inspiration from St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower.
Linder joins the saint in doing “small things with great love.”