Ask Rosemary Cummings about volunteering, and typical of her desire to deflect attention from
herself, she may tell you the story of one particular visit she made to Manor Care Health
Services. Although she’d thought her lone mission that day was to share the Eucharistic, she
soon found herself at a table laughing and swapping stories with a small group of residents as
they sorted and folded towels together. To Rosemary, the women and their stack of linen
validated her strongly held belief: When volunteering, you learn and receive more than you can
possibly hope to give. The lessons she was reminded of that day - joyfully serving others and
finding purpose in seemingly small labors - was taught by Esther, an especially spirited
octogenarian, who’d noticed staff members attentively caring for residents while trying
unsuccessfully to complete their laundry duties. Not one to let painful arthritis or waning
eyesight get in the way of helping others, Esther had gone to work on the pile of towels, and
before long a few friends, including her Eucharistic Minister, Rosemary, had followed her
example and joined in to relieve the overburdened staff. “Sometimes we judge people,”
Rosemary observed, “You may meet someone who you think is in need, and yet they’re helping
others. You meet such giving and caring people.”
Just as Rosemary will tell you that Esther’s actions epitomize a core tenet of service: Putting
personal beliefs and values into action, those who know Rosemary or have simply been
touched by her kindness and commitment will tell you she’s a pretty fine example of that tenet
herself. Raised in a family where caring for others was taught and nurtured, her sense of service
was formed at an early age. By the time she was a senior at Marquette University, she was
recognized as her sorority’s volunteer of the year.
Once the Cummings settled in Appleton and joined St. Bernadette Parish more than 50 years
ago, the day in, day out responsibilities of being a mom and teacher made finding time to
volunteer more and more difficult. Difficult, but not impossible. In Rosemary’s eyes service was
always just another of those responsibilities. She served as a “scout” mom, sang in choirs,
taught religious education classes, held numerous offices in Catholic Daughters, knitted prayer
shawls, took Communion to housebound parishioners, participated in Women’s Fellowship,
served meals at the Homeless Connection, volunteered at the Warming Shelter, and just for
good measure, raised a remarkable loving family.
For Rosemary, volunteering has always been a way to show respect and care for others,
maintain a positive outlook, remain open to possibilities, give back to her community, and meet
great people. “If you surround yourself with positive people,” she advises, “your life will be more
So what does she recommend for those thinking about volunteering?
“Just give it a try,” is her simple suggestion. She even has a recommendation for you to
consider: Eucharistic Minister to the Homebound - the very ministry that led to her temp job
folding towels with Esther.
Rosemary, please enjoy your parking space in the north lot as a small token of our appreciation.
*** For information on becoming a Eucharistic Minister to the Homebound, contact Gloria Koth -