On April 10, 2009, Good Friday evening, Mary Theresa Wardega died. It was fitting that she passed away on that day. Mary had attended Good Friday Services at the church where she belonged for 58 years. That night she had eaten traditional Polish food and cheered on her beloved Cleveland Indians – to another loss. As she prepared for bed, she died.
Mary Wardega had lived her whole life as a woman of God. She prayed in the morning – she prayed at night. She had been an active part of her church for her whole life. As a young woman, she sang in many choirs. We heard her sing her favorites – Ave Maria and Panis Angelicus – well into her senior years. Later, she served as a leader in the many church activities of her five children. As a senior, she served as a leader in the different seniors’ organizations and led a ministry group for those who were grieving the loss of a spouse.
But for her whole life, she prayed. She sat on the edge of her bed, folded her hands, closed her eyes, and she prayed. She said that she had a lot to pray for – a husband and five children. She never wavered in her prayer, despite difficulties in church and issues in the lives of her children.
What is her legacy? What does she leave behind.
First and foremost, she bequeathed a faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Next, she left a legacy of hard work and education. She taught that the two were related, not with her words, but with her actions. Next, she left a legacy of family and friends. Her husband Frank, was her lifelong companion in good times and in hard times. She taught acceptance of family and friends, even when they did things she disagreed with. She successfully maintained both her relationships and her Christian moral values. Lastly, as a lifelong fan of the Cleveland Indians, she made sure that all knew that she was one of Grady’s Ladies, a fan of Cleveland Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore.
Other details to know. Mary Wardega was born in Poland in 1920 and became a naturalized American citizen in her early thirties. She won a scholarship to college but was not allowed to take it because women in her family were “only” going to get married and have children. Note her legacy of education. She was one of seven children of Walter and Julia Nagielski. For many years, she worked as a dental assistant.
Part of her Godly life was to support many good Christian causes. Many organizations benefitted from her generous heart on a regular basis. One of those organizations which benefitted from that generosity was the Office of Foreign Missions. She had been a monthly donor since the beginning. I will remember her deeply as I return to Africa later this year.
As her son, I miss her. I respect her. I will remember her always. I will remember her not as an old woman who sat in her lift chair and watched game shows and baseball games. I will remember her as a vibrant woman, who lived life to the fullest as a Christian, and whose legacy as listed above set an example for her children and descendants. May I do the same. Fr Francis Wardega, Anglican Priest, Canon Missioner to Africa, Son.