By Gordon Nary
Craig, Michele, Melanie, Steve, and Ryan Sumner
Gordon: When did you join St Ambrose Parish and what impact has the parish had on your and you family's lives?
Michele: My husband Steve and I, along with our 3 children joined St. Ambrose in 1996 when we moved from Chardon to Brunswick. Our children attended St. Ambrose School and my husband converted to Catholicism soon after. Growing up at Assumption of Mary Parish in Brook Park, OH, the church was like a second home to me. I wanted the same for my children. I am so happy to say that St. Ambrose is indeed like a second home to us. We have all worked or volunteered at St. Ambrose in some capacity over the last 20 years. It is our foundation. The goodness of the parishioners at St. Ambrose continues to overwhelm me with their generosity. St. Ambrose is the place people turn to when there is any type of tragedy or incident in our community. They can always find comfort and support and God’s love. It is also the place where families share their joys and sorrows with a loving community. Father Bob has done wonderful things over the last 10 years to make our parish alive and vibrant.
Gordon: Could you comment on Father Bob's homilies?
Michele: I enjoy Father Bob’s homilies. He makes them more personal by coming down from the pulpit and interacting with the congregation. He typically shows us how the readings in the bible relate to our daily lives. He makes the Gospel come alive, rather than being just readings from the Bible.
Gordon: What has your experience been with your children attending St Ambrose School?
Michele: My children received excellent educations at St. Ambrose School. Not only did they acquire a strong educational base needed to excel at Padua Franciscan High School and later college, but they also received the foundations of their Catholic faith, the knowledge of the importance of serving others and made lifelong friends. The teachers and staff were very caring. The school is a tight knit community and everyone works together to raise intelligent, faith filled students. My children also enjoyed many extra-curricular activities such as scouts and sports.
Gordon: What prompted you to join the S. Ambrose parish staff?
Michele: I joined the parish staff in February of 2007. I had volunteered at the parish bingo program since we first joined the parish and after meeting the new DRE, she asked if I would be interested in a part time position in the PSR office. We had recently returned from living in Spain for a few years where my husband was positioned with his company, Lincoln Electric. I had been praying about whether or not to find a part time job and this seemed like God’s answer. I could be close to my children while they were at school and continue to have the parish as the center of our family’s life. Over the years my job description has changed to my current duties of Mission Possible secretary and Virtus coordinator.
Gordon: Please provide our readers with an overview of the Virtus program requirements for volunteers at St. Ambrose Parish, and approximately how many of your parishioners participate in the program each year?
Michele: The Virtus program is intended to educate those working with children on the prevention of child sexual abuse. It identifies ways to prevent wrongdoing and promote “rightdoing” in organizations. It helps the participants to identify signs of abuse and ways to prevent the abuse. It also provides resources for reporting abuses and victim advocacy. Requirements to volunteer or work with children include the 3 hour Virtus training class, a background check, reading and signing of acknowledgement forms for the Policy for the Safety of Children and Standards of Conduct. Participants are also required to complete training bulletins once a month via email.
All volunteers or employees of St. Ambrose are expected to complete these requirements. We have 4 facilitators who can teach the class and typically have at least one class per month. People from all over the Diocese of Cleveland are welcome to attend. St. Ambrose currently has over 900 people active on the Virtus website. We have trained thousands from all over Cleveland since 2004.
Gordon: Your participation in Mission Possible is inspirational. Could you provide an overview of your work there?
Michele: Mission Possible is a non-profit organization that builds communities for the poorest of the poor in the Dominican Republic. I went on my first mission trip in 2007 with my oldest son, Craig. We had been so blessed in our lives and we wanted to give back. It was a life changing experience. The people we were helping had nothing. No jobs, no food, living in tiny shacks made out of tin with dirt floors that washed away when the river flooded. Among other things, I cut rebar with a hack saw for three days and watched my son dig foundations with a pick axe and shovel to build homes. During that week we learned how truly blessed we were to have all that we did. We also learned that even though these people had nothing, they still had love in their hearts and smiles on their face. They cherished their children and did all they could for them. They were no different than us, just born into different circumstances. God calls us to help our brothers and sisters in need and this experience has enabled us to share our faith while serving others.
Mission Possible has built houses, a school, church, medical center and community center in our 2 communities in the D.R. We have provided running water and filters to these houses, which many of us take for granted. But for those in the D.R. this water is heaven sent. We are providing educational opportunities to our community members while raising up the next generation of leaders in the D.R. and at home in the U.S.
Gordon: I understand that Steve and two of your children have accompanied you on your visits to the Dominican Republic. How have these visits impacted your children's lives and faith?
Michele: Since that first trip, my husband, Steve, sons, Craig and Ryan, and I have all been on subsequent visits to the D.R. These trips have shown us the importance of family, faith and serving others. They remind us of how blessed we are. They have helped us to realize our God given talents and how we can use them to best serve God and others. We can make the world a better place by helping one person, one family, one community at a time.
We have also learned that small acts can make a big difference in someone else’s life.
I am now the secretary on the Vision board for Mission Possible. I plan to take my daughter, Melanie, to the Dominican so that she too can experience the joy of helping others. Though my daughter has yet to go on a mission trip, she is helping at our annual fundraiser, Making Mission Possible. held at the Cleveland Indians home stadium, Progressive Field. Participants can enjoy dinner, drinks, live and silent auctions, raffles, photo booth, a tour of the visitor’s clubhouse and the opportunity to take batting practice against former Indian’s players! A very fun night out on the town!
Gordon: How can our readers help support Mission Possible?
Michele: First of all, we ask for your prayers for our missionaries, that they may continue to effectively and safely do God’s work for the poorest of the poor; and that the community members pass on to others the faith and love they have received.
We also ask for your financial support. Any amount is truly appreciated. Please visit our website at www.missionpossible.us
If you or your family are interested in attending a mission trip, information can also be found on the website.
Gordon: I learned that you were named after the Beatles song Michelle (although Paul McCartney spelled the name differently), and that. when you were adopted through Catholic Charities .you mentioned that it was a bit of a surprise gift for your parents, since they hadn’t picked out a name yet. and that the song came on the radio when you were delivered to them . So I need to close the interview by reminding our readers what a great song Michelle is and hope that we can feature a video of the children in the Dominican Republic singing it to you someday.