‘I was sick and you visited’
Milton Retif has done many things in his life. He’s coached baseball and established a thriving petroleum fuel delivery business that has provided a wonderful living for his family.
But when his son Mickey Retif, a former baseball player at Jesuit High School and Tulane University, was dying of cancer in 1986, a father in anguish did not know where to turn.
Milton Retif picked up the phone and called the Sisters Servants of Mary, whose mission is to care for the critically ill in their own homes at night, giving families needed respite from their care-taking responsibilities.
“You’re at a state in your life where you get to the point where you almost can’t go any more,” Retif said Nov. 15 at a Mass of Thanksgiving honoring the Sisters Servants of Mary for their 100 years of ministry in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. “The first thing you know, they come in and take over, and they actually encourage you more than the patient. These are God’s chosen people. They are wonderful people.”
St. Anthony of Padua Church in New Orleans was filled Nov. 15 for a Mass of Thanksgiving commemorating the sisters’ 100 years of ministry in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who noted that the sisters’ history was filled with God closing one door and then opening another.
“But we want you to know you will not be able to leave New Orleans,” the archbishop said. “We are claiming you as our own.”
The archbishop said the Sisters Servants of Mary personified the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the heroic figure who did everything to care for a wounded stranger when others, particularly those with religious backgrounds, looked the other way.
“People passed him by as if he did not exist,” Archbishop Aymond said. “It is the unlikely Samaritan who goes the extra five miles and pays for his care and shows his compassion.
“Jesus tells the story, but at the end he gives us a command that we must be like the Good Samaritan in our daily lives if we are to call ourselves his disciples.”
Friends of the sisters – many of whom had been helped by the sisters’ nighttime vigils in their homes – erupted in applause when Archbishop Aymond recognized them in the second pew and asked them to stand.
“My aunt got cancer in 1994, and somehow we found out about the Sisters Servants of Mary,” said Dianne Blanque. “We asked them if they could help us, and every night we would pick them up and bring them to our home. We’ve been friends ever since. We love them.”
Mother Carmela Sanz, provincial of the religious order, thanked Archbishop Aymond and also the hundreds of benefactors for providing for their ministry.
“This is a work of God,” Mother Carmela said. “There is nothing that could keep our sisters from carrying out our promise of taking care of the sick in this beautiful city of New Orleans. Without you, we would not be here.”