Why you want to know Allen “Al” Ostergaard: In spite of numerous health problems, Al continues to volunteer every day at the Holy Redeemer Thrift Shop that he started in the parish.
Parish: Holy Redeemer
City: El Dorado
Family: Wife Judi, five grown children and four grandchildren
Arkansas Catholic’s theme this year is “Worth it.” What investments of time or money have you made to enrich your faith?
I am limited because I’ve got lots of disabilities and I am limited in what I can do, but I made a promise that as long as the Lord would allow me to get up every morning, I would dedicate my life to working for him and the Church.
How long have you been in Arkansas?
Since 1988. My wife’s mother and father are from El Dorado. Her daddy passed away in 1988 and we moved here to take care of her mother. I’ve been retired since 1977 because of a medical disability.
Did you always attend church as a family?
(When we lived) in North Carolina and Moorhead, Minn., Judi wasn’t Catholic yet, her children weren’t, and they started going to church with me. I liked that. Once we got here, Judi and her two kids really got involved with going to church with me on a regular basis. Judi expressed to me that she would like to take the RCIA course, so she and her two children took that. It was a short time later that they became Catholic.
What fuels your dedication to the church?
I had a real “come-to-Jesus meeting” several years ago. I was diagnosed with refractory anemia, which is terminal. Generally when they tell you that, you’ve got about six months to live. I went to confession when we visited Our Lady of Good Health in Wisconsin. There I kind of decided that I needed to do something with my life. I really feel that’s what I am doing. I feel so close to the Lord now. It brought a real closeness. I don’t know how to explain it; I feel like I am at the place now where I always wanted to be.
How did the thrift shop come to be?
I talked to Father Gregory (Pilcher, the former pastor) one day because we had this empty building down here, and I said “Father I’ve got a lot of time on my hands and I got an idea of a way to make the church some extra money.” I brought up the idea of a thrift store and he liked it.
How do you deal with your disabilities?
A lot of days I do work in pain. Father Gregory had an old saying when you had to go through an ordeal or pain or whatever, “Offer it up to the Lord.”
What does “offer it up” mean to you?
It is kind of a way that I connect. I just watched a movie the other day, “Killing Jesus,” and I know the kind of pain that he endured during his crucifixion, whatever pain I am suffering pales in comparison to what he went through. If he could sacrifice himself like he did, I can certainly work through some pain.
What would you tell others with disabilities who are not as active?
God finds a way to tap into your potential in lots of different ways that you cannot even comprehend. Never give up. I’ve found that by devoting myself to the Lord and to the Church, that everything is going to be all right.
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