Why you want to know Annette McCandless: Annette is the director of St. Edward Outreach Center. She has taught religious education to 7- and 8-year-olds for nine years. She prays in the adoration chapel and has served as a Eucharistic minister since 2006.
Parish: St. Edward Church
Family: Two grown daughters, Melissa Girdner and Elizabeth Bowman; four grandchildren
Arkansas Catholic’s theme this year is “Grow in your Family of Faith.” What are some ways you learn about Jesus and Church teachings?
I strengthen my faith through regular Mass attendance and reading the Bible and “The Word Among Us.” Teaching others and watching the young ones learning their prayers also strengthens my faith. Serving at the Outreach Center helps and trying to help those who do not know our Lord. Experiencing the power of prayer and living out my faith strengthens me.
What are your duties as director of the Outreach Center?
I make sure we feed the hungry. I work with the volunteers to make ready each day’s food — either a sack lunch or a hot meal. The Outreach Center also helps our clients financially with medical needs and utility bills. We aid those who need to get their birth certificates, photo IDs and a driver’s license. Sometimes just listening to them is important.
What is the most satisfying part of your job at Outreach?
It is satisfying to know we are helping the needy. We serve from 200 to 350 people a day and give them all the coffee and water they want. We give a smile and a hello to everyone. It is satisfying when I get a thank-you card or the client comes in to give thanks for all we do.
What has particularly touched your heart in your job?
We have a client named Melvin who came in almost every day. Then I didn’t see him for a couple of weeks. We found out his car had broken down and he couldn’t come in. I fixed a big box of canned goods, meats and different soups, enough for a month and acquired a coat for him. Two others and I found the camper he was living in and gave him the food and coat. He cried and was so thankful for what we did. He didn’t want us to leave. Doing what Jesus would do is what Outreach means to me.
In religious education, what is the secret of keeping the attention of the very young so they can learn about Jesus?
Teaching them and making it fun is what it is about. Lameasha Points also helps with the class. We let the kids talk about what they did each week. We reward them when they learn their prayers. They all help read the lesson and talk about it. We start with prayers and then go through the lesson and pray at the end. Each student will say their prayers alone to Lameasha or myself and put a sticker by the prayer they say. This year we have 16 children who will make their First Communion in April.
What do you like best about St. Edward Church?
The parish makes everyone feel welcome. We are all one big church family. You are never a stranger here. We all work together doing what needs to be done. The church is beautiful inside and out. I feel peace all the time. We have great priests and deacons who are always ready to help anyone who needs it. I hope this place will always be my home.
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