Ann Witham, pictured with her grandchildren (from right) Brenden Shea, Christopher Rotondo and Jonah Rotondo. Pilot photo/ Courtesy Ann Witham
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WALTHAM -- As a young woman, Ann Witham felt God was calling her for a mission.
She explored the possibility of entering religious life, but ultimately discerned that was not her calling. She married, worked, and raised her three children -- all the while knowing that God was calling her.
In her search, she took advantage of many of the classes offered by the archdiocese on such subjects as theology, bereavement ministry, and the sacraments.
It wasn’t until her retirement seven years ago that she felt she finally found her calling.
“I kept saying, not now Lord, not now.” she said. “As soon as I retired I said, OK. Now. And I haven’t looked back.”
Today Witham, a parishioner at St. Jude’s Parish in Waltham, is the assistant chaplain at the Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center, a state-run institution for the developmentally disabled.
In her position she has a multitude of duties including scheduling priests to celebrate weekly Mass, assisting in recruiting and training volunteers and bringing Communion to some of the residential homes on the premises for those who cannot attend Mass.
Witham also finds herself helping grieving families deal with their loss, often leading families in prayer during wake services. She has even has conducted funeral services for non-Catholic families.
“I think that my faith has given me the tools I need to help other families,” she said. “I think it has made me a better person and I hope that it has touched the lives of some people along the way.”
Witham, 67, grew up in Waltham. A cradle Catholic, she attended St. Jude’s Elementary School and graduated from St. Charles High School. She became a parishioner at St. Jude’s seven years ago, where she is a lector and a member of both the pastoral council and the parish planning committee.
According to Witham, she decided to become a parishioner at St. Jude’s because of the pastor, Father William Leonard.
“I knew Father Bill because he was a chaplain at The Fernald Center, so it was a natural migration for me,” said the grandmother of three, adding that Father Leonard was instrumental in her becoming the assistant chaplain at the Fernald Center.
“Since he had been the chaplain there, he asked me when I was about to retire if I would consider the position after my retirement,” she recounted.
Witham praised Father Leonard for his ability to “recognize people’s natural abilities and talents and for the ability to draw people in and make them want to participate and help.”
“I’d say Father Bill is a preacher of the Gospel,” she said. “He’s a very spiritual person who’s very concerned with social issues.”
She also lauded the parish for its generosity and its ability to make everyone feel welcome.
“Sometimes when you go to a new parish, you can feel a bit awkward,” she said. “And yet when I first came here, I was warmly received and felt very much welcomed.”
St. Jude Parish, Waltham
Year established -- 1949
Pastor -- Father William Leonard
Deacon -- Deacon Alfred Santosuosso
Religious Education Director -- Barbara Keville
Business Manager -- Lorraine Jordan
Music Director -- Marianne Reardon
Organist -- Jane McKenna
Elementary School Principal -- Sister Katherine Martin, SND