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CAMBRIDGE -- There’s an excitement in her voice when Donna Foley-Hodges speaks about her parish. In everything she does -- lectoring on Sundays, teaching second-graders to appreciate the sacraments they are about to receive, distributing communion during the Masses -- Foley-Hodges has what she describes as an “energy and burning excitement” for each and every one.
“The Holy Spirit has led me to these different jobs and different challenges along the years,” she said, “and I truly enjoy each one in their uniqueness.”
Although she admits, “teaching is still my first love,” having taught religious education for 24 years, Foley-Hodges also feels a special bond with proclaiming the word of God during the Mass.
“I love reading and seeing those words that were written over 2008 years ago and that the truth is still the same in them,” she said.
Foley-Hodges, 58, grew up in Cambridge, just around the corner from Sacred Heart. Although she was raised Catholic, the family did not attend Sacred Heart Church.
“I grew up at a time when there was a church on every corner,” she recalled with a smile. “And we just happened to attend a different corner church.”
It wasn’t until adulthood, after she had left her childhood neighborhood that Foley-Hodges became a parishioner at Sacred Heart.
“As a young adult, I lost touch with the closeness to me faith,” she recounted, “but the seeds had been planted so when I went through a tough period in my life, I turned back to my faith.”
At the same time that she was looking for a parish to belong to, her mother grew ill, she continued. One Sunday, as she was going to her childhood home to visit her mother, she attended Mass at Sacred Heart. It was life-changing, she said, she felt like she belonged.
“I was just drawn in,” said Foley-Hodges. “It was such a wonderful and profound experience.”
According to Foley-Hodges, many other people, including tourists visiting Cambridge who happen upon the parish, have been moved just like she was. Foley-Hodges credits her pastor, Father John Tackney, for creating such a “homey, welcoming and relaxed” atmosphere.
“He is so welcoming and has such a way about him,” she said.
“He’s been a great friend and a wonderful spiritual mentor -- and he’s like that with everyone!” she exclaimed.
“To me, your parish is not just the four walls or the building, but the people and the leader,” continued Foley-Hodges. “And at Sacred Heart, it’s all about being welcoming.”
This welcoming nature is what led her late husband, Donald Hodges, to become Catholic, she said. Raised Protestant, Hodges became Catholic shortly before the couple was wed at Sacred Heart 18 years ago. They were married for 10 years before Foley-Hodges was widowed, “and if I had to do it all over again, I would do it,” she said. “He was so wonderful, both to me and to other people.”
Reflecting on her life, Foley-Hodges sees God as the driving force behind every event.
“My faith is what has kept me alive,” she said. “It gives me hope and comfort and really is what makes me happy.”