CEDAR LAKE – A parishioner at Holy Name of Jesus since 1969, Carol Hoffman has lived a life of service that has become centered around her parish in the last decade – and centered around the Holy Eucharist.
Currently, the retired nurse chairs the Adult Altar Server Ministry and also serves as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at church and with the Ministry of Care that brings the Eucharist to the homebound.
“After my husband passed away in 2013, Father Ed (Tlucek, OFM), then our pastor, asked me to be the wedding coordinator for the parish,” Hoffman recalled. “I attended rehearsals and made sure everything was ready, coordinated the flowers for the bride and her bridesmaids on the wedding day and just made sure the bridal party had everything they needed. We had a nice ladies room on the lower level of the church, thanks to Father Ed, with mirrors and plenty of space to keep the bride out of sight before the ceremony.”
From that ministry, Hoffman became an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and moved into the Ministry of Care, also serving on the Peace and Justice Commission and with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. As a retired health professional, she naturally joined the parish’s new Health and Safety Ministry in 2022.
“There are so many opportunities to volunteer at Holy Name,” Hoffman said. “I’ve enjoyed the Garden Ministry, bringing produce to St. Clare’s Kitchen (closed since COVID-19), and working with the Franciscan friars.”
“I seem to be busier and have less free time than when I worked as a nurse,” exclaimed Hoffman, who was working at St. Margaret Hospital in Hammond when she got married in 1969 and moved to Cedar Lake, and spent 25 years at St. Anthony (now Franciscan Health Crown Point) Hospital.
A north Hammond native and the youngest of seven siblings, she calls St. Stanislaus in East Chicago her home parish, although her family later joined St. Joseph in downtown Hammond, where the youngest three children attended school. A 1965 graduate of Bishop Noll Institute, she lived at home until she married.
While a young mother and full-time nurse, Hoffman helped Holy Name with fish frys, festivals, and “anything to do with the school. My daughter was in the last graduating class at Holy Name School before it closed.”
Now that she is even more involved with her parish work, Hoffman is grateful. “The most rewarding thing is being an altar server, being in the sanctuary, that close to the celebration of the Eucharist. I’m not thinking about being in front of the congregation; my concentration is on the celebration of the Eucharist, and it is a joy and a privilege to be there.
“I think the other adult altar servers feel that way, too. Serving at funerals is even more special, reverencing their day,” added Hoffman.
“I know some people fear making a mistake (at the altar), but Father (Patrick Gawrylewski, pastor) is so kind and encouraging. The congregation knows what we are doing, but once you get up there, you realize they are not watching you. They are concentrating on the great gift they are receiving at Mass.”
Hoffman also feels it is a privilege to bring the Eucharist to the homebound, and she enjoys the interaction. “I find it a gift to go to them, to talk and to listen. We laugh and we talk,” she said.
“My parents brought us up to be servants – you cared for your neighbors, and that’s what I try to do,” she said. “I regularly visit three homebound people, and I don’t fear that I will contract an illness. I was a nurse for 46 years, and I guess the Lord has given me an amazing immune system.”
Hoffman said it is “so interesting to talk to seniors and gain some of their wisdom and knowledge, finding out how they grew up and their joys and sadness.
“I think I’ve always had a good ear; that’s how my parents brought us up, too, and I did plenty of listening as a nurse,” said Hoffman. “One of the ladies I visit at a nursing home I’ve known for over 40 years. She and I worked at fish frys, we went shopping and to lunch. We are friends; she elevates me and I elevate her.”
Hoffman recognizes the blessing she receives by being so close to God through the Holy Eucharist, and she cherishes the opportunity. “I grew up with the Eucharist, in Catholic grade school, Catholic high school and Catholic nursing school,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else other than in the presence of the Lord.”
Caption: Meeting Bishop Robert J. McClory (right) in 2020 at a reception hosted by Ss. Monica and Luke in Gary were (from left) Deacon Martin Brown and Holy Name of Jesus parishioners Anita Torok and Carol Hoffman from Cedar Lake. Hoffman serves with several ministries, all centering on the Eucharist. (Provided photo)