Local News

Beland raises money for St. Mary’s Mission at 90th birthday party

By Katrina Genereux / Associate Editor, OND

Jean Beland, a former resident of the Diocese of Crookston, turned 90 on April 6. She chose to use the occasion to gather donations for St. Mary’s Mission in Red Lake.

Beland was a parishioner at Our Lady of the Pines, Nevis, from 1995 through 2015 when she moved to Florida. She heard about the loss of St. Mary’s Church to fire in December 2017 and it came to mind as she was making plans to celebrate her birthday.

“I thought perhaps instead of getting something I didn’t need, I’ll just ask people for a freewill donation instead of a birthday present,” Beland said.

Beland has stayed in touch with Reathel Giannonatti, Director of the Office of Stewardship and Development for the Diocese of Crookston.

Giannonatti said she had been working with Beland awhile in relation to supporting seminarians, St. Mary’s Mission and the Diocesan Annual Appeal before meeting her in person in Florida in 2016.

“I was surprised to learn that Jean was getting close to 90 yeaers old when we met and that she was wheelchair bound, not from the natural consequences of old age, but from a terrible  freeway pileup she was involved in as a young woman,” Giannonatti said. “Jean is so bright, a professional psychiatric nurse with a sophisticated social conscience and a great sense of humor. She is a steadfast steward of our faith and I have been blessed to have been able to facilitate her charitable intentions and deep concern for the children of St. Mary’s Mission.”

When Beland shared her idea, Giannonatti sent a copy of the most recent St. Mary’s Mission Appeal Video focused on the needs of the mission in the wake of the fire. Beland shared the video with her birthday guests.

“I think people were really kind of taken aback,” Beland said about the need at St. Mary’s Mission.

Around 60 guests from across the country attended Beland’s party held April 6 at an event center near her home in Port Charlotte, Florida. She had guests from Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, Tuscaloosa, and Texas.

Beland was overwhelmed by the generosity her friends and family showed. She thought she would be able to send a gift of $500 or $600 to the mission. When everything was tallied, she raised $1,345, then added her own donation to bring the total to $1,500. The donation has been placed in an investment fund that will be used to rebuild St. Mary’s church which was destroyed by fire in December 2017.

“This has always been kind of one of her … passions,” said Pat Hrubes, a friend of Beland’s from Our Lady of the Pines. Hrubes and her husband Jeff travelled to Florida to attend the party. She said when the video played, the whole room was attentive to it.

Pat was glad to see Beland again, and grateful to attend the party.

“We went, and we had a good time. It was a good visit and it was a fun celebration. It was good to be with her again,” Pat said. “It was a celebration of her life.”

Editor's note: On 5/21/19 the story was corrected to list Beland as a parishioner at Our Lady of the Pines from 1995 through 2015. The original article incorrectly stated 2006.

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