Catholic Herald staff
Mary Brand has a passion for education and a love for people.
A member of St. Anthony, Gordon, Brand is the winner of the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 2016 Pax Christi award, which she received Tuesday, June 14, at the SDCCW’s annual convention at St. Joseph, Hayward.
“I just love people, and I’ve found that I can relate to people through Jesus Christ,” Brand said.
A retired elementary school teacher with a master’s degree in education, Brand now devotes her talents to religious education and Bible school at St. Anthony and its cluster parishes, St. Pius X, Solon Springs, and St. Mary, Minong.
She is also a lay leader of prayer, extraordinary minister of Eucharist, reader and more. She has been an active member of the Council of Catholic Women since 2000.
For Brand, her faith has been her strength and her foundation.
“I grew up in a very Catholic family, and (faith) got us through some tough times,” she explained.
A cradle Catholic and one of 10 children, Brand grew up on a farm. Her father’s alcoholism was one challenge the family survived; another was the loss of their cattle and barn to a fire.
Her father’s addiction was cured through counseling with a priest and by attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
“Experiencing a father with alcoholism and the cure provided me with an opportunity to fully understand how to be whole in love,” she commented. “We have to love people in their affliction and their sobriety.”
Fifty-three years ago, she married her husband, Bob, who converted to Catholicism. The couple had two children, one of whom died as a young adult in a car accident.
She has also lost two siblings to a genetic disease, and cared for her parents and friends in their illnesses.
Whether times are good or hardships abound, Brand prays. She starts and ends each day in prayer and prays the rosary when she’s driving around — one of her favorite activities.
“I like to go,” she summarized. “In general, I’m kind of active.”
She also enjoys canning and gardening, “just some of the old-fashioned stuff that I grew up with.”
Brand also values her community — inside and outside the church.
For the past three years, the Brands have hosted home Masses and invited fellow cluster parishioners over for a picnic dinner.
This year’s potluck is Wednesday, July 29, and Fr. Jim Kinney, pastor of the cluster, will celebrate a 6 p.m. Mass.
The couple sets up an altar, and their guests bring chairs and a dish to pass.
“That’s just a lot of fun,” she said. “Father does a really good job with that.”
The Mass is an opportunity for Brand to enjoy another of her hobbies, “being with God-loving people.”
“I just love being with people and feeling the spirit move with them,” she said.
“My husband’s very patient with all of this,” she added with a laugh.
Brand said she feels “very humbled” to be chosen as the Pax Christi winner.
“After reading the other dossiers, I thought, ‘Well, why me?’” she said.