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Donated car helps mom get to church

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During a particularly cold and windy November day in 2015, Wade Sheriff, a parishioner of Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria, waited at a bus stop in Springfield with her young daughter Kendall. The bus was late and the light was growing dim when a car slowed and stopped in front of them. From inside the warm car, Nelly Drouillard, a parishioner of St. Raymond of Peñafort in Springfield, offered Sheriff a ride. Drouillard had been on her way home with her son when a glimpse of Kendall snuggling against her mother caught her eye. Suddenly her giant to-do list was shoved to the back burner.


One of the most important things is to take my children to Mass. That is the most important thing, because getting them closer to God matters a lot to me.

“I just decided that I needed to help her,” said Drouillard.


The 34-year-old mother of three gratefully accepted, but warned Drouillard that she did not live nearby. The drive down Route 1 was the beginning of a deep friendship that has changed both their lives. Since then, Drouillard has helped Sheriff and her family with travel arrangements and introduced her to Catholic Charities.


“We are all called to do our part and be charitable, and I think the Lord was really moving my heart that day,” said Drouillard.


Sheriff, who came from Liberia in 2014, is well-acquainted with the struggles many families face when they live in Northern Virginia and don’t have a vehicle. Trips to work, church and the grocery store that only take a few minutes by car may take hours on the bus. If she missed the bus, she would have to wait or walk an hour or more to her destination, with little ones in tow.  


Catholic Charities car ministry brought Sheriff’s walking and bus commuting days to an end when it presented her with a used minivan Jan. 5.


For the first time in the car ministry’s history, the donated vehicle was blessed in a special ceremony. Sheriff, her daughter, Drouillard and a number of diocesan employees watched as Father Paul A. Berghout, defender of the bond, sprinkled holy water on the blue van, asking God to protect all who travel in it.


Sheriff could not contain her gratitude and tearfully thanked Catholic Charities staff and volunteers repeatedly.


“This car is going to enable me to do many things,” said Sheriff. “One of the most important things is to take my children to Mass. That is the most important thing, because getting them closer to God matters a lot to me.”


For the past 20 years, car ministry volunteers have worked hard to provide reliable transportation to families in need. Donors bring cars to the diocesan offices and volunteers manage all the paper work, which involves many trips to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Last year, the ministry provided 56 cars. According to volunteer Brian O’Connor, Catholic Charities now accepts donations of disabled vehicles from anywhere in the United States.


O’Connor hopes to help more people obtain a car in the coming year. He encourages people to recommend families to the ministry, and to donate vehicles.


There are many people with similar struggles, O’Connor said. “Please think about others, and if you can, donate your car.” 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017