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When two or more are gathered in His name

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This morning, 15 of us gathered in His name to remember longtime Catholic Herald administrative professional Soledad (Maria) Ibar, who passed away a year ago April 29.

A native of Chile, she had a gentle soul, a clever sense of humor and a deep faith that she was eager to speak about and act on. She made field trips to the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C., and to Birmingham, Ala., the home of Mother Angelica and EWTN studios.

She spoke of her time in Rome, many years ago, where she studied and relished the environment of the Eternal City. She talked of waiting in long chaotic lines to get into St. Peter's Basilica and watching scrappy nuns dash to the front once inside to throw sweaters over chairs to stake out their spot. She took it all in stride as she seemed to take everything, even her illnesses that became too numerous toward the end of her life.

She had a phenomenal commitment to her family, including her daughter and son, and their young children, but never forgetting her family back in Chile, including her elderly mother. On her last visit home, she fell as she was boarding the flight back to the states and broke both her wrists. She had to remain in Chile where her mother and her caretaker took Maria under their wing until she healed enough to return here.

She never stopped studying, whether it was faith-related, or new words, or her fascination with astronomy. We shared many a story about the latest reports from the Hubble Space Telescope, or the latest solar system discovery.

When you asked Maria for prayers, you knew she would make it and you a priority.

Today, on the eve of the anniversary of her death, as the Herald and other chancery staff gathered in the fifth-floor chapel, Father Paul de Ladurantaye offered Mass in her name. He tied the readings to our faith, her faith, and reminded us all that the Mass itself is a preparation for the next life.

Looking around at the 15 gathered for this intimate Mass, I realized four of them had never met Maria, but had heard stories about her. Some were here a couple of years ago to receive the weekly email updates on her deteriorating health, and some came after she had left this earth.

What a gift we have in our faith that we can rely on the sacraments for comfort, that we can remember our loved ones who have left this world, and that we believe there is something pretty amazing after this life.

Rest in peace Maria, you have earned it, and we are blessed to have known you and called you a friend.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016