Mabel Caron finally meets priest she’s supported for 20 years
CHARLESTON—Mabel Caron celebrated her 90th birthday surrounded by her family and friends, including the “priest son” she’d never met.
Father Antoine Rizk isn’t her flesh and blood, but she has corresponded with him and helped support him in his vocation for 20 years.
She said it started in 1992, when she contacted the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support that serves the Middle East, northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.
She wanted to support the church and the priesthood by contributing to a priest in need. It turned out that the priest assigned to her care was from Lebanon, just like her.
Mrs. Caron said after her family emigrated, she grew up in Lancaster, where her father helped found St. Catherine Church. She has fond memories of the Maronite services, and loved hearing the Mass spoken in Aramaic, the language of Christ.
Knowing her “adopted” priest was also from Lebanon gave them an instant connection.
“I still call him my priest son because I always hoped I’d have one,” she said. Mrs. Caron has two daughters and five sons, but none of them were called to the religious life.
It was her youngest son, Waddy Francis Caron, who contacted Father Rizk and invited him to the party, held on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Mrs. Caron said she was in shock when she found out her special priest was going to attend. They had been talking about meeting for many years, but it had never worked out.
“When it looked like it wouldn’t happen, we said ‘Well, we’ll meet in heaven,’” Mrs. Caron said.
Then about two years ago, Father Rizk was assigned to the United States and has been serving in Brooklyn — close enough for a visit.
Susan Caron said when her mother-in-law heard the news she was so excited she could hardly contain herself.
“She said it felt like a dream and she didn’t want to wake up. We were all so happy he made such efforts to be a part of her special day,” Susan said. “It completed her 90th birthday as a perfect day with all her children and family around her.”
The priest, from the Order of St. Basil the Great, wanted to show his gratitude for the encouragement Mrs. Caron has given him over the years.
“Every month I would send him some money to support him and he would send me a card or write me back,” she said.
It is a great example of how to bolster vocations.
Mrs. Caron is a member of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston. She said she also received a birthday surprise from Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, who wrote her a letter thanking her for all she’s done, and sent a framed commendation for her dedicated service toward the growth of the church.