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Everyday Evangelists: Retiring Family Life Office coordinator shares story

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March 29, 2011

By Sister Eileen Connelly, OSU

SIDNEY DEANERY — In her nearly 25 years of ministry in the archdiocesan Family Life Office, Jean Borgert has had the opportunity to hear many people’s stories, to laugh with them, cry with them, advise and counsel them. As she prepared to retire as the coordinator of the Sidney office March 31, it was Borgert’s opportunity to tell her own story.


Jean Borgert, coordinator of the archdiocesan Family Life Office in Sidney, is retiring March 31.

 CT photo/Eileen Connelly, OSU

She is originally from Cranberry Prairie, a small village near St. Henry, Ohio, in Mercer County. One of 10 children, Borgert has fond memories of her childhood and is grateful for the lessons she learned growing up in a large farm family. “We definitely learned how to share,” she said. “That keeps you humble.”


“We recycled before anybody else even used the word and used everything we had,” she added. “My mom made homemade soap, we grew our own fruit, raised animals and used feed sacks with pretty floral designs as dresses. I’m very grateful for all that because I learned that everything on earth has a purpose. I realized how important family is, how we support each other and share our faith.”


Her family’s Catholic faith, like that of so many families in the northern part of the archdiocese, was strong. She attended the former St. Francis School in Cranberry Prairie and recalls that everyone in their small rural community was active in the parish. “It couldn’t have functioned otherwise,” she said.


After graduating from St. Henry High School, Borgert went to work on the assembly line of a local company. She also operated a daycare center and worked as an assistant in a dental office. Borgert married her husband, Orville, in 1967, and the couple raised two children. They are now the proud grandparents of seven.


When Borgert was initially hired to work in the Family Life Office, her primary focus was Pre-Cana ministry, working with couples in the program designed to cover topics that would help them in married life. She later become involved in the office’s separated and divorced ministry, often facilitating twice–weekly support groups.


It was meaningful work for Borgert. “I loved hearing participants’ stories,” she said. “We had people at both ends of the spectrum, those who were newly hurting and those who were able to say ‘Life is good again.’ Twenty years later, I still have contact with many of them.”


A significant portion of Borgert’s ministry has been devoted to serving as a procurator for annulments, interviewing the individuals involved, providing information on the process, handling the paperwork and offering her support. She estimates she has handled some 400 cases over the years referred by area pastors. Borgert has found there to be much more to her work than just the legal proceedings and believes sensitivity and a willingness to listen is the best approach in reaching out to those going through an annulment.


“There’s a trust level that needs to be established and you can’t be judgmental,” she explained. “It’s important to recognize the sacredness of each person’s story. Many of them are hurting and really need someone to talk to one-on-one. They wonder if maybe they could have made things work if somebody had helped them, or they’ve put walls around themselves to avoid being hurt again.”


She remembers the case of one woman who had been divorced for 20 years and finally, honoring a promise to her mother, sought an annulment. She revealed to Borgert that she had been away from the Catholic Church all those years. As they met, Borgert realized only one form was necessary to complete the annulment process. The woman was so relieved that she immediately wanted to visit Holy Angels Church, which is directly across the street from Borgert’s office. As they entered the church, the woman’s eyes filled with tears of joy as she experienced a sense of coming home.


It is in such moments that Borgert says, “I see the face of God and feel so lucky and blessed to do what I do.”


In addition to her work in the Family Life Office, Borgert lives out her faith in a variety of other ways. She is longtime bereavement minister at her parish — St. Augustine in Minster — and both she had her husband are lay companions with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, gathering for prayer, study and special events with the religious community. In retirement, Borgert said she hopes to become more involved with order’s ministry, along with spending more time with her family and helping to care for her grandchildren.


“My job in the Family Life Office has brought me so much pleasure,” she said. “It’s time for someone else to have that opportunity.”


Ministering to the rural community in which she has her roots has been a privilege for Borgert. “The people here have such deep faith,” she said. “We have something here that’s so special, so healthy. We don’t lock our doors, the kids still ride their bikes to school, families have meals together.”


That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges, she acknowledged. “We have to challenge our parents to be better, to remember the sacredness of family life and always keep in mind that God is number one. “  

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