Cheverus profiles: Jean Gately of Christ the King Parish in Brockton

BROCKTON -- Jean Gately, a volunteer sacristan and eucharistic minister at Christ the King Parish in Brockton, tries to do her work carefully and quietly.

"It's a solemn time, you know," Gately, 73, told The Pilot in a Jan. 27 interview.

Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, she prepares for Mass and cleans up afterward. She serves funeral Masses, too, when necessary. Prior to the pandemic, she visited nursing homes to distribute Holy Communion.

"It was wonderful," she said. "The people are so appreciative that you bring in Jesus to them, and so it was very humbling but very satisfying."

That consistently humble service to the parish inspired her pastor, Father Matt Westcott, to nominate her for the Cheverus Awards in 2023. Gately and 150 others received the archdiocesan awards, which annually honor those who dedicate their lives to the Catholic Church in Boston.

In his nomination form, Father Westcott, pastor of the Catholic Tri-Parishes of Brockton, called Gately "a true blessing to us all."

"Jean is deeply faithful, and she radiates her love for God," he wrote. "She goes above and beyond to display acts of love to her neighbors. She is also such a tremendous help to the pastor and all other priests who come to serve Mass."

"It was quite the honor," Gately said about winning the Cheverus Award. "One that I truly did not expect."

The awards ceremony was held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. Gately and four other winners, along with their guests, were taken to the ceremony in a limo donated by a local funeral home.

"It was cool," she said. "It was really nice. I thought we were just going to go in on a bus."

Gately is a lifelong parishioner at Christ the King. She had her First Communion and was confirmed there. Volunteering has allowed her to get to know and befriend many within the parish. Throughout the decades, "the closeness of the people" has stood out to her.

"In so many cases, we're like a family," she said.

Often, the funeral Masses she serves at are a homecoming for people who moved out of the parish. At one funeral Mass, the husband of the deceased came to her and thanked her for being the last person to give his wife Communion. She was touched that he remembered her.

"It's an honor to do it," Gately said. "I don't have to know the person, but I treat them all the same. They're valuable people to the parish and they matter."

Gately first started to volunteer around 2012, when the pastor asked her for help. She saw his heavy workload, having to be a spiritual leader for three parishes at once, and eagerly accepted. Over time, she realized that the pastor wasn't the only person she was helping.

"I felt as though it was something I was doing for my parish, but also it was pleasing to the Lord," she said.

The deaths of her parents, who instilled strong faith in her, pushed her to do even more volunteer work.

"My faith got me through," she said. "It's not easy, it's difficult sometimes, caring for ailing parents. My mom ended up in a nursing home, and so my faith played a big role in that. I knew that I could get through it because Jesus was sustaining me."

The act of volunteering has strengthened her faith.

"I feel closer to God," she said, "so I feel as though I'm doing the work that He wants me to do."