Living the Faith: Jeanne Abbot

HAMILTON-WENHAM -- Teaching children has always been Jeanne Abbott’s passion, a passion she freely shares with her home parish, St. Paul’s in Hamilton-Wenham.

For the past 13 years, Abbott has served her parish as director of religious education. As director, she coordinates faith formation for children in elementary school, especially those who are receiving the sacraments for the first time.

In addition, this retired schoolteacher also helps her parish in a host of ways, including coordinating the parish’s Giving Tree during the Advent season and involving sixth grade students in community service projects. Currently the sixth-graders are raising funds for the homeless of Boston.

“I guess I have my hand a little in the middle school and high school programs as well,” she added, noting that through the years she has taught confirmation classes and helped coordinate the youth program whenever there was no coordinator for the St. Paul youth ministry program.

“Because I live just down the street from St. Paul’s, I do a little bit of a whole lot of things,” she admitted. “If no one comes to help, I wind up getting involved in it.”

“I’m really not that exciting,” she added shyly.

Her husband, Arthur Abbott, has also been consistently active in their parish. Arthur currently serves as chairman of the pastoral council. He also participates in the parish’s bible study group.

Jeanne Abbott credits her involvement to the environment fostered by her pastor, Father Louis D. Bourgeois.

“We have a wonderful pastor,” she declared. “Father always tries to make us a parish family. If people ever need something, the parish strives to meet that need. We don’t always succeed, but we try.”

“I think St. Paul’s is strong because we are a group who really cares about each other,” she added.

Born in Medford, Abbot attended Matignon High School and graduated from Boston College. It was there that she met her husband Arthur.

In 1976, three years after marrying, the Abbotts moved to Hamilton, where they raised three boys, now ages 29, 26 and 23. While her children were young, Abbott taught religious education classes at St. Paul.

For Abbott, 58, involvement in her parish has always been a part of her life, although she understands how “these days it seems people just don’t have enough time to get involved like they used to,” she said.

“It’s different for people now,” she added, noting that before Catholics seemed to be more tied to their parishes because their children all attended the parish school.

“Living in a suburb like Hamilton, where there are no Catholic schools, there’s so much going on and being Catholic is just one part of it,” she said.

“I think St. Paul’s strives to keep people involved who want to be there,” she added.

Although things may be different these days, Abbott is encouraged by the number of large families she sees participating in the parish’s religious education program.

“I’m shocked that this is happening,” said Abbott, “pleasantly shocked, that is.”