Living the Faith: Joanne Bibeau

QUINCY -- “You get from your parish what you give to your parish,” said Joanne Bibeau, of St. Thomas More Parish in Braintree. “The parish is your family.”

Bibeau, 51, first became a parishioner at St. Thomas More’s in 1984, shortly after she and her twin sister, Janet Bibeau, moved to the area from their childhood home in Lawrence.

“This happened to be the church we went by to see our first apartment. We liked the look of it, so we came back to check it out,” she explained.

What they found was a community where they felt at home.

“Our parish when we were children was an alive parish -- it wasn’t the kind of place where you were rushed in and out,” Bibeau said, referring to her home parish of Sacred Heart in Lawrence.

Bibeau recalled how she felt the same sense of calm at St. Thomas More’s. In addition, “the people were just wonderful here. They really made us feel at home.”

According to Bibeau, she began to attend weekly Mass just after moving, and got more involved in parish activities little by little.

“I guess you show up at enough events and are vocal and it’s just a matter of time before people start to ask you to volunteer for things,” she said with a laugh.

Today Bibeau is an extraordinary minister of Communion. She is also a member of the pastoral council, and was a member of the clustering committee during reconfiguration. Together with her sister, she is a facilitator of an adult Bible study group, and was directly involved in beginning the parish’s food pantry program.

An attorney, Bibeau is also responsible for maintaining the parish’s Web site, which she hopes to revamp in the near future.

“That’s my next major project,” she said with a smile.

She also praised her pastor, Father James McCarthy, for his untiring devotion to his parish. “He never takes a day off -- he’s at daily Mass every single day.”

“Father is such a gentle soul. I just love his homilies,” she added.

In addition to her parish involvement, Bibeau is also on the board of trustees at Blessed Stephen Bellesini Academy in Lawrence, a Catholic school for boys in grades 5-8. The school, formed in response to the educational crisis in Lawrence, is affiliated with her alma mater, Merrimack College in North Andover.

Bibeau credits her love for the Church to her family. The eldest of five children, Bibeau says her parents instilled a very strong faith in all of their children, as well as a desire to participate in their parish.

“My family was always involved in parish life, and that didn’t change when we moved here,” she said.

“I can’t think of my life without my faith,” she mused. “God has chosen to love me and I have chosen to accept this love. And this is the community that I have been given to live out my faith.”