Stephen and Janice Baldi Courtesy photo
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WAKEFIELD ? They met at a “Sweet Sixteen” party. High school sweethearts, Stephen and Janice Baldi married shortly after college. Now, after 38 years of marriage, the couple can reflect on their lives and their faith.
“To me my faith is a grounding point, a touchstone, a guide,” Stephen said during a recent interview.
“It is the calming influence in my life,” echoed Janice.
As parishioners at Blessed Sacrament parish in Wakefield, the Melrose couple has always taken their faith very seriously. The Baldis have been parishioners at Blessed Sacrament for the past 37 years ? all but one year of their married life. It is there that they have raised two sons, both of whom are married, and are proud grandparents of “four plus” grandchildren ? one daughter-in-law is currently expecting.
“Going to church each week to reinforce my faith is absolutely central to me,” said Stephen. “It refreshes me and is what keeps me going.”
The importance they have put on their faith has led them to volunteer in the parish in a host of ways.
“Through the years, we have probably done every ministry that exists,” said Stephen.
“Except sing,” laughed Janice.
Both have taught religious education when their two sons were young; they have been members of the parish pastoral council; they have served on various parish committees, just to name a few.
Today Stephen is a member of the finance council, the coordinator of lectors and the one who trains new altar servers. Janice is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and is on the decorating committee. Together they assist in the parish marriage preparation program and are participating in the ARISE program at Blessed Sacrament.
In addition, two years ago when the parish celebrated their 75th Anniversary, Stephen, a semi-professional videographer, offered to produce a parish video that documented the goings-on of the parish, as well as the history of the parish through parishioners’ eyes.
“I thought it would be nice to document what’s been going on,” he explained.
As a result, Stephen spoke with several parishioners ? some of whom had been there when the parish first opened its doors ? and created a video which was offered to parishioners.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “From my perspective, [Blessed Sacrament parish] is a friendly, inviting group of people who are very dedicated to their Catholic faith and to each other.”
“We are a very close-knit community,” added Janice.
Adding to that sense of community is the recently created parish hall, she said. According to Janice, shortly after her pastor, Father William Coughlin arrived at the parish, he initiated a parish drive in order to build the parish hall.
“He really created a gathering place for us,” she said. “People really like that.”
“Father tries hard to make everyone welcome and comfortable,” added Stephen, who noted that unlike many parishes that only serve one town, his parish serves three communities ? Wakefield, Melrose and Saugus.
“There are friendships that develop because of that fact that wouldn’t otherwise develop because we don’t live near each other,” he said.
Janice also noted that Father Coughlin has underscored the universality of the Church by inviting several Jesuit priests from places such as Africa and Eastern Europe to celebrate Mass at the parish.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” she said. “It gives us a great sense of how multi-cultural and diverse our faith is. It’s fun to experience that.”