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Love for God - Our Lady Queen of Hope Award

Posted on April 11, 2024 in: News

Love for God - Our Lady Queen of Hope Award

Love for God spurs award recipient to serve others

 

Janet Larson sat in her Andover home looking out over the ice-covered lake abutting her property. With tear-filled eyes and fighting hard to hold back emotion, she said softly, “I am honored. I am humbled. It is hard for me to put into words what this means to me.”

Larson was talking about receiving the Our Lady, Queen of Hope Award from the Diocese of Norwich in recognition of her strong faith, commitment to living out Catholic values, spiritual leadership and a spirit of love and service to the Catholic Church. When her friend and fellow parishioner Angie Sposito told Larson she was nominating her for the award, Larson’s first instinct was to try to talk her out of it. She didn’t think she was worthy of such recognition and surely did not want to bring attention to herself.

For Larson, service to God and to her Church is just a part of who she is, how she was raised and how she gives back to God in gratitude for all the blessings she has received. “I love God, and I want everybody to love Him as much as I do,” she said reflectively. “I love our faith. I think it is beautiful and makes you whole. I want to share it with others.”

That core desire of Larson to share her faith with others is what makes her an ideal choice for this award, said Andrea Hoisl, director of the Office of Faith Events and chair of the diocesan Women’s Conference Committee, which annually selects the award recipient. Citing the award criteria, Hoisl said Larson is someone involved in successful initiatives that have both benefited and helped move her parish community forward.

As a parishioner at St. Columba Church in Columbia, Larson began a small Friday morning Faith Gathering Group at the church in 2012. While it started as a women’s group of fewer than 10 people, it has expanded to a Bible study group of more than 40 participants, including both men and women and people from other nearby parishes. Larson facilitates the group, selects topics to be covered, orders the material used for the program and keeps everyone on schedule.

Tears filled her eyes as she spoke fondly about the community she shares with her Friday morning faith group. “God always puts me in places at the right time,” she said. “I thank God for the gift of these people in my life and their witness of faith to me.”

Larson, who describes herself as an organizer, also serves on her parish’s liturgy and renovation committees and created a manual used in the training of new extraordinary ministers of holy Communion for the parish.

“I love our parish and the people there,” said Larson. “They are the ones who make what I do worthwhile. … I feel like they’re giving to me more than I’m giving to them.”

She also praises her pastor, Father Michael Phillippino, for being a strong witness of Catholic faith and devotion for her. Father Michael shares a mutual admiration for Larson. “Janet is like a pastoral associate for me. She does the Bible study program on her own, coordinates everything and gets it done. It is a pleasure to have her in the parish.”

Before moving to Andover, Larson and her husband Jed were parishioners at St. Matthias Church in East Lyme. While there, Larson was an active member of that parish’s women’s club, taught faith formation and started and facilitated a Prayer Shawl Ministry. From 2004 to 2015, she was part of a diocesan committee working with Father Joseph Tito to bring renowned Catholic speakers to the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Norwich. She was also a trained facilitator for the diocese for Safe Environment presentations.

“When I commit to something, I commit to it wholeheartedly,” said Larson. “I’m not a quitter.”

Larson grew up as a cradle Catholic. Her mother was a secretary for a parish in Manchester where she grew up. Theirs was a home where her faith was lived, priests and religious sisters visited often and Larson acquired her deep Catholic values and principles. “I don’t know how to separate my faith from the way I was raised,” she said, noting her Catholic faith was central to the family life she shared with her parents and three siblings. No matter where she was or what she was doing, being part of church life, attending Mass and receiving the sacraments was where she found peace and comfort.

The Church’s centrality to Larson’s life became her strength in her role as a Navy wife through the course of her 40-year marriage to her husband Jed. She met him on a blind date while she was a student at the University of Connecticut studying for her master’s degree in business and Jed was stationed at the U.S. Submarine Base in Groton. She had no interest in getting involved with someone in the Navy, but when she met Jed that May, everything about spending time with him felt right. By Christmas, they were engaged.

For Larson, her faith journey and the couple’s Navy journey are intertwined. After living in Connecticut for the first seven years of their marriage, the couple began relocating around the country as part of Jed’s Navy service. At one point, they lived in five states in seven years. “We moved around a lot. I knew if I didn’t get to know people, we would be moving again. The Church seemed the best place to meet people and continue to nurture my faith,” she recalled. “Wherever we went, the Church was a central part of our lives.”

At each parish where they were stationed, Larson found a faith community who helped her grow not only in her faith but as a Navy wife and stay-at-home mother of three boys. “God always puts me in a position with people who are helping me, too,” she said. “Our faith, the choices we made for our family and the people we have met along the way are what got us through many challenges and made our family whole.”

The presentation of Larson as this year’s award recipient will take place at the Women’s Conference held March 13 in Bolton. The actual award will be conveyed to her by Bishop Michael Cote during a Mass on Sunday, April 14th at 11am, with her faith community at St. Columba’s in April.

Pondering the attention this award will bring to her, Larson said humbly, “What is most important to me is knowing that everything I do, I do for God.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year's OLQH Award winner, Shelley Cavarnos, and this year’s winner, Janet Larson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Mary-Jo McLaughlin


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