Recently PBS rebroadcast the Simon & Garfunkel concert from Central Park. I grew up on their music and love many of the songs. One of them that touches my heart is the song "Old Friends". Whenever I hear it sung, I reflect upon the countless friendships that I have been graced to have shared with "old" (rather longtime) friends, some of whom, like me, are getting older by the minute.
On Friday morning one of those "old friends" was laid to rest by her family and friends at a funeral liturgy at Saint Sebastian Church in Belle Vernon. Her name is Josephine "Jo" O'Hara and she was 96. I have known Jo since I first arrived in Belle Vernon in 1975, and she and I shared the same date of birth - May 30th.
Jo was a small but giant woman of faith and kindness. She was active at the parish of Saint Sebastian, singing in the funeral choir, faithfully praying the parish rosary at the time of a death, a member of the Valley of Hope Charismatic Prayer Group (where we worked together in leadership), the Third Order of Saint Francis, Friends of the Veterans, Meals on Wheels deliverer, Legion of Mary and Ladies Guild of the parish. She was a seamstress, rosary maker and great cook. And she was a kind and gentle soul.
When I arrived at Saint Sebastian forty years ago, a group of us formed the Valley of Hope Prayer Group, and Jo and her husband Bill were part of the leadership team. I spent many evening at their home with the core group praying and planning for the meetings ... and eating Jo's good cooking. I have fond memories of those days and the many encounters since. She was not only an acqaintance, but for me one of those special people that I call an "old friend".
Health and schedule kept me from joining with those who gathered, but I share my thoughts, prayers and gratitude with her family of two sons and a daughter and their families. May she rest in peace.