She’s a gentle, slightly shy woman, a transplant from Chicago to Kenosha nearly four years ago; she and her husband Luis wanted a safe, friendly place to raise their kids. In a soft voice, she explained, she does very little compared to others in her parish, St. Anne in Pleasant Prairie.
But she is championing the faith in her three children, Angel, 18, Nicholas, 11, and Nathan, 7, and, above all else, she wants to set a good, faith-filled example to her children on what it means to be a practicing Catholic.
When Frances Otero-Mercado is not caring for her children, or working full time as a legal assistant for Madrigrano, Aiello, and Santarelli Law Firm, the 37-year old makes time to serve her parish as the coordinator of the acolyte ministry.
Otero-Mercado, a lifetime Catholic, is ready to serve, and considers it an honor and a privilege to live her faith in acolyte ministry.
“I help prepare for Mass on Saturday and Sunday and assist Fr. Donald Thimm with preparing the altar by getting the bread and wine ready. I help prepare the church with the Book of Prayers, bulletins, general intercessions, assisting with baptisms, and doing the Communion dishes. I light the candles and walk with Father in the procession into church,” she said. “After Mass, I pick up afterward. My work is similar to sacristan work, but a little more since I also light the candles and prepare the tables.”
As coordinator of the 20 volunteers in the acolyte ministry, Otero-Mercado hosts meetings, writes correspondence, and trains acolytes.
“It is all very minor stuff and not very entailed,” she said. “But, everyone in this ministry does what I do during Mass and we all take turns.”
In addition to the acolyte ministry, Otero-Mercado serves as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and is grateful for any opportunity to be near the altar and close to Jesus.
|People of Faith
Name: Frances Otero-Mercado
Occupation: Legal assistant
Parish: St. Anne, Pleasant Prairie
Book recently read: “Harry Potter”
Favorite movie: “Ghost”
Favorite quotation: “There is something out there that is bigger than me, and that is God.”
“When I am up there on the altar during holy Communion or preparing the altar, I feel as if I am closer to God at that time,” she said. “When I serve as an acolyte, I am busy through most of the Mass helping Father. It is a wonderful experience and I always feel so humbled by it.”
In getting to know Otero-Mercado, her husband and their children, Fr. Thimm appreciates the dedication within the family and has watched the couple set a good example for their children.
“Frances and Luis attend church regularly and are clearly invested with their children,” said Fr. Thimm. “In addition to serving as a Communion minister, she and her family have been involved as greeters and ushers and in our hospitality after her Mass ministry. She is very conscientious and responsible.”
St. Anne Parish boasts a large number of volunteers serving in various ministries and outreach. That welcoming spirit drew Otero-Mercado and Luis to join the parish.
“When we belonged to our other church in Chicago, we weren’t involved in anything and never really felt welcomed,” she said. “Here, everyone participates and it’s wonderful and makes you want to reach out to others to make them feel welcome, too.”
Otero-Mercado believes in parish stewardship, but she realizes that it isn’t just financial, and she hopes that by example, her children will love the opportunity to serve others.
“It’s important to give back, whether it is time, prayer or finances, but it’s up to the person what they can give,” she admitted. “My 7-year-old already loves to help out. He would stick by me all day if he could, but I have to make him go back to his seat at Mass because if he didn’t, he would be right there throughout the whole Mass.”
In a couple of years, Nathan will be old enough to assist as an altar server, but for now he is excited when called upon to bring the offering baskets to the altar on occasion.
“I think the kids are proud when they see me help out,” said Otero-Mercado, adding, “For me, I just needed to do more. Just going to church each week was not enough – serving as an acolyte minister is an experience that continues to deepen my faith. I truly am enjoying serving God and the community that makes St. Anne.”