Posted July 20, 2009:
Elsie and the AIDS Patient

Interview by Lori Duquin.

Lori: What a life you’ve lived!

Elsie: And it’s not over.

Lori: Would you do it all again?

Elsie: Absolutely!

Lori: You have no regrets?

Elsie: Oh, no….

Lori then mentioned the award Elsie was given in 1992, the year before the interview, by the city of Raleigh for "significantly enhancing the quality of human life in the Raleigh area." Then she asked: What’s happened since then?

Elsie: I’m still visiting in the hospital in Raleigh. One time I came to a room and saw the precautions [sign] saying that this was an AIDS patient.

So I said to myself, "Okay, God, this young man, as far as I know, is dying. I trust that you, God, will look after all his needs. Now for me, all I ask is that I can go in to visit him and be a friend—a good friend. That’s all I ask. You do your bit and I’ll do mine."

So I went in and sat down.

The young man looked like a concentration camp victim. He was able to talk for a solid hour and a half. We laughed and we cried together. He was an unbaptized person. His family at one time had been Catholic, but none of them was Catholic now.

For some unknown reason, I left my phone number with him, which I rarely do. I was about to go on holidays to Combermere, and I thought how I may never see him again, and how would I find out if he’s died. Anyhow, I left him my phone number.

Three weeks later when I was on holidays, I got a phone call from Theresa Davis [director of MH Raleigh] to say that this young man had asked for me to go and see him at the hospital.

He wanted me to come down because he wanted to be baptized. When they told him I was in Canada, Cynthia Donnelly [another staff worker in Raleigh] got a hold of a priest and they both went down to him.

He was baptized, received Communion, was confirmed, and received the Sacrament of the Sick.

He had already talked to some other pastoral workers, and in asking to be baptized, he knew what he was doing. He sensed there was something missing in his life. But out of five other people he could have called on, he called Madonna House and they went down.

I am still marveling at this. He is home now, and I phone him regularly. I might have said an Our Father that first visit. I might have blessed him. Whatever it was, it was very ordinary.

—Lori Duquin is the author of They Called Her the Baroness, a biography of our foundress, Catherine Doherty.


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