Funeral for Ethel Rottinghaus, March 13, 2010  As Jesus said, “Store up treasure in heaven, not on earth.” So how great can Ethel’s treasure be?

Homily, Funeral Mass for Ethel Rottinghaus

Fr. Greg Hammes 

On behalf of the family of Ethel Rottinghaus, the children: John, LeRoy, Eugene, Mary Jane, Rita, Joan – welcome to everyone, I thank you for coming today. Remember to celebrate Ethel’s life and to pray for her.

In the gospel we just heard, Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

There is no doubt that Ethel treasured her faith in God. She also treasured her family. So now, her heart and soul are surely with God. She is also here still with us, her family. And Ethel is returning her treasure to us.  Our thoughts, words, and prayers are with her today, and although she has passed beyond our sight with death, yet our faith gives us comfort.

As we heard Jesus say in the gospel, “Do not worry any more.”  He said, “God will provide for you.”  And instead, “Seek the kingdom and all these other things will be given to you.”

Seek the kingdom. Ethel certainly did this. She always had enough and God provided for her. She was a woman of faith. She always went to church until she was unable to go. Ethel said that when her children were little, if they said they were too sick to go to church, she said then they are too sick to go anywhere or do anything else. Ethel acted on her faith by practicing it, baptizing the children and helping with their catechism. There were always celebrations for their First Holy Communions and Confirmations. Ethel and her husband John would always have family over to their house for dinner. Ethel was generous in giving to the church and supporting mission appeals.

Ethel prayed. The Rosary was always near. She had one right by her bedside. And I believed she prayed it daily in her later years. When the children were young, she prayed the family Rosary, especially during the season of Lent.

We pray for Ethel today.  We know that she prayed for us all her life.  She still prays for us. A personal story – she prayed for me. She told me so on the day I was ordained a priest. She told me it was the happiest day of her life. She later told me the reason for her happiness one time when I said Mass at her home. She told me that she had always prayed that there would be a priest in the family. It made me wonder how long she prayed for that – maybe 75 years? But the reason that I am standing here in front of you is because of my grandmother Ethel. It was because of her faith. That is why I feel so extremely honored to preside at her funeral.  The same thing is so true of you – the children, grand children and great grand children. So much about who you are comes from Ethel. How grateful we should be to her.

One lesson that I think we can learn from Ethel is in her simplicity. She lived a simple life – and a long and happy life – 99 years.  She lived in the same house for 75 years. She never drove. She hardly ever traveled. Rarely did she ever go out to eat. She liked to grow her own food, with a garden with all kinds of vegetables. She butchered her own chicken and gathered eggs, got beef .. and cow’s milk.  That’s what she liked – “Nothing fancy,” she always said. She loved to cook and provide for her family. She made cinnamon rolls so they’d be ready when the children arrived home from school. She always tried to have some treat for her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Ethel never worried about food or clothing. She did not care for fancy things. She raised her own food. She made many of her own clothes and her children’s clothing, including dresses for her daughters and they were beautiful dresses.  She lived a simple life but a beautiful one. Ethel was probably the hardest worker of all. She always made time for and treasured her family. Sunday dinners were a must for her. Christmas and Easter always centered on going to her house. She loved to be around her family.  At her house, everyone was always welcome as they were. Ethel didn’t care how anyone dressed. She didn’t care if children came in with mud on their shoes. That didn’t bother her a bit. Whether it was helping pick cherries off the trees or hours playing cards, or perhaps with the grandchildren going out to play basketball or baseball or just walking out in the pasture. That may have seemed kind of slow but it was fun.  She loved to visit to find out what was going on in our lives; she loved to chat with those who were around her. She would talk to anyone.

So in addition to a simple life, Ethel showed us how to live. She was always giving something back. She would go without to provide for her children. She’d eat last, or whatever was left over. She sacrificed to help send all her family to college to provide for them. She sent grandchildren birthday cards with money; she spent countless hours quilting, crocheting or embroidering – not for herself but for us. She gave all her children and I believe all her grandchildren a beautiful homemade quilt. And I know that we all treasure those. Every time we visited Ethel, she always would give us something to take home.

As St. Paul says in the Second Reading, “No one lives for oneself and no one dies for oneself.” Ethel lived for others.

A beautiful, generous and simple life. But not one without its losses, suffering and cross. Ethel endured the death of her husband John some 49 years ago, the deaths of several children – two little ones, Mary and Rose Ann, and most recently her daughter Janice and then her son and long-time care giver, Francie. But Ethel was strong. She never got down; she never lost hope. Her faith carried her through. As she said and I heard her say many times in her later years, “It’ll all work out; it’ll all be okay.”

As Jesus said, “Store up treasure in heaven, not on earth.” So how great can Ethel’s treasure be?

So let us today give thanks for that gift of faith in Christ that we share with Ethel and she lived. Give thanks for the gift of family and the gift of love.  And above all we give thanks for Jesus who sacrificed on the cross and for His Resurrection that He prepared a way of life for us. Today, we remember, we celebrate and we give thanks for Ethel’s life.  She knows now the fullness of the happiness she lived here on Earth. We know what she has given a full accounting of herself to God. We are confident that Ethel knew the way to Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. She will be greatly missed.  We now ask our prayers assist her on her journey.  May she rest in peace.







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