“When my wife and I first got married, we started looking for a place to serve, and that led us to Catholic Charities,” said Jeff Weber, a long-time volunteer at Gallagher Services for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. That was almost 15 years ago, and Jeff is still a fixture at Gallagher’s Sunday worship service. Though he lived outside the Baltimore area for a few years, he continued to do volunteer work with people with physical and intellectual disabilities and resumed his volunteer work at Gallagher when he and his family returned to Baltimore eight years ago.
When he first decided to get involved in volunteer work, Jeff wasn’t looking for anything specific; he just knew that he wanted to give back. After being referred to Gallagher, he started out doing arts and crafts projects with the clients, and sometimes he would take people out for haircuts or other errands.
“Then they found out that I played the guitar, and that’s all she wrote,” he said.
These days Jeff comes in two Sundays each month to play guitar and lead the hymns. He also reads the Gospel passage for the day and often gives the lesson. His lesson on October 11 focused on the last line of that day’s Gospel reading: “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” He used that verse to highlight how people tend to set their own limitations, but how with faith so much more is possible.
While the worship service follows the same format every week, each Sunday still becomes a unique and meaningful experience for Jeff and the other participants. “Worship here is so Spirit-led,” he said.
Jeff talks about the many Gallagher clients who bring their own unique gifts to the Sunday service, things he finds particularly uplifting and touching. He talks about individuals at Gallagher like Tara, who always remembers her best friend when people share their prayer intentions. “Tara always requests prayers for her friend Courtney, who is sitting right next to her. Courtney always gets such a big kick out of it, laughing. We should all be so grateful for others’ prayers,” he said.
He talks also about Tony, who has since passed away. Tony always attended the Sunday service, and he and his friend Ralph would do a “praise dance” after communion. Tony was confined to a wheelchair, and Jeff reminisced about how Ralph would push the wheelchair as they danced.
Near the end of the worship service, Donald, a Gallagher client, sang a solo of “Amazing Grace” like he does each week, as Jeff stood next to him playing his guitar. Jeff was there to help prompt some of the lyrics, and the joy on both of their faces was evident. Sally, another Gallagher client, regularly sings during the service as well.
“Each week at Gallagher’s Sunday service, Jeff plays ‘This Little Light of Mine’ on his guitar, joyfully accompanied by the singing of Sally and the other members of our congregation,” said Kathleen Roberts, the spiritual development coordinator at Gallagher. “The song reminds us of the light of Jesus that is within each of us, and that we are to let it shine for others. Jeff lets his light shine at Gallagher through his music ministry, sharing the Gospel and his friendship. Jeff brings us joy!”
Jeff credits the example of his parents with his desire to serve others. “My father, who passed away when I was 18, set my heart in that direction – looking out for others,” he said. His mother, too, has been a driving force in his life. “Her example of faith and of service to her friends and to our family has been steadfast and a very real encouragement and inspiration. Through the years she has demonstrated what love is by her example,” he said.
Through his music ministry at Gallagher, Jeff is able to build on the example of care and service that he learned from his parents. He also sees it as one of the ways in which he tries to live out his faith.
“One thing I always try to carry with me from the Gospel is the love for those who are marginalized, people that society often keeps at arm’s length,” he said.