Since the age of 8, the Catholic faith has been a strong presence in the life of Manju J. Yoder.
She first encountered the Catholic community when she arrived in the United States from India. Over the years she’s had to endure much—leaving her family and homeland, the passing of her sister in a car accident. She said that faith helped her get through those difficult times, and for years she’s paid it back by volunteering at St. Mary’s, Sacred Heart, and St. Mark’s, now under the umbrella of Transfiguration of the Lord Parish.
On Dec. 5, Yoder—a North Attleborough resident—was recognized for that dedication when she received the Marian Medal, given by Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha. First presented in 1968, the award recognizes members of diocesan parishes for their service to the Church. Recipients are nominated for the award by their pastor. The medals are blessed and presented in the context of Evening Prayer of the Church and Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
A cheerful giver
Father Rodney Thibault has been pastor in North Attleborough since June 2019. He presided over the merger of the three churches into Transfiguration of the Lord Parish and three months later, COVID struck, forcing all churches into lockdown. When they reopened, it was for outdoor services and eventually, indoor as well. Father Thibault said Yoder embraced the changes and worked to see that services went well.
“It was her attitude that really caught my attention,” said Father Thibault. “There were so many people that embraced Manju’s enthusiasm.”
Only one person from a church can be nominated for the Marian Medal. Since the three churches are technically one parish, that meant only one person from all three could receive the nomination. Thibault said that when considering nominees, one looks for a great attitude, willingness to think outside the box, and a desire to participate in different ways.
“It was wonderful to see,” he said of Yoder’s volunteering. “Manju was a cheerful giver, so willing to get involved.”
Bringing positive energy
Yoder said the new name for the three churches is fitting, given her experience with them. She made her sacraments at St. Mark’s, attended services with her husband Bill and their four children at Sacred Heart, and for the last seven years have gone to Mass at St. Mary’s. She and Bill are both ushers, and she helps run the children’s liturgy program. When services were held outdoors, she greeted the drivers as they arrived.
Yoder is a Eucharistic minister and has done Mass readings. She is also part of the Women’s Guild outreach and has volunteered with the Adopt A Family program. Yoder was raised in the Hindu faith as a child and said that Hinduism and Catholicism have some common elements.
“Kindness and loving your neighbor,” she said. “That message is throughout all religions.”
Yoder was in an orphanage before being adopted by an Irish Catholic family in Attleboro. She said that the sisters at the orphanage showed her the joy that can be found in helping the Catholic community. Her adopted family also set an example, which inspired her to volunteer.
“They were so kind and loving,” she said of the sisters at the orphanage. “What I was witnessing was what I wanted to do.”
Yoder is young for a Marian Medal recipient, but Thibault said she has always been open to help. When she got the news about the award, Yoder was shocked and surprised, but honored to be included with so many dedicated to their faith.
“The work that I do in the Catholic community, I do because I love and enjoy it,” she said. “I want to bring positive energy to the parishioners.”