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Blessed by God’s providence

December 23, 2020

Editor’s note: The following is an installment of an ongoing series featuring how Catholics of the Diocese of Ogdensburg are living out their faith. To suggest an individual to be featured in this series, please call the North Country Catholic at 315-393-2920 or email dfargo@rcdony.org.

By Suzanne Pietropaoli
Staff Writer

DUANE – Nancy and Mark Beddoe speak often and easily of divine providence, of the way God guides us in wisdom and love to draw us closer to himself. They are quick to acknowledge this providence at work in their Catholic upbringings, in the circumstances of their meeting, and in the challenges and blessings of parenthood.

Born and raised on opposite sides of the northern border, the couple – parishioners at St. Andre’ Bessette – now divide their time between Ottawa and their camp in Duane, near Malone. Raised in a Catholic family in Massena, Mark graduated from Holy Family High School and LeMoyne College. While working as a reporter and photographer at various area newspapers, he relates, “I had some religious experiences that made me realize I needed to look into the Church more closely. That took me to some monasteries, and even to a semester in minor seminary, until it became clear that this was not the path God wanted for me. Then one day I stopped on the spur of the moment to check on my family’s camp on Eagle Pond – and God put Nancy down right in front of me! I should not have been there that day, but we met by divine providence. When we finally stopped searching, God put us together.”

Nancy agrees. Like Mark, she was a cradle Catholic; her faith stayed strong as she studied at Loyola College and at Queen’s University and began her teaching career with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. Then in 1984, within a few short months, she lost her only uncle, an aunt, and her beloved dad.

“We had now lost all the men in our family,” she recalls. “By November, my doctor told me to take some time off. A friend invited me to visit her place on Eagle Pond; she told me the long walks might help. She was right. I discovered a camp for sale and decided to buy it. And on one of those long walks, Mark was passing by. I used to stand at my apartment window and pray, ‘Please send me somebody wonderful.’ How perfectly God answered that prayer!”

The couple married at St. Helen’s Church, Chasm Falls, on October 11, 1986. Ottawa would be their home for much of each year as Nancy continued teaching and Mark did editorial work in high-tech industry; he would later become a procurement officer with Canadian national defense when the tech bubble burst in 2001.

“Even when things were uncertain, God always provided, job to job,” Mark remembers.

But God’s greatest gifts to the couple are their two lovely, lively daughters, Alanna and Katrina.

“Our faith was deep when we got married,” said Nancy, “but not nearly as deep as it is now. Our girls brought us so much joy. They went all through Catholic school and could hardly wait to be old enough to be altar servers. Matters of Church mattered a great deal to us. We talked about Church the way some people talk about the Yankees.”

“Our girls had a lot to do with deepening our faith because through them we were drawn into circles where people had faith deeper than our own,” Mark added.

This faith eventually led their daughters to religious life. Alanna, now Sister Helena Grace, made her first profession in the Little Sisters of the Poor this past October, and is now assigned to the order’s center in Kansas City, Missouri.

“She is very pro-life,” said Nancy, “and as a registered nurse it is her passion to care and to help. She is very settled and very happy in her new life.”

Mark points out that he and Nancy “often thought that Katrina would be drawn to religious life.” And she was: in 2018 she entered the order of the Queenship of Mary in Ottawa and is now a novice there after an unusually challenging journey.

Katrina was born with spina bifida.

“We were shaken at first, as it had not shown on ultrasound,” Mark said. “Our baby was born and quickly ambulanced to Children’s Hospital for surgeries to close the lesion and place a shunt to drain spinal fluid. It was only the first of many hospitalizations.”

But that did not diminish the couple’s joy in their precious daughter. Mark recounts meeting some years later with a couple who were being pressured to abort their unborn because of a spina bifida diagnosis.

“They asked If we would have had Katrina if we had known she had spina bifida,” he said. “I replied that if I had known how wonderful she would be, I would have taken two! That couple had their baby, and Patrick’s case proved to be much less severe than predicted. His parents became strong advocates for welcoming these babies.”

The Beddoes do not deny the difficulties, but focus on the presence of God, “who has always been there leading us. We have had such a strong experience of his protection, always,” says Nancy. Both parents experienced this when Katrina, age 21, was hospitalized for five months in 2010-11.

“There was trouble with the shunt; nothing was working,” Mark said. “We had left Katrina in the neurology observation unit, where they bored a hole through her head to adjust the shunt to drain fluid from her brain. At that point, I just cried. Only God held me together.”

Nancy confirms how hard that time was.

“It was so difficult to leave Katrina, not knowing how the night would go,” she said. “As a teacher and as a mother, you have to be in control. That night I knew, ‘I am not in control.’ I had to rely on our Blessed Mother in a new way during those long months.”

“God drew us closer to himself through our children,” Mark added. “Their journeys and experiences have had a huge effect on us and on our faith.”

Without fanfare, the Beddoes live out their faith and share it with others.

“Example matters most,” said Mark. “I am so grateful for having had the privilege to influence people in the workplace, for instance. So often an opportunity to listen to others leads to sharing faith.”

“It is more important to walk the walk than to talk the talk,” Nancy added. “We don’t go out preaching, but I love to bring a smile to someone’s face, or to make a cashier’s day more pleasant. I have re-connected with my recently orphaned godson, Darrel. We talk on the phone for an hour at a time. Next: I need wisdom to know how to bring God back into his life.”

Mark and Nancy belong, respectively, to their parish men’s and women’s groups. Pre-Covid, they generously worked at parish suppers. Happily, the pandemic has not interfered with their commitment to work every Wednesday at the parish food pantry – an opportunity which Nancy calls “a very great gift!”

“It is mind-boggling how rich the Church is,” said Mark. “From the sacraments to the saints, from the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to the Rosary, from the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the hearts of Mary and Joseph. All these continue to bless our lives, but the Eucharist above all. In his goodness, God draws us toward himself in so many different ways!”

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