Miss Mildred Dill'ard: A Treasure of the Oakland diocese
Michael C. Barber, SJ
To encourage humility, Our Lord said we should not let our left hand know what the right is doing. But He also said, "Let your light shine before others that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matt 5:16).
I'd like to shine some light on one of the treasures of our diocese that I've discovered since coming here five months ago. Her name is Miss Mildred Dill'ard. Miss Mildred, as she was known to her friends, passed to the Lord recently at the age of 93. A longtime parishioner of St. Joseph the Worker in Berkeley, she was born in Georgia and grew up in the company of a neighbor who had survived slavery in the South. She was trained in cosmetology and modeling, and she moved to Berkeley in the 1950s.
All her life she had been active in volunteering. As a child she used to run errands for neighbors and get paid in pennies. "Take it back" her mother would tell her, "You're doin' God's work."
That spirit of love and service came to the fore in Miss Mildred's retirement days. She became a "Candy Striper" at Alta Bates Hospital. (Remember those volunteer ladies and young women who used to visit patients, cheer them up, and bring them books and magazines?) She also volunteered at the Berkeley Police Department Crime Prevention Program, and several senior centers.
In 1993 she was invited by the late Brother Christopher Bassen, FSC, to become the receptionist at the Christian Brothers' LEO Center in Oakland. LEO stands for "LaSallian Educational Opportunities." It's a tutoring center for inner-city middle and high school students. They also teach English as a second language.
Many of the volunteer tutors come from our Catholic schools and colleges, especially Saint Mary's in Moraga. Miss Mildred was the smiling, welcoming face greeting every student and volunteer coming to the center. She taught the students a sense of manners and respect for their elders. She was fond of saying: "Manners will get you everywhere and will open many a door for you," and "Be somebody. You are somebody."
Miss Mildred Dill'ard
In recognition of her devotion to God and her students, the Superior General of the Brothers of the Christian Schools order granted her the extraordinary honor of affiliated membership. She became a Christian Brother!
And when she was no longer able to care for herself because of her age and decline in health, the Christian Brothers took her into their infirmary and lovingly cared for her at Mount La Salle in Napa. It was there that she died in the arms of the Brothers and staff on Aug. 10 and is buried in the Brothers' private cemetery. The Christian Brothers' General stated in his letter of commendation to her upon her induction in the Order: "Your love of the Brothers is well known and the source of support and strength. Your apostleship of prayer for the poor and the needy and for the work of the Brothers is a model for all whose lives you touch."
It says in Proverbs 31:30 "A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." I praise you Miss Mildred. You are a treasure of the Diocese of Oakland and the Catholic Church.
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