For Ruth Prus, church isn’t a place where you go, it’s a place from which you go forth.
Because of SS. Peter and Paul on Milwaukee’s East Side, Prus serves at St. Ben’s Community Meal, Guest House and Gilda’s Club. All it took was the invitation of fellow parishioners to get Prus involved.
“You have to go outside the box,” said Prus. “What good is your faith if you just do it for an hour? You have to bring Jesus to the world – ‘do this to the least of my brethren.’”
Take Prus’ volunteering at St. Ben’s. It all started when she turned down dessert with a friend because it was Lent.
“She told me, ‘Don’t give up something for Lent, do something,’” recalled Prus.
Now, she urges families to volunteer as a Lenten activity.
“If we get enough people, they might have to go only a couple times a year,” she adds.
Prus, 49, is comfortable talking with those served by St. Ben’s and Guest House –
Name: Ruth Prus
Parish: SS. Peter and Paul, Milwaukee
Occupation: Analytical laboratory technician
Book recently read: “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café,” by Fannie Flagg
Favorite movie: “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”
Favorite quotation: “Just do it!”
(Catholic Herald photo by Amy Rewolinski)
and with those affected by cancer. She herself had breast cancer, which was treated in the fall of 2008 with a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.
Recently, Prus reconnected with a high school classmate whose name she spotted on a group e-mail. In one of their first exchanges, the man e-mailed that he had cancer that had metastasized.
“He asked me, ‘How did you know you were going to be OK?’” related Prus. “I said, ‘I felt I would never be alone.’ I never thought God would ever let me down or let me be alone, let anything bad happen. I had a gut feeling, I guess.”
The classmate is considering converting to Catholicism, and Prus has offered to be his sponsor.
Prus also has given moral support to her sister-in-law’s best friend – “who I didn’t know from Adam” – when she learned she had cancer.
It didn’t take cancer to make Prus devoted to her prayer life. What cancer did, however, was give a new focus to prayer. She wears a crucifix and a Marian medal as a silent prayer throughout her day.
“The Virgin Mary is somebody I pray to every day,” she said. “I feel she was a motherly influence in my recovery.”
Prus also attends the monthly first Friday Mass for Healing in honor of St. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer patients, at Blessed Sacrament Parish on South 41st Street, Milwaukee.
Though she lives on the East Side, Prus is familiar with the South Side, having grown up near St. Vincent de Paul Parish on Mitchell Street. She was in the third class of girls to attend Tech High School.
“My mom was the parish secretary, and my dad was an electrician for the city who did a lot of side jobs for the pastor at his cottage,” explained Prus. “That’s where I learned my involvement with the parish. It was something you did. It was a given.”
Prus said she is comfortable around priests and religious because “they’ve always been part of my life.” She counts among her dearest friends Bishop Richard J. Sklba, as well as several nuns.
After she was diagnosed, Prus jotted an e-mail to Bishop Sklba, saying, “By the way, can you say an extra prayer for me?”
“He wrote back and said, ‘You don’t get a ‘by-the-way’ prayer, you get a real one,’” Prus recalled with a laugh.
Prus talks about SS. Peter and Paul Parish as her second family. There, she serves as an acolyte and has worked on many committees and events.
“When you do things, it builds the community of the parish,” she said. “People you meet volunteering are your lifelong friends.”
Prus said she finds it convenient to help her parish because she lives just a couple blocks away. She says it’s no big deal, for instance, to bake – from scratch – for the RCIA sessions and deliver the treats to church each week.
Monica Meagher, a parish staff member for 15 years, sees it differently.
“It’s a great sign to this community of new people of welcome and hospitality,” said Meagher, director of adult formation. “It’s part of how she’s poured out her life for God, and it’s a rare thing in a parish.”
Prus’ husband of nearly 30 years, Ken, himself went through the RCIA program several years ago. He helps with the RCIA sessions and is a former chair of the parish council. They have two children and three young grandchildren.
Prus works for a chemical company while her husband has been largely out of work since his employer downsized about seven years ago.
“We know that things are not important,” she said. “People are important, and it’s how you treat people and live your life that counts, not what you own.”