Mullin has observed how the 29-year-old meticulously ensures everything is in its place by her punctual arrival to change into her server attire to “fussing” with the humeral veil as she spreads it on the pew, waiting for the priest’s head nod as to when she should bring it to him.

“As she assists Father, there’s almost a rhythm to it as she does it…,” said Mullin, an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, lector and member of the RCIA committee at the parish. “It’s not a very long service, but you just leave with this joy in your heart for what you just experienced and, of course, through the eucharistic adoration, but in observing in this case, those two serving the Lord.”

Parishioners appreciate her service

Fr. Michael Petrie, pastor of Sacred Heart, who has known Maria for about four and half years, since he first became the parish’s pastor, said the parishioners appreciate her service to the church.

“They like her,” he said. “They’re very proud of her for doing this.” The parishioners at Sacred Heart are very friendly and welcoming, just as Maria is to them.

“(Maria) always greets you very pleasantly, and she’s very free about sharing what she’s thinking, and how she’s feeling and how her day went…. I just appreciate her friendliness and openness so much,” Fr. Petrie said.

Maria knows what to do during adoration and Benediction because of her aunt, Dorothy Strassmann, a member of the parish, a sacristan, co-chair of the funeral committee, and member of Christian Mothers, human concerns, and prayer and worship committees. When Maria told her aunt how much she’d love to be an altar server, Strassmann obtained Fr. Petrie’s permission to teach her. “Everybody in church knows Maria and they think it’s just wonderful that she’s doing that and to watch her be so pious and so concentrated on what she’s doing … and that she’s enjoying it and wants to do it just right – it’s just the sweetest thing,” said Strassmann, who brings Maria to adoration and Benediction each month and spends a day with her just about every other week.

Adoration part of weekly visit

Strassmann laughed as she remembered what Maria said about why her aunt and uncle have their every other weekly visits.
“She said, ‘Yes, I’m spending the day with Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Bob, because I’m giving my parents a break,’” said Strassmann.

People of Faith

Name: Maria Cribben
Age: 29
Parish: St. Bernard Parish, Watertown,
Diocese of Madison
Occupation: Bags groceries at Pick ‘n Save, Watertown
Favorite movie:  Hannah Montana, Mickey Mouse
or Shrek
Book recently read: Likes to work with words on her Leap Pad
Favorite quotation: “Whatever!” – Maria Cribben

“The whole day is more precious because she comes and we do that last hour of adoration together and when I explained to her how Jesus was in the monstrance and that she could tell him all her problems and ask for help, she comes into church, kneels with both knees in adoration and proceeds to kneel down and pray for like, oh, 15 minutes, sometimes a half an hour, and you can tell she’s really concentrating. …” Strassmann said.

If Strassmann has a Christian Mothers meeting on the day Maria visits, Maria likes to put out napkins and placemats. If they spend the day at home, Strassmann will save tasks that she knows Maria loves to do, like unloading the dishwasher and dusting the curio cabinets.

Maria also likes to crush aluminum cans for Bob.
“I’ll go places with him, too, like (if) he’s going to clean the garage and we haul it someplace else,” Maria said in an interview with your Catholic Herald, explaining that she and her aunt visit and say the rosary with people at a rest home in Dodge County. They grocery shop and take Communion to one of Strassmann’s friends, and sometimes even listen to a talk given by a nun, which is “a little hard for me to understand,” Maria said. When they aren’t busy visiting, praying the rosary, attending meetings or working around the house, Maria always has something to do.

Maria ‘a very outgoing lady’

“She brings her bag with all her projects in it, her word puzzles she works on and she makes rosaries,” said Strassmann, who taught her how to make the bead rosaries well enough that Maria once taught a class at St. Bernard how to make them.

“When she found out that some of her little nieces and nephews were making their first Communion, she made rosaries for them, and one time she found out that one of them wanted to make some for the whole class, so I think she made some for the whole class,” Strassmann said, explaining that Maria also contributes rosaries to Sacred Heart for use at the parish as well as for missions all over the world.

“She’s a very loving person and very interested in everything,” Strassmann said of Maria, the youngest of 11 children, with ages ranging from 29 to 50. “(She) does all kinds of projects – she’s learned to knit and makes washcloths for people and scarves for people…she’s just a very outgoing lady.”
Maria participates in Special Olympics, in swimming and bowling.
“I like to practice,” Maria said, but tires when she has to bowl three games in one night. In a recent regional tournament, Maria started strong with a 96 in the first game, but her scores dropped after that.
“I did an awesome job, though,” she said, smiling behind the purple frames of her glasses.

When she’s not doing “awesome” in other areas of her life, Maria knows where to turn for help.
“I pray to (God) and I talk to him about it, instead of my parents,” Maria said, explaining that sometimes she struggles with getting along with friends.
“I talk to God, my mom or something,” she said of her mother, Nancy, who died from bone cancer when Maria was 5 years old.
“She raised loving kids,” Maria said, adding extra emphasis on “loving.”

Siblings helped raise Maria

Gerald, Maria’s father, had the help of seven daughters and three sons in raising Maria. “She’s the youngest one of the family and when she was small (her siblings) just had a great feeling for her, and they used to play with her a lot and they always helped take care of her,” Gerald said, explaining that Nancy couldn’t lift Maria even before she was 1 year old.

Listing her siblings’ names and ages, spouses and children, Maria made note of one in particular – Andy, her brother, a Norbertine priest in De Pere.
“He’s a wonderful brother and a wonderful priest,” she said, “because he knows a lot of things I don’t know.”
Sometimes, Maria said he prepares a breakfast treat for her when he visits overnight.
“He makes me pancakes, and he puts butter and sugar and sprinkles on top,” she giggled.
“I know how she’s affected her brothers and sisters and inspires them and had a major effect on all of our families,” Gerald said of Maria, “and I see it with other people that see her and are inspired by that.”

The way that Maria affects others makes Gerald and his wife, Donna, who he married in 1988, proud. Donna, whose husband died around the same time as Nancy, converted to Catholicism from her Lutheran roots in 2000, after attending Sunday Mass with Gerald for 11 years and witnessing the family’s bond.
“It’s such a strong family and all of their faith is so strong. It’s such a good example and the thought of the community really drew me in,” said Donna.

Dad is religious mentor

“She’s got a very religious mentor, I think. She really does,” Donna said of Gerald, whose parents raised him and his 10 siblings with religion and Mass as part of their lives. “And I think her Aunt Dorothy, too, has nurtured a lot of that along, too, because of different activities that she’s involved in.”
Gerald said Maria’s very devout and prays in her own manner – she prays the rosary along with Mother Angelica on the radio – and she cares about others.

“She has a lot of compassion. …” Gerald said, describing a time when a young boy got very sick and Maria called his mother to see how he was doing. “She makes a lot of greeting cards – right away she’s making a greeting card (for him).”

Maria struggles with words and numbers, but Gerald said that doesn’t stop her from crafting cards for birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions.

“She’s got a lot of love to give,” he said, “and she hugs everybody…”

“…to make them happy,” Maria chimed in.

“…and that makes a difference,” Gerald added.

Maria’s outgoing nature is evident everywhere she goes – whether she’s packing groceries, serving at adoration or eating dinner with Gerald and Donna.
“It doesn’t matter where we are, somebody knows Maria,” Donna said. “I mean we can be in a different town it seems and all of a sudden, ‘Maria!’, and I never could figure out how she can know that many people, but once they meet her, they don’t forget her.”