Carolyn Diercksmeier is a parishioner at Our Lady of Joy Parish in Carefree.
Carolyn Diercksmeier is a parishioner at Our Lady of Joy Parish in Carefree.

Growing up in New Haven, Conn., Carolyn Diercksmeier’s life was colored with the rich hues of abiding Catholic faith.

“In our family, everything centered around the holy days and feasts of the Church,” Diercksmeier said. She attended daily Mass all through grade school and high school and entered the religious life at 18. For years, she enjoyed teaching math to junior high students. As time went on, however, she found herself enveloped in deep depression, a sorrow she couldn’t shake.

“I had to face my hidden demons,” Diercksmeier said. “I left the security of the religious life and returned to my parents’ home.” Not long after, her father died and she was left to care for her invalid mother for 11 years. She married, but a year later, her husband was diagnosed with a serious lung disease. The couple moved to Arizona for the warmer climate and for the last five years of her husband’s life, Diercksmeier was homebound, caring for his every need.

“With God, always expect the unexpected,” Diercksmeier said. “My life has had twists and turns that I could never have predicted in a thousand years, but I have come to trust completely that whatever He sends my way is best for me.”

She’s a familiar face at Our Lady of Joy Parish in Carefree where she once ran the Rite of Christian Initiation. These days, she volunteers in the office and gift shop, serves as lector and sacristan and works in the ministry of care. Beyond that — and one wonders where she finds the energy — she’s a hospice volunteer. These moments of quiet, heartfelt prayer she shares with the dying are what Diercksmeier finds deeply ­rewarding.

Parish: Our Lady of Joy in Carefree.

Apostolates: Lay Carmelite, ministry of care, hospice 11th hour companion, sacristan, lector, volunteer in church office and gift shop.

The glue that holds her faith together: Being able to spend time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Only here at the foot of the cross can we find all that we are looking for. If people only realized this, our churches would never be empty.

What keeps her going when she gets discouraged: All I need to do is stand in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

What she loves about being Catholic: I love the Mass, the sacraments, the Church and all the rich traditions that are part of our heritage that have come down through the ages. I am thankful that we have so many good, holy priests to help us.

It begins with a phone call. Someone is near death, but has no one in the world to sit with them as they pass into eternal life.

“Sometimes they die while I am there holding their hand,” Diercksmeier said. “It’s such a privilege to be there at the person’s last moments…I want to help these people call on the mercy of God at the end of their life.”

Diercksmeier joined the order of Lay Carmelites in the Valley and for the last seven years has been undergoing formation. Monthly meetings involve studying the lives of the Carmelite saints, the history of the Church and how to live the Gospel.

“The busier you are, the more time you need in prayer, not less,” she said. “We have to be in tune with Him and listen to Him.” She draws her strength — and that boundless energy — from the Eucharist and gets choked up talking about the mercy of God.

“He is saying, ‘All you need is My mercy.’ That is a message that I want to tell people. He doesn’t care where we’ve been — He is interested in where we are going.”

People, she said, particularly the homebound, are “starving to hear about the Lord” but are often alone.

“That’s what life is about,” Diercksmeier said, “to make the Lord known and to make Him known and loved.”

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