Seventy-three-year-old Dorothy Hughes joked that she and her friends at Silver Sneakers, a fitness program for seniors, “will die before we stop (exercising), because this one never stops,” she said, pointing to her friend, 100-year-old Olga Yarr.
Yarr was one of four centenarians honored at a prayer service and celebration at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Silver Spring on Sept. 26. Msgr. Donald Essex, pastor of Our Lady of Grace, gave each centenarian the Anointing of the Sick. The centenarians also received a papal blessing and a cross necklace that is a replica of the one Pope Francis wears with an image of the Good Shepherd and His lambs on it.
Sister of St. Joseph Christine Kresho, Our Lady of Grace pastoral associate who organized the event, said these centenarians demonstrate that, “No matter who you are, or how old you are, you show the presence of God to the world.”
E. Austin Carlin, a 99-year-old retired attorney and past president of the Bar Association of Montgomery County and past chairman of the board of DANAC Real Estate Investment Corp., said above all else he credits his “relationship with the Lord” for strengthening him throughout his lifetime.
Carlin said he attended Mass almost every morning since he came home from World War II, and he has never missed Communion on a first Friday.
“If you don’t have the help of the Lord, you don’t have a chance,” he said. “… I believe in God, and I don’t question His decisions even though I want to.”
Carlin added that family is another pillar of support.
“I’ve always had the backing of my family. Whether I’m up or down, they are always there to help,” he said. Carlin married again after his first wife passed away, and his present wife attended the celebration along with his four children from his first marriage.
Maureen Carlin said her father’s faith has kept their family close.
“Faith means a lot to him and he has passed it on to all of his children,” she said.
Ninety-nine-year-old Ursula Lemanski, a former employee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington and a past librarian of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, said a close-knit family and “trusting in the Lord” are the reasons for her long life.
She added that a lot has changed in the Washington area since she was a girl. Growing up, her parents owned a fruit and vegetable stand about where the National Archives building in Washington is now.
“It (Washington) used to be a country town, and now it’s a city. They didn’t even have suburbs,” she said with a laugh.
Angie Ryder, Lemanski’s oldest daughter, said the parish and the Catholic school were the focus of their lives and on Sundays they visited family.
Speaking about her mother’s long life she said, “She has got that Italian strength. I don’t know where you get it from, you just have it.” Ryder added that her mother prays the rosary and morning prayers daily.
One-hundred-and-five-year-old Ruth Ferraro, the oldest centenarian at the celebration, said of her long life, “the Man up there has control of the 105, not me.”
Ferraro said she has always been very conscious about nutrition and exercise. “I believe in walking,” she said, and until she turned 100 years old she would ride her bicycle everywhere.
“I’m thankful for God, health and wonderful children and in-laws,” she said.