I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly

By Ginny Revel
These words of Jesus from John 10:10 have been a daily inspiration to Joe Doak for the past several decades. Through good times and bad times alike, Joe has relied on God’s strength to support and guide him.

Joe was born and raised in a mixed-religion family. His mom was a “sometimes” Catholic and his dad was Lutheran, a scenario which resulted in major inconsistencies in his religious upbringing.
Joe was sent off to Mass, along with his three siblings, on Sundays by his parents. But more often than not, the children dallied away that time, playing in the park.

However, when Joe was about seven years old he became an altar boy at the local church. This vocation, although short-lived, was marked by a divinely-infused exuberance at Mass. When the priest signaled for the bells to be rung at the consecration, Joe rang the bells, and rang the bells, and rang them some more.

His thought was: “God’s coming down. This is a miracle and I need to announce it.” Unfortunately, after a few instances of non-stop bell ringing, Joe was “fired.” His religious life ground to a halt, although his spiritual life did not.

It wasn’t until after he married that Joe developed some routine in attending Mass. He and his wife, Phyllis, attended Mass every day of their honeymoon, a practice which continued throughout their life together.

As an employee of General Electric, Joe worked in many of the 50 states. Upon retirement he and Phyllis moved to Gunnison where he started his own computer business. Many years later they moved to Montrose and became active parishioners at St. Mary Parish. Fr. Don Malin, the pastor at that time, remembers Joe serving as a Stephen Minister. In this important ministry, a lay person gives one-on-one companionship and counseling to someone who is experiencing a life difficulty, be it grief, illness, death, divorce, job loss, substance abuse or whatever. There, Joe became a messenger of Jesus’ promise of abundant life.

When Phyllis became seriously ill, the Doaks relocated one last time to Grand Junction.

For several years Joe was dedicated to being her caretaker. He had little time for other activities. Although he then rarely attended Mass, Joe missed that celebration and other aspects of his faith life. For the meantime, though, he came before the Lord when he could.

Drawing upon the God-given strength he experienced during these trials, Joe concentrated on developing stronger personal relationships with Jesus and the Heavenly Father. He credits this divine love as the force that carried him through the dark times.

Joe had always thought that Phyllis would outlive him, but after her passing he realized that God had other plans for him and that he needed to endure without her. Phyllis had told him to “weep a little for me and then live fully after I’m gone.”

Jumping back into life, Joe took training to learn how to teach children to read. He was offered a job at a public school, but was frustrated with the school district’s policy which precluded his consoling a crying or sobbing child.

Joe then applied at private schools and accepted a position at Holy Family Catholic School. There he tutored academically challenged students in kindergarten, first and second grades in their reading skills.
“It was a delight to be part of an educational program that taught the entire child.” Joe added, “I was able to impact these kids morally, academically and socially, and to provide them with a disciplined love.”

A few years later Joe answered an ad in the Immaculate Heart of Mary bulletin to be a catechetical aide in the parish’s faith formation program. For three years he assisted with children in first and fifth grades. “I thought maybe I’d learn something from the students. And I did. They asked some interesting questions about their faith,” he remarked.

As he ages, Joe has slowly pulled back from some activities. However, he continues to serve as a Eucharistic Minister, believing “it’s a privilege to be able to bring Holy Communion to anybody, anywhere, as needed.”

Joe’s mission as a hospice volunteer has greatly impacted his faith life. “How can I not be touched by having a patient die in my arms?” he asked. “I was able to kiss him off into God’s loving eternity. For many people, I might be their last contact with earthly life. It’s God, through me, telling them that they’re not alone and not separated from his love,” he added.

Despite his advanced years, Joe Doak feels blessed to be so busy. “It’s fantastic to be needed. My volunteer work gives my life a focus. So I try to give 100 percent of my energy to my faith and to my ministries. “

Joe summed up his life by saying, “Jesus seems to be happy with what I’m doing so far.”