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7 Oct 2014
By Anthony Salamone
Correspondent, The Catholic Spirit
NEW BRUNSWICK -- Regina B. Heldrich lived a remarkable life. As a scholar, educator and philanthropist, she also undertook many causes.
Heldrich, who died Feb. 4 at the age of 92, was also a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She and her husband of nearly 60 years, John J. Heldrich Sr., also held firm to “their faith commitment” in the Catholic Church, said Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski.
At a liturgy Sept. 10 to mark the blessing of the Regina B. Heldrich Pavilion at the Catholic Center at Rutgers, the Bishop further explained the couple’s faith-filled dedication.
“The driving force within Regina and within John was … they felt that God blessed them, and what God had given to them, they had to share with others,” he said. “This is an example of giving back to God what God has given to them.”
About 100 people attended the ceremony outside the Catholic Center, which is next door to St. Peter the Apostle Church. They heard several speakers relate the Heldrichs’ deep commitment to the Church and the tangible ways the couple demonstrated their faith.
Brother Joseph Donovan, director of the Catholic Center, referred to the front entrance as a “gateway, not just to the building behind me, but also to an encounter with Jesus Christ, whom all of those who come here meet in the friendships that they find here and in the hospitality that they experience in this facility.”
Noting how Bishop Bootkoski’s efforts led to the 2010 opening of the center in a former 19th century convent, Brother Joseph, a member of the Brotherhood of Hope, said the facility offers meeting space, a chapel and lounge area, and most importantly, “place to call home” for Rutgers large Catholic community.
After the audience listened to a reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5 -- the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes -- the Bishop recalled the planning that led to the celebration dedicating the pavilion in Mrs. Heldrich’s name.
He and Msgr. Sylvester J. Cronin, managing director, diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development, discussed a way to commemorate her significant donation to the center, but it took several visits to the Heldrichs’ home in nearby Highland Park.
“I didn’t go to a high mountain, I went down a side street in Highland Park to the Heldrichs’ [home] with Msgr. Cronin,” a smiling Bishop Bootkoski said. The bishop said they discussed each other’s “dreams,” including his dream for the Catholic Center. “And Regina and John both responded to that dream,” the bishop added.
After the liturgy, Msgr. Cronin said Mrs. Heldrich’s generosity will assist the center’s endowment to help with its operating expenses. “She didn’t want any recognition, but we wanted to honor her,” he said.
The liturgy included prayers, readings and music, and the presentation of the memorial marker. The plaque, which, according to Brother Joseph will be mounted to the left of the center’s front door, includes a portrait of Mrs. Heldrich.
The bishop offered a prayer in blessing the marker, then sprinkled holy water on it. He then handed the aspergillum to Mr. Heldrich, and both he and then his children, John J. Heldrich Jr. and Regina Stem, sprinkled the blessed water toward the marker.
Mr. Heldrich, a retired Johnson & Johnson executive who met his wife while both were working at the company, seemed pleased that his wife’s bequest will help future generations of young Catholics. “By what we did and organized to do, we reached out,” said Mr. Heldrich.
Rutgers students Maggie Smith, a senior, read the Gospel, and junior Anthony Bonini gave the intercessions.
To Mr. Heldrich, passing the Catholic faith to students by encouraging them to express their faith through action motivates him.
“I just told a couple of [students], ‘I’ll come in and sit down with you, because I think together we can do even more.’”
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NOTE: This message was also published in the diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Spirit, on September 25, 2014.