Offer it Up

This is my uncle. I am very proud of him and think you will find this article inspiring.

Al Ostergaard volunteers for parish despite disability

Starting the Holy Redeemer Thrift Shop gives him a chance to give back to God

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Why you want to know Allen “Al” Ostergaard: In spite of numerous health problems, Al continues to volunteer every day at the Holy Redeemer Thrift Shop that he started in the parish.

Parish: Holy Redeemer

City: El Dorado

Age: 70

Family: Wife Judi, five grown children and four grandchildren


Arkansas Catholic’s theme this year is “Worth it.” What investments of time or money have you made to enrich your faith?

I am limited because I’ve got lots of disabilities and I am limited in what I can do, but I made a promise that as long as the Lord would allow me to get up every morning, I would dedicate my life to working for him and the Church.

How long have you been in Arkansas?

Since 1988. My wife’s mother and father are from El Dorado. Her daddy passed away in 1988 and we moved here to take care of her mother. I’ve been retired since 1977 because of a medical disability.

Did you always attend church as a family?

(When we lived) in North Carolina and Moorhead, Minn., Judi wasn’t Catholic yet, her children weren’t, and they started going to church with me. I liked that. Once we got here, Judi and her two kids really got involved with going to church with me on a regular basis. Judi expressed to me that she would like to take the RCIA course, so she and her two children took that. It was a short time later that they became Catholic.

What fuels your dedication to the church?

I had a real “come-to-Jesus meeting” several years ago. I was diagnosed with refractory anemia, which is terminal. Generally when they tell you that, you’ve got about six months to live. I went to confession when we visited Our Lady of Good Health in Wisconsin. There I kind of decided that I needed to do something with my life. I really feel that’s what I am doing. I feel so close to the Lord now. It brought a real closeness. I don’t know how to explain it; I feel like I am at the place now where I always wanted to be.

How did the thrift shop come to be?

I talked to Father Gregory (Pilcher, the former pastor) one day because we had this empty building down here, and I said “Father I’ve got a lot of time on my hands and I got an idea of a way to make the church some extra money.” I brought up the idea of a thrift store and he liked it.

How do you deal with your disabilities?

A lot of days I do work in pain. Father Gregory had an old saying when you had to go through an ordeal or pain or whatever, “Offer it up to the Lord.”

What does “offer it up” mean to you?

It is kind of a way that I connect. I just watched a movie the other day, “Killing Jesus,” and I know the kind of pain that he endured during his crucifixion, whatever pain I am suffering pales in comparison to what he went through. If he could sacrifice himself like he did, I can certainly work through some pain.

What would you tell others with disabilities who are not as active?

God finds a way to tap into your potential in lots of different ways that you cannot even comprehend. Never give up. I’ve found that by devoting myself to the Lord and to the Church, that everything is going to be all right.

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Serve a Year with an Alternative to Teach for America

New Mexico is a beautiful state. I got to go there in February 2015 to lead a daylong retreat for the teachers. St. Francis school was founded by Franciscans over 100 years ago in the tiny town of Lumberton, New Mexico. There were beautiful blue skies and a layer of snow on the ground when I visited. Most of the teachers are volunteers who give one or two years to the school, receiving in turn housing and a small living stipend. Take a few minutes to learn about Mike’s experience as a volunteer teacher and about Lilly’s too. You just may find yourself googling them so you can find out how you can go there!

I made these two videos for FREE. I love to ask people to consider giving a year of service and this is just one more way I help promote year of service programs.

Reflections on Journalist James Foley

This August, I am reading a lot online about the events taking place in Syria and Iraq right now. Through those newsfeeds, I have learned about a guy I would have loved to have known.

His name is James Foley and his parents got a phone call from Pope Francis last week, expressing his sorrow and empathy over their son’s passing away. I know that there are videos online in which people can watch the actual event of his passing away. Thank God, I have not seen it yet. I accidentally saw a related sick photo online today and regret that. Here is something I read this evening which gives a great reason for not watching that video, as ubiquitous as it is:


From the website for the publication “Brooklyn Magazine”:

The intent of the … video is to strip James Foley of his humanity, to turn him into a symbol. It is an act that Foley’s own work was dedicated to combating, reflected in the Carl von Clausewitz quote he chose as a subtitle for his blog: “War is fought by human beings.” We can pay tribute to him best by refusing to participate in the twisted one-act play, this allegory that his killers have scripted for us. He may have been killed because he was an American or a journalist, but his death is not a blow against just those groups—it is an affront to every single one of us.

Follow Margaret Eby on Twitter @margareteby.

I will not watch the video, but a still image of the video, in which he is shown kneeling on the ground, has come up a lot on my computer today, so I have decided to take some time to learn a little bit about his life.

In the still image, I have spent time looking at his face and I see someone who has his head up and his eyes closed. I have read that he prayed when held prisoner and kept the spirits up of those in captivity with him. I am sorry for his loved ones’ loss. I am sure he was one in a million and their hearts are broken. I know I did not know him and I have no idea what that moment was like for him, but I see his dignity in his posture.

I read an interview he did with his alma mater, a Catholic college in Milwaukee. It seems that service trips he went on in high school and college made him decide to spend time with Mother Teresa’s sisters in Kolkata, serving the poorest of the poor there. It seems he was not married and that he had dedicated his life to telling the story of the poor and suffering, as a journalist.

He must have been an extraordinary person, though, who followed what had to have been a true calling from God. From james foleywhat I can tell, a calling is something that a person feels they must do and they do it well while most people would not do it for any amount of compensation. I know that is a simple way to put something so mysterious, but it is the way I’ve seen genuine callings played out in peoples’ lives for many years now. I went to Kolkata too, thinking that maybe that was my calling, but in the midst of such suffering and poverty, I only experienced desolation there. I could not handle being around so much suffering. He must have experienced some sort of consolation there, just as Mother Teresa did, and I’m sure he brought a lot of smiles to that dark place and to all the dark places he went since then. Clearly, I do not have what it takes to follow the same path he was called to follow, but, as a fellow 40 year old who loves people, I appreciate his integrity and his dedication to his call.


As a fellow Christian, I think about a warm reception heaven has for him and the other folks he’ll “meet” in heaven who get him and can relate to his calling which was so unusual and so dangerous. God bless his family and God give them comfort.



Here’s a link to the family’s official website:

Here is a link to some of his work


Here is the text of a letter to his family which he asked a soon-to-be-released hostage to memorize for him:

“I remember so many great family times that take me away from this prison,” he said. “Dreams of family and friends take me away and happiness fills my heart. I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all especially when I pray. I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray.”