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placeholder April 6, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA
Living legend brings Scripture to life

Rose Lafferty still teaches a Bible class at age 99

After Mary Lucido was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a number of years ago, a concerned friend advised her to read the Bible to find strength for this new journey. Although she appreciated her friend's concern and sentences of Scripture her friend gave her, Lucido didn't want to have much to do with the book.

"I didn't understand it," Lucido said. "It scared me."

Even after a second person suggested that Lucido might benefit from reading the Bible, she put the idea aside because she was too busy: With a husband and two sons to raise; she was too tired, the class was held too late in the evening after work, "and so on and so forth," she said.

But then one day the pastor announced at Mass that a Bible study group was forming at the parish and that's when Lucido said that she finally got the hint: Go to Bible class. This class was led by Rose Lafferty, a wise and spiritual woman who had gained a lot of knowledge from years of studying the Bible.

Despite her trepidations, Lucido began attending the Bible study course led by Lafferty. It didn't take long for the once Bible-phobic woman to experience a quick turnaround. "I'm not afraid of the Bible anymore." And she credits Lafferty, a former high school teacher turned spiritual adviser and friend, for helping her to understand what the Bible was about.

"Rose made the Bible so easy to understand," Lucido said. She realized also that the Bible was speaking to her. "It was about illness, how to deal with it and more," she said. "I was uplifted."

Rose Lafferty is a living legend at St. Ignatius of Antioch Parish in Antioch, where she is a "charter member." The parish was established in 1979 from part of the older Most Holy Rosary Parish and Lafferty has ministered there from the very start. In addition to teaching Bible study, she spent many years leading the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) program and serving as a lector.

At the age of 99 — she turns 100 on May 20 — Lafferty still contributes to parish life by leading a Bible-sharing group. About six to eight persons attend these weekly sessions held in the parish hall. They read, pray and discuss the readings for the upcoming Sunday Mass.

Lafferty, born and raised a Catholic, didn't become interested in the Bible until she was a high school teacher. A voracious reader, she read a book by John McKenzie, considered the premier Catholic Biblical scholar of his generation, and soon she was hooked on the Bible.
"I fell in love with the Bible, just fell in love with the Bible, and I read everything I could read about it," Lafferty said. "I just ate it up."

To satisfy that craving, Lafferty began attending classes about the Bible, going to every Catholic college in the Bay Area that offered a class about the Bible. She also went to lectures taught by prominent Catholic scholars like the late theologian Rev. Raymond Brown. "I just had to learn more and more."

Gradually the more that she wanted to know about the Bible, the more she wanted to share with others what she had learned. That led her to approach her then pastor, Father Robert Adams, who served at St. Michael Parish in Livermore from 1964 to 1995, and said to him, "'I would like to teach about the Bible.'" Her first students were attending high school. She still has students eager to read and learn the Bible.

Angie Padilla, another member of Lafferty's Thursday morning Bible-sharing group, said that in addition to reading the week's Sunday reading, she often picks up the Bible to read the entire passage that reading is based on. Examining the readings in this way "enhances and enriches God's message," she said. "I know that God loves me."

"Rose has truly been a matriarch in this community," said Rev. Robert Rien, St. Ignatius pastor. He noted that Lafferty has contributed and has been actively involved with so many of the parish's fundraisers and ministries. "We are so grateful for all that she has given us."
"She lives her baptism," Father Rien said.

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