By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Mary Costello stood in a parking lot across from the Congregation of the Humility of Mary motherhouse Aug. 11, hoping no one would notice the WQAD-TV truck parked next to her.
She was about to surprise her longtime friend, CHM associate Jan Pullella, as the winner of WQAD and Ascentra Credit Union’s “Pay it Forward” campaign. Costello, a parishioner of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport and a supporter of the sisters, nominated Pullella for the bi-weekly award in which $300 in cash is given on-air to a recipient who has demonstrated generosity.
Jan is a retired nurse who spent nearly two decades working for the sisters in their motherhouse. She became an associate in retirement and spends much of her free time socializing with the sisters and helping them get to and from appointments. Mary has known Jan for years, but they became particularly close after Mary suffered a minor heart attack during an outing with the sisters. “She waited 12 hours in the emergency room with me,” Mary said.
She wasn’t sure how Jan would react to receiving the award. “She’s so humble. She wouldn’t tell you the things she’s done but she’s helped me a great deal.”
WQAD reporter and anchor Jonathan Ketz shared in Mary’s excitement as they walked to the front door of the motherhouse, hand-in-hand, followed closely by a television camera. The young reporter towered over Mary, whose white hair glistened in the sunlight. They had spoken on the phone several times in planning the surprise. “We’ve talked on the phone so much, it’s almost like we’re friends now,” she said. “Best friends,” Jonathan joked back.
As they entered the motherhouse, they found Jan sitting at a table putting together a puzzle with a few of the sisters. Mary walked up to her, three $100 bills in hand. “This is for all the things you do for us,” she said, voice wavering.
Jan blushed and smiled, frozen in place. She whispered to Mary, “I don’t deserve this!”
“Are you okay?” Jonathan asked. “You’re shocked!”
For a few moments, Jan was speechless. A representative from Ascentra Credit Union, who funds the award, commented, “You can tell she’s very modest about these things.”
“Thank you! What can I say?” Jan said after a few moments.
She tried to explain — perhaps in vain — that her actions were not extraordinary. “It’s about doing unto others as you’d want them to do unto you, seeing the good in everyone. I’ve done no more than what thousands of others have done.”
She said the sisters are like family and she cherishes being able to enjoy life with them. “I loved being with them then (as a nurse) and I love working with them now.”
And while Mary would like to see Jan spend the money on herself, Jan has no intention of doing so. “I’d like to give at least part of this back to the community.”