By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published November 25, 2010
Just a few years after starting a job ministry at her parish of St. Thomas Aquinas, Anita Neidert found herself in the same situation as many of the people she helped.
Last Nov. 1, Neidert received a notice saying the company for which she did contract work was filing for bankruptcy and all employees would be laid off by the first of December.
It was a tough pill to swallow approaching the holidays, especially with the economy struggling in its own right. The notice came as a complete surprise since Neidert did not fully realize the financial problems the company was having. Since she also had experience working in a job ministry, she knew exactly how tough the job market was at the time.
“I could see that there was a dramatic downturn in jobs. I knew right away that it was going to be a tough time,” she said. “All of us go through these struggles at one time or another, so when you lose your job and there’s little or no money coming in, you’re thinking, ‘How am I going to pay the mortgage? How am I going to put food on the table?’”
But Neidert and her husband, Jerry, stayed strong in faith and continued to move forward with confidence. Shortly after being laid off, Neidert established her own environmental and chemical consulting company, began networking with contacts she made during the last several years and a few months later landed a contract with the federal government. It was a humble amount of money but nonetheless an encouraging sign that things would be OK.
However, the struggles continued. About the time Neidert was to begin contract work with her new company, she was diagnosed with melanoma. Fortunately, it was caught early enough and Neidert was able to undergo successful surgery in May. This was the month her contract work was to begin, and she knew she had to continue working while she recovered from surgery.
“OK, you’ve got to persevere, you’ve got to keep right on going,” she told herself as she juggled everything that was happening in her life at the time. “You do have to let go, and you have to believe that God will provide.”
In June, just when Neidert started to feel better and get back into the swing of things, she got news that her father-in-law, on his 86th birthday, had been in a car accident. He died on Father’s Day. It was another hill to climb in an already difficult situation and one that continued to humble Neidert and her family.
Neidert found herself dedicating more time to her church community and volunteering. She felt it helped her deal with her own situation to work with other people, often finding solace in learning that others were also struggling, some more than she was, she said.
Serving other people “helps you to see that you are helping others who are in worse shape than you … and you end up helping yourself get through those tough times,” she said.
Serving as a cantor at Mass also provided comfort as Neidert sang the words of the psalms with a new perspective.
“The psalms started to really help me,” she said, because she could relate the ancient words of struggle, of prayer and of petition to her contemporary journey of faith and its valleys.
As time went on, Neidert’s business started to pick up steam. She landed an additional, part-time contract, which eventually led to a full-time opportunity for her company. Neidert was offered the job on Nov. 1, one year to the day since she learned she was being laid off.
As Neidert looks back at the last year, she remembers many struggles but remains joyful at the presence of God in her life, which often she experienced through her family and faith community. This Thanksgiving will mark the close of an “interesting year” but one that strengthened her relationships and her faith.
Neidert said this Thankgiving she is most thankful that these difficult experiences brought her closer to her husband.
“We each had our own things we had to suffer through, and we had to pull on each other’s strengths,” she said.
“We were just sitting at dinner a few nights ago saying, ‘It’s really amazing that we grew so much closer and closer to the church and we didn’t realize that’s what we were doing,’” Neidert said.
“I am extraordinarily thankful to my church and parish because I think they got me through this year,” she added. “It is because of them and my feelings of needing to support the parish and help others that I got through tough times.”