I got to know Dolly as a young adult, a newcomer to the parish. She was welcoming and all embracing, but in her Dolly way. I was looking for a photo of Dolly to include with this post and came across this article from NCR a few years back. The article tells the story of St Philip's Muddy Boot Organic Festival and how Dolly got connected with the project, which brought attention to the connection between a concern for the environment and faith/spirituality. I think it also encapsulates well my experience of this woman so I'm going to quote the parts that reference her.
Muddy Boot today is a big undertaking. Some 200 volunteers put in more than 1,000 hours total to bring it together, but even with all that work, it’s easier today than that first year, organizers recall.
Martin said he made a point to reach out to all different groups in the parish community, to ground it in the parish’s mainstream. Among those was Dolly Lomax, also on the parish council in 2006, who needed some convincing.
“I thought they were all nuts!” she told NCR, laughing. With most of the other founding organizers in their 30s and early 40s, Lomax, 75 and a member of St. Philip Neri “since I was born,” calls herself “the odd duck.” Her first reaction, she said, was to ask, “Who’s going to eat organically, for God’s sake?”
They needed her on board, she said, “because I could get volunteers.” And, as a leader of the Altar Society, she has provided them, a cadre of older women working the kitchen, keeping the food and drink going out.
She and fellow organizer Matthew Ford, 36, recalled how she came into a meeting that first year demanding to know why she should pay $5 for a pound of organic butter, when the mass-produced butter was only $1.50. “We were having popcorn that first year,” Lomax said. “I had to get organic butter, organic oil, organic popcorn.”
“It took a little explaining,” Ford said.
So Dolly wasn't your roll over and play nice kind of person. She was spirited and spunky and when she had a question, she'd ask it. But she also had a heart two sizes too big. She was committed to the mission of the parish, and when she saw some younger folks coming who were interested in living their faith through a commitment to social justice, she respected that, welcomed them, and even got involved in new ways that she didn't always understand.
These days of course I'm in Chicago, and I've been away from St. Phil's since I entered the community almost eight years ago. But it's hard to believe that she's passed away and is no longer a part of the St Phil's community.
Of course, she is, just in a different way. When I heard on Sunday that Dolly had passed away, my first thought was what a powerful advocate, friend and guide we now have in heaven. You don't mess with Dolly, and I imagine she may have some big questions for a certain someone now that she's got more immediate access. But I also imagine that with her big heart and deep love, she's got her attention tuned into what's going on here and will be praying for us with her customary gusto.
Goodbye Dolly. Thanks for everything.