October 2011 The Catholic Spirit

The Catholic Spirit newspaper published this article on Audrey Sommers' lector workshops following her speaking engagement in Metchuen, New Jersey. You will find valuable tips on your ministry as a lector by reading this.

Livonia woman's award-winning show airs on Catholic television (July 1, 2012)

by: Sharon Dargay (O&E Staff Writer)

Published Sunday, July 1, 2012 in the Livonia Observer and in neighboring suburban editions.

Audrey Sommers has made a career out of kindness

When the Livonia woman found a tattered monarch butterfly at a beach, she took it home in a shoebox, nursed it with sugar water and gave it shelter in her garden. And, with the help of a heat lamp and fresh flowers, she extended “Howie” the butterfly's life some three months.

She recently turned the experience into a children's book and is working with a publisher toward an autumn release. When Sommers, a lifelong Catholic, noticed several years ago that some lectors spoke in monotone at Mass, she created a training program to help laypersons improve their lackluster delivery.

Today, as the lector trainer for the Archdiocese of Detroit, she speaks at churches across the country and is a lector at St. Colette in Livonia. Her DVD, Lector and Gospel Reader's Workshop: A Resource for Bringing God's Word to Life, won a Telly award and is sold world-wide.

When Sommers, a former Channel 50 anchorwoman, heard about the Salter family of Dearborn, she knew their story would inspire others. She and a video crew spent hours with Mike and Ellen Salter and their children — including daughter, Meghan, who requires 24-hour care. The show forms the pilot of what Sommers hopes will become a television series about maintaining faith through trials and tribulations.

Stories of Faith - Meghan's Miracle, was broadcast on CTND — the Archdiocese cable station — and EWTN earlier this year. Sommers also earned an Emmy Award from the National Chapter of Television Arts and Sciences - Michigan Chapter, for the show. The 34th Annual Michigan Emmy Awards was held last month at the Motor City Casino Soundboard Theatre.

"Tears came to my eyes," Sommers recalled, adding that while accepting the award she also said, "Thank you God. This one is for you." "Looking at this huge audience of peers I said, ‘I've got to thank him first. After all, this is the religion category.’"

Making a difference

Sommers, a former writer for the Michigan Catholic and Catholic Television, said she didn't start winning awards until she traded secular work for faith-based reporting. She worked in secular broadcast news in both Michigan and Massachusetts, sometimes reporting what she calls "crime and slime" stories.

"I think I got tired of covering crime stories. I wanted to make a difference in people's lives." She won two bronze Telly awards for Angels in the Caribbean, a television special that generated thousands of dollars for Food for the Poor. Her two-part print series, Angels in the Caribbean, also received honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and earned a Herald Award.

The Redford Thurston High School graduate has taught broadcast classes at Madonna University and is a long-time volunteer model for Redford Suburban League's annual fashion show. She and her husband keep ducks at home as pets and Sommers enjoys thinking up new projects while riding her bike through the neighborhood. She's seeking a sponsor for Stories of Faith and also hopes to find a secular network to run the series that would focus on "people of all faiths and religious denominations" telling their stories.

Although Meghan's Miracle, the pilot for the show, focuses on a Catholic family, Sommers said it's not aimed at a Catholic-only audience. "When you look at it, you might say, if a family can stick together through something like this, anything is possible."

Loving, living

Meghan was just a few months old when she experienced a series of life-threatening seizures. At one point, the parish priest was called to administer Last Rites, but when he did, the seizures stopped. For the subsequent eight years, Meghan has remained mostly unresponsive and in need of 24-hour care. "I was amazed at the family&s joy. The mom is always smiling. There is so much love from this family. They paint her (Meghan&s) fingernails. They fight to be with her. A lot of times she is just lying there. She might have a little smile now and then, but the whole family exhibits joy.

"At one point the medical profession told them maybe they should pull the plug . . . they followed the teaching of the Catholic Church to do what is right," Sommers said. "The family is a shining example of togetherness and love."