He learned to give much to others

John Butts, with his mother, Antoinette Butts, and, seated, aunt, Phyllis Greco. (Provided photo)
John Butts, with his mother, Antoinette Butts, and, seated, aunt, Phyllis Greco. (Provided photo)

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John Butts, Mercy Associate and director of marketing at a pharmacy benefits management company 
Age: 52
Lives in  Havertown, Pa.

Sr. Camille: John, where and with whom did you grow up?

John Butts: I spent my childhood spent with family members. I was born with a heart murmur to parents who both had to work in order to support our family of five. They left me in the caring and loving hands of my maternal (Italian) grandmother. Grandmom Greco lived in the heart of South Philadelphia in the Italian Market (now known as Bella Vista) in St. Paul's Parish. Grandmom lived with her two daughters, my Aunts Phyllis and Anna. You can say I was surrounded by much love and was spoiled beyond compare.

I grew up in Saint Monica's Parish -- because when Catholics ask you where you grew up, you always answer in what parish.

What schools did you attend?

St. Monica's School through eighth grade where I was taught by the IHMs for whom I had a special fondness and for whom my grandmother wound up cooking for several years to earn much needed income. So I spent many days in the convent kitchen being surrounded by love and love of Christ.

With whom do you live now?

I live with my partner of 18 years, Michael. This was a struggle in the beginning, because of my faith and upbringing. It wasn't until much later in life that I learned from the Sisters of Mercy that 'God truly and deeply loves me.' And, while my partner has turned away from the church, although raised by a devout Irish Catholic mother, he is very supportive of my love and need to be a part of a church that I believe is changing and accepting.

Did you have a role model or special hero?

My grandmother/mother and aunts were my greatest role models, as they taught me how to love and give. I believe my mom, who was taught by the Sisters of Mercy in High School, herself could have been an RSM. She loved everyone, and with little means she, like her mother before her, gave so much to others, whether in words, deeds, food or prayers.

How did you experience that love?

My mom would always make you feel so very loved and welcomed. As a young child she would often hug me to her chest and call me her Baby (Grandmom always called me her Johnny Boy). One day when I was too young to fully understand the female anatomy, but asked anyway, my mom told me that she had two hearts to love me. That stuck with me throughout my life and from that day I would often sign my cards or end my conversations with, 'I love you with my two hearts!' I figured I must've had two, too! And it stuck. As she lay dying and very out of it, I prayed with her and told her all the things I hoped she already knew, I then whispered, 'I love you.' Mom opened her eyes and said, 'With my two hearts!' She fell back to sleep and went to heaven in the middle of that night.

Mom also had a great fondness for the Pink Sisters (Adoration Sisters). Whenever anyone was ill or having some problems she quickly tell them she would pray for them and then call the sisters to add them to their daily prayer list too. When my Mom passed, I went to visit them and the sister who greeted me from behind the bars knew exactly who my mom was and what a beautiful and spiritual person she was.

I'd like to share one last mom story. My mom would end every conversation, phone call or closing to a card or greeting with, 'I love you!' One day when I was 5, my sister and I greeted the milkman who came to deliver the weekly milk. My mother quickly engaged in conversation, asking for his wife and kids by first name and then handing him a bag of clothes for his family. He always called her Mrs. Butts and thanked her sincerely, as she said goodbye, my sister and I swore we heard her say, 'I love you!' I love you to the milkman? We both looked horrified and quickly called my grandmother to say, 'Mommy is in love with the milkman!' to which my grandmother responded, 'Oh your mom loves everybody.' Of course within 10 minutes she and my aunt arrived at our house to check in. 

I have been so truly blessed to have so much love from these women and now from my affiliation and friendship with so many of the Sisters of Mercy.

What is your current profession?

I am the director of marketing and public relations for PerformRx, a pharmacy benefits management company which is part of AmeriHealth Caritas Family of Companies (formerly AmeriHealth/Keystone Mercy).

Where is it located?

In Philadelphia near the airport.

What prepared you for that role?

I spent 17 years prior to that at Independence Blue Cross as director of Medicare, as I loved working with senior citizens.

What are its challenges?

Meeting the needs of the clients, as each as specific needs and timelines they would like them to be met in.

And its satisfactions?

At the end of every event, I feel this great sense of accomplishment whether it's through the accolades and thank you's received or just knowing that we connected with someone.

Great satisfactions come from my work, whether through my position on boards like: Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, ActionAIDS, CARIE or from volunteering/helping with HOPE Partnership, previously with Little Brothers, G. Fred's Footsteps, and others. 

The difference we make in the communities where we live, work and pray gives such great blessings in return.

How does your faith affect your life?

In every way. I recall a song I learned in elementary school, with the refrain being: 'And they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they will know we are Christians by our love.'

I also believe in the quote: 'To whom much is given, much is expected.' We are so blessed in so many ways, but we never really stop and think, nor thank God for all he has given us. And what he asks us for his love. Love one another as I have loved you!

God has placed us all here for a time and for a reason, until we live in the fullness of heaven. I love Catherine's words of: 'Oh what joy to know we will all meet again. ...' I am praying for that day when I see my mom, grandmom and aunts.

How and with whom do you pray?

Mostly quietly, with the exception of weekly Mass. I am looking to join a local prayer group.

I have a special fondness for the Chaplet of Mercy, but also love our prayers ingrained in us as youths, Our Father and Hail Mary. I especially say these during takeoff and landing when traveling.

Through my Mercy Associate discernment period I have learned many new ways and forms in which to pray. I enjoy walks where I can see God's beauty all around us, if we allow our hearts and eyes to see it. I enjoy quiet meditation, but also prayer through song. I have several favorites, such as the 'Servant Song,' 'Summons,' 'City of God' and a very special fondness these last several years to the 'Circle of Mercy' and 'Catherine's Suscipe.'

You see when I came to PerformRx (which is owned by AmeriHealth Caritas, formerly AmeriHealth Mercy) is when I found the Sisters of Mercy.

It was a tough transition with the loss of my mother and in a totally new career with lots of young people who knew what they were doing, but not necessarily wanting to share.

The struggle was so great, I went to my boss to say I couldn't stay and he suggested I go and meet with Sr. Renee Yann, who was our Chief Mission and Values Officer.  

That thoughtful and compassionate advice from by boss and the meeting not only saved my career, which I now have been at for seven years, but also changed my life to a better understanding of true faith and mercy.

You see I didn't just meet a Sister of Mercy — I met mercy. Very much alive and exemplary in every word and action of Sr. Renee Yann. Was it her words, her compassionate and committed listening or the warm hug and assurance that all would be good with faith in God's plan?  

Sister Renee then introduced me to all that Mercy did in the communities where we live, work and pray. Through that introduction, I found out about the Mercy Associate Program, and Sister Renee was my sponsor along with Sr. Ann Provost of Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, which I now proudly serve on the board of.

These wonderful, loving, faith filled and caring women continue the legacy of Catherine McAuley and all the sisters whose shoulders they stand to reach further to hold the hands of God's people and join in the Circle of Mercy.

[Mercy Sr. Camille D'Arienzo, broadcaster and author, narrates Stories of Forgiveness, a book about people whose experiences have caused them to consider the possibilities of extending or accepting forgiveness. The audiobook, renamed Forgiveness: Stories of Redemptionis available from Now You Know Media.]

Editor's note: This story has been updated. We can send you an email alert every time Sr. Camille's column, Conversations with Sr. Camille, is posted. Go to this page and follow directions: Email alert signup.

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