Mercy Associate learned compassion from Irish immigrant parents

Ann Marie Dolphin (provided photo)
Ann Marie Dolphin (provided photo)

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Ann Marie Dolphin, 58, Mercy Associate, works part time for New York State Assemblyman Mike Miller.

Lives in Glendale, Queens, N.Y.

Ann Marie, is there any family member or friend you would credit for contributing to your sensitivity to others?

My parents, Bridget and Eugene Dolphin, would be the people I would most credit with teaching me to be compassionate and kind to people you meet. My parents were Irish immigrants who came to America in the 1950s and faced great adversity. These difficulties never hardened them or made them bitter.

My mother was an introverted, kind, gentle and deeply religious woman. Her acts of kindness were always done in quiet ways so as to not bring attention to herself.

My father was the extrovert, always joking and kidding around. He had a big heart. He would talk very easily to strangers and enjoyed striking up a conversation. He gave of his time and always offered a helping hand.

Can you give any examples of the compassion and sensitivity your parents passed on to your siblings and you?

One time my parents were out at JFK Airport and they met a Dominican nun — a perfect stranger. The nun's flight had been canceled and she was going to have to spend the night at the airport. My parents took her home and gave her a hot meal and a warm bed. The next day, they drove her back to the airport. A few months later, my parents received a beautiful black-yellow afghan, which the nun had sent as a thank-you.

After our father died, a man named Frank called from prison and inquired about our father. We told him our father had passed. He was upset and started crying. Our father had been sending money to the man in prison. My father had worked with the man and they weren't good friends and yet my father regularly had my mother sending money for him to be able to buy cigarettes or whatever he wanted but couldn't afford. My father felt sorry for the man because he'd made a terrible mistake that ended him up in prison for a long time.

Where and with whom did you grow up?

 I grew up mostly in Glendale, Queens, with my Mom and Dad and eight brothers and sisters (Leo, Tommy, Michael, Monica, Eugene, Susan, Bridget and Sean). My siblings are near and dear to me. I count them as some of my closest friends. They have been there over the years to lend a helping hand or just to hang out and enjoy the company we share.

 Unfortunately, our brother Tommy died in 1986 in a truck accident at the young age of 25 years old. It was then that I learned an important lesson: Life is fragile and short. Five years later, we buried our mother and father in 1991. They died nine months apart.

Three significant losses in a short period of time made a lasting impression on me. Learn to forgive easily. Appreciate those you love, for you never know what tomorrow brings.

What schools did you attend?

 I attended Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians (St. Mary's in Woodside) until fifth grade, St. Pancras sixth to eighth grade; graduated and went Christ the King HS. Going to night school, I attended St. John's University and received an associate's degree in business administration and then Adelphi University for my bachelor's in management and communications and a certificate in financial planning.

When, where and how did you meet your husband?

I met my husband, Richard Siemer, in the South Street Seaport in 1987. We discovered that we both shared an enjoyment of dancing, singing and sports. He played softball and I enjoyed playing volleyball. We also share a sense of humor and laughter — an important component in any relationship. This year we celebrated our 25th year of marriage.

Please tell us about him, your children, their accomplishments and your hopes for them.

My husband, Richard, is kind-hearted, sensitive and has a great sense of humor. He graduated from Hunter College with a bachelor's degree and received his master's degree from Pace University. He worked for over 30 years for [the New York City Human Resources Administration].

One of his great accomplishments was that while in a position of authority he had an open-door policy for all of his employees. He would help his employees with personal matters such as flexible work schedules and job changes and personal difficulties. Richard knew that happy employees were more productive. His employees were sorry to see him go when he retired in 2014 as they lost a caring leader. He currently works part time as a consultant.

Our sons, Christopher and Connor, both graduated from St. Pancras School. Christopher went to Regis High School and graduated from Williams College in June 2016 with a bachelor's degree. Christopher is very interested in writing and has a real flair for any creative endeavor. Christopher applied recently for an internship to start in January and I hope he is selected.

Connor graduated from Xavier High School, where he participated for four years in their drama program and was in seven plays. Currently, he's a junior at Binghamton University. Connor has a real passion for acting and writing and hopes to pursue a career in the theater. Connor recently was cast in a film, "The Rainbow Experiment," and hopes that this film will be in a festival sometime in the next year or two.

What do you think God is asking of you?

God is asking me to use my talents to make a difference in people's lives. A simple kindness no matter how small can have a lasting ripple effect. "Do it today" is a good motto!

How do you respond to that?

When someone suffers a loss or is dealing with medical issues, I try to be supportive with a card, goodies or a visit. When I see the underdog struggling, I offer support and encouragement.

My current part-time position allows me to advocate for people who are in need of social services, housing or assistance with community issues.

Volleyball has been a lifelong passion of mine. Working on creating local teams and coaching young ladies over the years has been a source of enjoyment, community and accomplishment. Also, I try to participate in fundraising efforts and lend my efforts and resources.

What do you do to enrich your faith?

Besides weekly attendance at Mass, I try to practice the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy throughout the month. Also, I enjoy reading inspirational stories of modern-day saints, such as Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, or ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their everyday life.

Do you have any other religious practices?

I carry rosary beads in my bag which remind me of my mother and serve as a reminder to pray. Anytime I hear sad stories about what people are going through, I say a silent prayer of support for them.

I try to practice an attitude of gratitude in my praying. I am grateful to God for all he has given me. Over the years, I have had health issues and thank God often for having brought me through these difficulties.

What makes you sad?

I get really sad when I hear news stories of children being battered and abused, senior citizens being scammed out of their life savings.

In addition, there seems to be an erosion of civility, there is such a focus on self — rather than a care for other people. There is such greed in the world and some people never have enough money, enough possessions. These are some of the things that make me sad.

What gives you joy?

Time spent with my husband, children and extended family and friends. Just being together, either sharing a meal or a good laugh, gives me joy. I am a simple person with simple pleasures.

How do you relax?

I enjoy reading, playing volleyball, doing crosswords, walking on the boardwalk at Rockaway Beach. I like listening to music (classical and Irish), tending to my plants at home and work.

If you could fix one thing in the world, what would that be?

It would be that we could live in peace. It seems that there is great global turmoil. If people could just find ways to have peace within themselves and with those close to them, that could be a good place to start.

Is there anything else you'd like us to know?

Within the past year, I have taken and printed the words of this poem to serve as a reminder: "Carpe Diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have; it is later than you think."

We always think we have more time than we really do, so if you want to do good — do it today!

Thank you so much, Ann Marie.

[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: 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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