Parish Volunteers: Jean Reale believes timing is everything

ABOVE: The Reale Family: John, Jean, Matthew, Christopher and Chewy.

Nearly everyone in the parish knows John Reale Jr. and his mom and dad. Getting to be almost equally as well known is John’s wife, Jean. They have been married for 12 years, and Jean has taken on more prominent volunteer roles in the parish. To paraphrase “Law and Order,” this is her story.

Nearly everyone in our parish knows your husband. How did you two connect?

John and I met through the online dating site in March of 2009. We were both nervous and skeptical, but it worked out. I believe that our faith, love and devotion to the Lord is what brought us together. Timing is everything, and though we met later in life, I believe in the saying, “Good things come to those who wait.”

How did your relationship progress?

In May of 2009, we had our first date, and by November on our six-month anniversary, John proposed to me with both our parents’ blessings. He proposed at the Florentine Café where we had our first date. I ordered a crème puff, and when the waitress brought it out, there in the middle of the crème puff was the exquisite ring with the words “Marry Me” written on the plate in raspberry sauce. I was so excited. I shouted “YES!” of course.

Eleven months later we were married at Mount Carmel Church on Oct. 30, 2010, with a beautiful Mass and ceremony celebrated with all our family and friends. After the ceremony when we stepped outside, John surprised me with a performance by the Red Band. What a unique and thoughtful gift. I loved it.

When John asked me if we could exchange our vows at Mount Carmel, I was honored. Attending Mass with him and meeting all the parish community that welcomed me with open arms it has truly been an inspirational and faith growing experience becoming a member of St. Mary of Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament Parish.

John and you love to volunteer in our parish. What are some of the things you do?

I am a eucharistic minister at 10:30 Mass on Sunday. My husband and I have been volunteers on the Marriage Team for several years talking to couples that were planning to be married in our parish about our experiences in being newly married and how faith plays an important role in marriage. I am a volunteer at our parish festival in July, helping to make our famous pizza fritta. I have helped decorate the church for Easter and have been a participant in the Easter Vigil Mass for many years, helping with the water bowls and carrying the banner. It is truly one of my favorite services to attend. The music, the symbolism and the parish community coming together are what make it so enjoyable.

Why is volunteering in our parish important to you?

It is a rewarding experience that helps me feel more connected to God, gives me a sense of purpose and I like to help do good for others, such as the parish community. It is also a wonderful way for me to express my gratitude and strengthen my faith.

You and your family love the outdoors. What are your favorite things to do?

We love camping — we have a seasonal site in the Adirondacks that we spend our summer weekends at. We enjoy hiking, boating, swimming and taking in all that nature has to offer. Sitting by the campfire roasting marshmallows and making Smores or going out for ice cream. We like spending time together as a family going on family trips, like Hershey Park this past summer and Disney World three years ago.

You love to travel, too. What are some of your favorite place?

My favorite all-time place to travel to is Italy. John and I both shared the same dream to one day go to Italy and we did for our honeymoon in May of 2011 for 10 days with a tour group. It was a dream come true. We saw all the popular tourist sites from Rome to Florence, to Tuscany, Venice, Capri and finally Positano along the Amalfi Coast. It was a trip like no other that we will have many amazing lasting memories and we promised ourselves we would return for our 25th wedding anniversary.

It seems from the day you were born, family has been a priority. Describe what your life has been like.

I am the oldest of two. I was born Aug. 15, 1975, in Syracuse, and I have a sister Kelly, who is two years younger than I. My parents have been married 48 years and are semi-retired, living locally. I attended Catholic school through grade 3 and then public school in North Syracuse before my father was relocated for his job to Massachusetts, where I attended high school, college and worked for a few years before returning to New York when my dad was relocated again, this time to the Utica area for his job.

I was 21 when we returned to New York where I lived in Whitesboro for 14 years before meeting John. We have a family dog, a Shih-tzu named Chewy. We adopted him in August of 2021 during COVID. He is an energetic, fun loving, playful and affectionate dog that we quickly became in love with and happy to have as part of our family.

The one thing I am most grateful for is my family. They are a constant, they have brought joy and craziness to my life, they give me purpose and remind me of God’s love.

You have two sons, Matthew and Christopher — both born in the same month. How convenient!

Matt was born June 11, 2012, our first, followed two years later by Christopher, born June 23, 2014. Yes, both were born in June, which was not planned, but helps make it simpler to have one combined birthday party. Matthew is now 10 and in fifth grade, loves soccer, video gaming, riding his bike, building with LEGOS and is a member of the Cub Scouts.

Christopher is now 8 and in third grade. He loves martial arts, is a green belt after just 14 months. Learning to play the violin for the first time, is a video gamer and happiest when he is jumping on the trampoline doing flips and tricks. Both boys are altar servers at 10:30 Mass on Sunday and attend religious-ed classes regularly.

How would you describe your faith growing up and how does that compare to what it is now?

I would describe my faith growing up as a constant and very important in helping to instill many values and beliefs that I have incorporated in my life from childhood to adulthood. I attended religious-ed classes, received my sacraments through Confirmation, attended church every Sunday, holidays and Holy Days of Obligation with my family. As well, my parents were volunteers in many ways throughout the parish we belonged to when I was a child. I also attended Catholic school from K-3.

To compare my faith to what it is now, I would say I have developed a deeper understanding of God and why it is so important to have him in my life and to share that with my children. My husband and I continue to raise our boys as both our parents did in the Catholic faith so that we can encourage spiritual growth in their daily lives and to help them find meaning, purpose and happiness in life.

It seems like you and John were destined to be together. Do you feel that way and do you believe God had a hand in it?

Yes, I do believe John and I were destined to be together, and that God absolutely had a hand in bringing us together. I believe in the saying, “Good things come to those who wait.” And it sure did. I felt comfortable being myself around him and I knew within a few months he was the one I was going to marry and spend the rest of my life with.

What advice do you have for young people who believe there might not be a match for them out there?

Do not give up, have faith in God and take time to understand yourself. If you are a happy, positive and self-confident person, then the right person will come along. And you will know the right person for you will be someone you know you want and need in your life and adds to your life in ways you most value. As the saying goes, “Love comes along when you least expect it.”

Jean Reale

  • Age: 47.
  • Family: Husband John, sons Matthew and Christopher.
  • Education: Graduated in 1996 from Springfield Technical Community College in Springfield, Mass., with an associate degree in applied science.
  • Employment: Clinton Tractor and Implement Co. for four years as a part time accounts payable administrator. Before that I worked at the Bank of New York in Oriskany for 19 years in the Reconciliation, Accounting and Tax Departments.
  • Things I like to do in my spare time: Bake. Decorating our house, especially for the holidays. Watching a good movie with a bowl of popcorn.
  • Favorite movie: “The Goonies.”
  • Favorite TV show: “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD.”
  • Favorite musical artists: Michael Buble’ and Josh Groban.
  • Favorite quote: (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8A) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. … And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”