A Purposeful Life
After the death of her beloved husband, Barry trustee and alumna Neta Kolasa joined the Order of Malta and embraced its mission to give to the sick and needy
By Richard A. Webster
Since she joined the Order of Malta in November of 2005, Barry University trustee Dr. Neta Kolasa ’75, MSW, has made an effort to shed light on any mystery surrounding the ancient Roman Catholic organization and its mission. In February, for example, she spoke before 50 members of the Council of Catholic Women at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton. As the featured speaker for the annual meeting, she was invited to talk about her investiture into the Order and its mission to help the sick and the poor.
Since her investiture into the Order at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, Kolasa, a psychologist and native of Detroit, has actively participated in its mission, bringing the Eucharist to the suffering at the Boca Raton Community Hospital. She also described how the organization has helped enhance her spiritual development, but, more importantly, it has given her the opportunity to lift up the suffering.
“The Order has shown me generosity and support and in return I am giving back that same generosity and support to those most in need,” Kolasa said.
As the oldest charitable organization in the world, the Order of Malta dates back to around 1048 when merchants from the ancient Marine Republic of Amalfi obtained authorization to build a church, convent and hospital in Jerusalem to care for pilgrims of any religious faith or race. Today, the Order has about 3,100 members in the United States and 12,500 worldwide. It carries out humanitarian activities in more than 120 countries and runs hospitals, medical centers, nursing homes for the elderly and the disabled, and special centers for the terminally ill.
Kolasa’s involvement with the Order of Malta and her dedication to the sick and dying can be traced back to the loss of her beloved husband, John, more than 12 years ago. John Kolasa was 68 years old when he died and was a person who believed in providing loving support for those in need.
“We die when God says it’s time to come home,” Kolasa said. “It was a very beautiful death. He was fully alive, highly functional, enjoying his life right up to the last moment. Now what can be more beautiful?”
Kolasa’s ability to find grace in even the most painful of life’s experiences is a testament to her faith and inner strength, said Father John O’Grady, former chair of Barry University’s theology department.
“At first John’s death was extremely difficult for her,” O’Grady said. “But family and friends and especially her church supported her. It was a great help in overcoming that type of loss, and she in turn has devoted much of her life to helping others in need.”
In fact, since the death of her husband, Kolasa has volunteered her time to help fellow widows and widowers by offering bereavement services. “I know the agony and pain of losing the love of my life, so I find it gratifying to work with these people. It’s all about giving comfort and being there for them.”
It was this spirit of caring that inspired former Barry University trustee Frank Crippen to nominate her to the Order of Malta. “She’s kind, generous and I thought she was a perfect fit,” he said.
Although Kolasa has been involved in charitable work for many years, she said her investiture into the Order of Malta has reinforced her belief that the main goal of anyone’s life should be to love, care for and serve others. “Through the Order, I hope to continue my spiritual development and give to the sick and needy,” she said.
And when her time comes to “go home to God,” Kolasa said she hopes it is because she has served God’s purpose as best she understands it. She hopes that her epitaph will read, “She walked with God … and then she disappeared. God took her home.”