Evelyn Quander Rattley jokes that her mailman refers to her neighborhood in Northeast Washington as “the Holy Land,” due to its proximity to the Franciscan Monastery, and also other Catholic landmarks like the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where Rattley, who is 90, typically drives her 31-year-old, brownish-red Volvo for daily Mass. She herself calls her home, “the museum,” for it is filled with family photos, like one of her father in his World War I Army uniform, and her collection of teapots and African artifacts. Fifty years ago, she and her husband Thaddeus, a longtime employee of the U.S. Postal Service, moved into that house, and in that home she cared for him in his last years, until he died of congestive heart failure and diabetes in 1991. Now she starts each day the same way. “I take each day as it comes,” she said. “I begin every day, as I open my eyes, I say, ‘Thank you, Lord for another day,’ and I ask the Lord to order my steps.” Then she prays the rosary in bed, before checking her calendar for that day’s activities, which might include getting together with the Sweet Magnolias – a group of older ladies who play poker for pennies. Evelyn is a member of St. Benedict the Moor Ladies of Charity whose activities include bagging nutritious breakfasts for homeless women in Catholic Charities’ Cup of Joe program. She is also a longtime member of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Council of Catholic Women and its Sodality Union. In recognition of her service to the Catholic Church, the past two cardinal archbishops of Washington have presented Rattley with special honors. Cardinal McCarrick, now the archbishop emeritus of Washington, presented her with the Order of Merit medal, and earlier this year, she received the Manifesting the Kingdom Award from Cardinal Wuerl. But to Rattley, her greatest honor comes in serving the Church in quiet ways. “I like to be behind the scenes and help others,” she said. Three times each month, she serves as a weekend sacristan at St. Benedict the Moor Parish in Washington, where she has been a member since the parish began in 1946. She unlocks the side gate and the doors of the church, and then prepares the altar for Mass. “I feel the presence of the Lord there,” she said. “When I open up the church and walk in there, the most awesome feeling comes over me. There’s no one there but the Lord and me. I feel quiet and peaceful. I feel at home.” Fittingly, St. Benedict the Moor Parish recently hosted Rattley’s 90th birthday party, a few days after her Oct. 8 birthday.
The Quanders: Since 1684, an Enduring African-American Legacy was released on January 29, 2021 and is available for purchase. Written and published by author and family historian, Judge Rohulamin Quander, this is the first detailed, historical account of the internationally known Quander family, one of the oldest documented African American families in the country with a 350 year lineage dating back to colonial Maryland. This new book is the first primary single source encapsulating this fascinating, multi-century story.