Friday, April 20, 2018

Tribute to +Dr. Bohdan Hordinsky & +George Wieland on April 20th

   "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away!" These words of US General Douglas MacArthur at his farewell address on April 19th 1951 could easily be applied to any famous person in history. As we reminisce about two former parishioners and friends: +Dr. Bohdan Hordinsky, M.D. and +George Wieland, superintendent of schools in Drake, North Dakota and Kimball, South Dakota; we cannot help but think in terms of greatness. These men as pictured above with Irene, the doctor's wife, really affected our lives in a unique manner.
   I came to a small rural community of Drake, North Dakota, almost 30 years ago and recognized that communities can also have remarkable and exceptional individuals. +George Wieland, a native-born North Dakotan, did not have to travel thousands of miles as +Dr. Bohdan Hordinsky and his family had to, forced by misfortunes of World War II. When George came to Drake; Dr. Bohdan was already stationed there as the local physician, in addition to serving the neighboring county seat of Harvey, North Dakota. Different backgrounds, language barriers and cultural differences did not prevent them from striking a remarkable friendship and discovering they had much more in common than they imagined.
   Daniel and I were fortunate to share our common faith and human values, enjoying their hospitality and friendship. Wonderful dinners, intellectual and spiritual conversations, music (George was also choir director and organist of the Catholic Church in Drake, N.D) became an integral part of our social life. We continued our visits even after I was transferred a short distance away in Towner, N.D. We both remained friends with these wonderful families.
   +Dr. Bohdan and +George were highly respected in the surrounding communities as a very capable physician and educator respectively. Sadly, we had to bid farewell to our good doctor on April 20th 1995 when he passed away. At his funeral, it was obvious how much he was loved and respected by everyone. Lucky for us, his widow Irene Hordinsky continued to live in the community with her son, Walter until they retired to Minneapolis to be with her daughter, Dr. Maria and her husband, Dr Bohdan (Bob) Kramachuck and family. +George also retired and moved instead to South Dakota with his wife, Leona and sons, Chris and Andrew. He had a "5 year-stint" as superintendent of a high school in Kimball, South Dakota with "an easy task" of building a new school facility. Eventually both of us moved away from the area; but, the ties of friendship were never severed.
   +George and his wife, Leona traveled with us to several places in the US and around the world: Italy, Croatia and the Caribbean which cemented our friendship forever. On April 20th 2016, the same day our dear doctor had passed away; George, our brother, returned to his Maker, 21 years later. +George's funeral was held in St. Michael's Church, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and attended by peoples of all faiths and backgrounds. 
   These two honorable gentlemen both had a strong faith in God, a definitive belief in non-violence and an adherence to Christian values. They were staunch proponents of social justice, equality, compassion and liberty for all. They saw in every human person, an image and likeness of God, regardless of their national origins, religious background, level of education, social or emigration status, rich or poor alike. We hope that this tribute on April 20th may be a reminder that "those considered not great in the eyes of the world can truly make a huge and positive difference!"
   In the "Life after life" we pray that a friendship born on earth may continue to bear fruit in us and those we encounter in our individual lives. To Leona, +George's wife and to Irene, +Dr. Bohdan's wife and their families, we say, "Thank you" from the depths of our hearts for taking such good care of these two unique persons. Their memories will resonate in us as long as we shall live. We love you. God bless.  
  {Ron & Daniel, April 20th 2018, Fargo, North Dakota}

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Tribute to Father Pat O'Brien, one incredible gentleman!

News of Father Pat's passing caught me off guard as my family was burying my beloved sister-in-law, Joy. I wrote these words to share with many friends who knew him well.
            "When Irish eyes are smiling!"  that immortal 1912 song captures Father Pat O'Brien. I remember those mischievous eyes of a young Irish boy! He had the disposition of a child - kindhearted to the core and to me, the most caring Irish priest I have met and worked alongside - indeed, a true son of Ireland. Like many who worked with Pat, we knew instinctively we were in the presence of a Christian gentleman without pretensions; one who prided himself as a servant of Christ and an exemplary worker for the Church.
   Hospitality was a key element in his spirituality. Being hospitable to the guest, according to St. Benedict, was paramount in meeting Christ. "I came as a guest, and you received Me." I personally experienced this virtue in Pat's dealings with the sick, the infirm and the poor of his parish in Houma, Louisiana. He also had that uncanny flair to deal with peoples of all ages and backgrounds. A unique priest among many! When we had organized a group of youth from the Prairies of North Dakota to meet the youth of Houma, Louisiana; he said to me: "Ah... the young people finally got it! ... meeting Christ in the stranger!" He was so proud of them.
   I have numerous stories working with Father Pat in the "Lord's vineyard," as we say and will treasure them in my heart. He would often say to me: "Never forget: the customer is always right! Never undervalue or under estimate the loyalty and generosity of the common man! We're here to serve and not to be served!"
   Well done, servus servorum Dei, good servant of the servants of God, now you can enter your Father's House. Farewell. Until I see those mischievous Irish eyes, telling me one day: Welcome home!"

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Tribute to my sister-in-law who died of cancer on April 3rd

These words were read by my godchild in Trinidad at the funeral service of my sister-in-law +Joy pictured here at her wedding to my brother 33 years ago.

Ancient Egyptians believed that when they died; their God would ask them two questions. The first question was: Did you bring joy? The second: Did you find joy? How deeply etched in my memory the very first wedding I was honored to witness back home in Trinidad as a newly ordained deacon. We mourn Joy's passing and return to our Heavenly Father. I can safely say 33 years later, she remained faithful to her marriage vows that were manifested in her love for her husband and their two beloved children. Yes, indeed, my sister-in-law brought us joy and in her, we found joy!
   She was a role model as wife, mother and a teacher, helping many generations of students to discover and appreciate the gift of Science. She was a good friend, always considerate, open-minded and optimistic about life. In effect, this is what joy truly means. I am sure her kindness and joyful spirit will be remembered for many years to come. She touched many lives in a positive way; and no doubt, will be greatly missed. As the saying goes: "Our loss is heaven's gain!" Unknown to many, she was a great dancer and I loved to see her and my brother dance together. A delight to watch them: "hit the floor!"
   The very first time, I met Joy was in the local monastery as a young monk. My brother had a habit of introducing me to all his girlfriends, seeking my advice on a suitable wife. When I first say Joy; I like her immediately. While we were walking on the monastery grounds; one of the monks asked me: "Who is this pretty woman? What is her name?" I replied: "Joy!" to which he answered: "She'll be a joy to your brother!" I turned to my brother and said: "God has spoken loudly. Marry Joy!" My brother, being a smart fellow realized what a treasure he had encountered and took my advice. They were married a year later. I have many other fond memories of Joy that I will treasure in my heart. At this difficult time, we would also like to thank God for the gift of life, love and knowledge that he has bestowed upon her.
   May the author of Life and his angels now accompany her to the eternal dwelling prepared for those with loving hearts.
   May the light of the heavenly Jerusalem shine brightly on her.
   May she be embraced by Yahweh, her God, in the place where there is no more mourning, pain; but only peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
   Adieu, sister. Farewell. We love you. Until we meet again.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

An insight from Pope Francis at the Easter Vigil 2018.

"He is not here... he is risen! This is the message that sustains our hope and turns it into concrete gestures of charity. How greatly we need to let our frailty be anointed by this experience! How greatly we need to let our faith be revived! How greatly we need our myopic horizons to be challenged and renewed by this message! Christ is risen, and with him, he makes our hope and creativity rise so that we can face our present problems in the knowledge that we are not alone!" 
 (an excerpt from Pope Francis' sermon at the Easter Vigil 201

Sunday, April 1, 2018

An Easter Scripture Reflection

"She saw the stone had been moved... they have taken the Lord out of the tomb!" (Jn.20:1-2)
                   Jesus is risen, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! 
   Before this great mystery of our faith occurred; the early disciples were devastated! They believed that their hopes were smashed! Jesus, their friend, who had great promise to make a dent into the colonial power of the Romans, was gone! Jesus, in whom it would have been possible to heal the diverse differences in his native Palestine, was dead, lying in a borrowed tomb!
   On Easter morning according to our first eyewitness account, one of the women announced that he was alive, miraculously risen from the dead! There is also an ancient belief that Jesus first appeared to his mother; even though, we have no gospel evidence. I personally like this tradition because it tells me how much Jesus loved his own mother. On the other hand, we have some sad facts recorded by the disciples themselves: Peter who pledged eternal loyalty betrayed his friend; Judas sold out to the authorities; another lied to save his own skin and the rest of the men beat it into hiding like wimps while the women braved that volatile situation! Our poetic sequence says it so beautifully this Easter morning: "Not she with traitorous kiss her Savior stung... Not she who denied him with unholy tongue... She, while apostles shrunk, could danger brave... Last at this Cross, first at his grave." We can be certain that Mary of Magdala won the respect of the disciples until their earthly deaths.
   So, according to the Gospel accounts, the women disciples arrived at the tomb to continue vigil. Having discovered an empty tomb, stumbling through an earthquake, they discovered a heavenly messenger. In Galilee, the risen Christ would reassure them and provide instructions for them.
   Friends, our earliest written record of the Resurrection appears in 1Cor.15 before the Gospel accounts. Paul describes the joy of the early disciples before them:
* that we too have an awesome responsibility to proclaim the Good News to the whole world;
* that God who acted to bring Jesus from the dead, makes all life worth living;
* that we must adopt an Easter attitude in our lives;
* that we refuse to allow hostility and bitterness to destroy our world; 
* that we open our hearts to reconciliation and forgiveness.
   As Resurrection people, we must be bearers of hope and endeavor to remember Jesus' promise: 
    "I will be with you always even to the end of the world."
                   Happy Easter. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Christian Holy Week reflection

"Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
  Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the most important liturgical season for Christians! It is a time when we reflect upon the last and the most dramatic chapter of Jesus' life on earth: the Last Supper, his passion and death on the cross leading to the glory of the Resurrection (Easter Sunday). The Hosannas of the Palm Sunday crowd turned into hostile "Crucify him!" in a matter of a few days. What was the reason for the sudden change of mood?
   Jesus' solemn entrance into Jerusalem was his acknowledgement as the Promised Messiah by the majority of the people. The general feeling was that 'centuries of oppression, captivity and suffering under foreign rulers' were finally coming to an end. Yahweh, the God of Israel, is finally smiling on his people. He is sending his special messenger in the person of Jesus to set his people free and open to a new chapter of peace and prosperity. He will restore the long-gone Davidic kingdom and just like David defeat all his enemies in a violent combat. All throughout his public ministry, Jesus gave enough evidence that he was not the Messiah some of his contemporaries had in mind. He came to proclaim the Kingdom of God, an eternal and universal Kingdom extending to the whole of creation. He came as a peace-maker promoting reconciliation; justice and equality; love and forgiveness among peoples and nations. He told Pilate that he was a king, but, his kingdom was not of this world. He came as a perfecter of the New Covenant between God and us as the prophet Jeremiah had announced a long time ago. And finally, at the Last Supper, he told his disciples that he came to offer his life as a ransom for many: "Anyone who wants to be my disciple, has to take up his cross and follow in my footsteps!" For many of his followers, it was a hard talk not easily understood. One has to bear in mind that crucifixion was the horrendous form of capital punishment that the Romans inflicted on their most bitter opponents. For a Jewish person, the cross was (and still is) a sign of humiliation and defeat. There was nothing triumphant about it. When Peter tried to talk him out of it; Jesus' response was clear and unmistakable: "Get behind me Satan! For you are not thinking as God does; but as human beings do." It all became painfully obvious in the Garden of Gethsemane. 
   Following the Last Supper, Jesus invited his disciples to join him in prayer and meditation. Most of them either fell asleep or drifted away, gripped with fear and misapprehension. Alone and abandoned by friends, Jesus put his trust in his Father, his only source of strength and inspiration. Yet, in his humanity, fully aware of the horrors that lay ahead, he prayed: "Father, if it is at all possible; take this cup away from me; but, not mine; but, your will be done!" Strengthened and assured by the Father and his angels, Jesus was determined to press forward in his mission of redemption that would change the course of human history. Surrounded by a hostile, jeering crowd and their corrupt instigators and consoled in the presence of his Blessed Mother, his beloved disciple John and a few faithful women, Jesus completed the supreme act of love for "you and me" and for all humanity.
   "We adore you, O Christ and we praise you; for by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world."

Friday, March 16, 2018

In search of a leader who inspires

   Dempsey's captivating 1998 "Jeremiah" introduced us to the man who uttered these powerful words: "The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah." (Jer. 31:31) Who was this ancient character? Jeremiah was born near Jerusalem between 650-645 B.C.E. His Hebrew name was "Yirm'Yahu" or "Yirm'Yah" meaning, "exalted of Yahweh". For 40 years, he warned his people of coming disaster and appealed in vain to the nation to return to their God. He lived through 5 Kings preaching at a time when his land was caught between two world powers: Babylon to the north and Egypt to the south. His teaching provoked deadly hostilities. He was confined in stocks for announcing the destruction of the city and flogged for predicting its end which eventually happened in 605 B.C.E. at the battle of Carchemish when King Jehoiakim submitted to King Nebuchadnezzar with little or no resistance. About 10,000 prominent people including the royal family were taken to Mesopotamia. A few years later, Jeremiah's "end of the world preaching" became real. The city of Jerusalem was leveled to the ground in 587 B.C.E.
   In his ministry, Jeremiah describes a good leader as someone whom "people need no longer fear and tremble." His life was filled with corrupt leaders unconcerned with people's needs. Jeremiah held them accountable for how they discharged their responsibility. God is not dependent on weak or corrupt leaders to care for his people. In the centuries that followed Jeremiah, his fellow patriot Jesus, believed that leaders should unite, inspire us to aim higher and bring us closer to the God we worship. A tall order!
   Perhaps in this Lenten season of reflection, we too should not be afraid to confront our leaders when they fail to live up to their promises.