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Learning experiences for a pastor and his flock – 1


It is a different kind of high one experiences when the source of joy comes from an unexpected person at an unexpected time. One of the first visits I made to a neighbor in the parish community was to an old woman who recently lost her husband. I attended the wake, made acquaintances with the family and engaged this widow in a beautiful conversation. When I inquired whether she or her family went to church regularly, she said it was a practice never promoted in their home. Her husband, while still alive, would buy flowers and leave them at the door of the church or at the steps of the rectory so as not to be noticed. But the family had no habit of going to Sunday mass. Besides, she claimed, the sound system was much too clear from the outside, she could recite all the homilies I delivered since I arrived. And yes, all the time I was in that parish, the lady never appeared in church, save I think, for a midnight mass.

But on the evening of my farewell mass, I think I saw the old lady huddled in a corner with parishioners. I was trying to stretch my neck to make sure it was she. But she was running for cover behind the others.

Two days before the transfer, I was pacing around the church praying the rosary. I could sense that someone was viewing me from the church gates. I looked back and saw the figure of a fast-retreating lady so I just continued to pray. But just as I was kissing the rosary before returning it to my pocket, an old lady, the one who doesn’t go to church, came barging in. She grabbed my hand and kissed it. She was crying.

“I do not know why I am crying, Father. I don’t even have to cry since I am not close to you. But when I learned that you were leaving, I felt so sad. I remember the visit you paid to me at my husband’s wake. I am very sad.”, I recall her now saying to me. I held her hand and kept on smiling at her.

Then she popped a question: “Are you still celebrating the evening mass today? If you so, I promise to attend mass again.” That day, I arranged for a priest-friend to take the schedule, but sensing this beautiful opportunity to be together with my old friend, I said “Yes, see you this evening.’ True enough, she was in church very early for her appointment with Jesus.