“That is my seat!”

This past week I have been thinking a lot of Msgr. O’Connell, in particular the way he was able to truly be present to and with people. His quote about his proudest achievement, I keep pondering over and over again.  “This is going to sound strange. My proudest achievement is having been able to be present to people. Whether I was operating on all eight cylinders or four or three cylinders it was a gift to be able to be present to people, to listen to them and to uphold their goodness in them. Even when they think there is no goodness in them, especially when they see no goodness in them.”

            Msgr. O’Connell’s words have brought me new hope and an encouragement in the ministry of Stewardship and Vocations this past week.  This new school the Lord has placed it on my heart to eat once a week with the middle school and high school students at St. Thomas More as a way to be more present to them. And most of you know that I am pretty extroverted, but going through the lunch line and finding a table to sit with the high schools students has not been as easy as I thought. As matter of fact, it has been intimidating and challenging for me.

My first week and eating with the high school students, I heard these words “that is my seat.” I simply said “sorry about that and simply moved down a few chairs.” I wonder how many times visitors to our parishes, here those same words “that is my seat” or “you’re sitting in my pew.”  These words do not speak of a generous hospitality or being aware or a willingness to be present to one another.

My proudest achievement is having been able to be present to people. This week at the celebration of the Eucharist tried to be more present to those you are praying and worshiping with, especially those who you not know, the visitor and stranger in your midst. Have the courage and strength to introduce yourself to them and begin with a simple conversation. The more we can be present to one another the more our parishes will come alive in Christ.

A Witness of Generous Hospitality

This past year I was blest to live at Casa Maria with Msgr. O’Connell. I enjoyed popping in to his apartment for a short conversation in the evenings from time to time.  He would be in his usual place, in his brown recliner, surrounded by the newspaper, the newest set of books he was reading and his breviary on the floor or the stand next to his chair. Msgr. O’Connell was an avid reader.

            Every so often, Msgr. OC would remind me to keep reading, especially the Lives of the Saints and novels. He also said this will help make me a better writer. I would forward him my “A Catholic Way of Life” columns in the West River Catholic. He would always give me constructive feedback and how the article could be better, even though he was not feeling well at all, he would always make time to go over the article. I will miss those evenings.

            This past Monday evening KOTA News did a story on Msgr. O’Connell. Helene Duhamel asked Msgr. O’Connell what his proudest achievement was.  Listen carefully to his words because they speak of generous hospitality. “This is going to sound strange. My proudest achievement is having been able to be present to people. Whether I was operating on all eight cylinders or four or three cylinders it was a gift to be able to be present to people, to listen to them and to uphold their goodness in them. Even when they think there is no goodness in them, especially when they see no goodness in them.”

            Msgr. O’Connell truly lived an authentic A Catholic way of Life through a generous hospitality, a lively faith and a dedicated discipleship.    

Fr. Mark’s Musings