Golden Jubilee: Father Sean Heslin - Incredible!

That is the best word for the moment: Fr. Heslin's 50th anniversary mass and reception.  He was in top form for the celebration, even better than that.

Our intention to keep it very low-key paid off and was the best way to do it.  It served to allow the emphasis to be where it should be, which was surfaced in the readings for the feast of the Trinity and in Fr. Heslin's homily.

He didn't miss a beat this morning.

He shared in his homily by referencing the day which gave a natural moment for a spontaneous standing ovation.  His gratitude was offered in recognition that all of these years have been a partnership with so many people in so many places.  And that gratitude takes us to a place fitting for renewing commitment, his and ours: making present the person of Jesus in the world so that the world is a better place.

The reflection was "spot on" as they say.

To top all of this off, just 30 minutes before mass I bumped into Pat, Fr. Heslin's nephew who is from Dublin and works in England.  I met him in the kitchen in the gym when I went over to just check out the plan there for the reception.  There he told me about his arrival from Dublin just the night before and that Fr. Heslin's sister was here, too, Mary, having arrived separately from Ireland.  She had not yet arrived at the church.  No one knew of their plans.

When we went over to the church, Pat discovered that a cousin also had arrived, Fiona, from Kuwait.  By this time Fr. Heslin was already, at least 30 minutes before, vested and greeting the folks at the entrance to the church.

So, I am thinking: well, Mary is here somewhere in the assembly; let me see if I can surface here.  No luck.  Everything else was in place, including a videographer so we could tape the mass and send it to the family in Ireland.

I made some opening remarks about this "non-event" and the "non-reception" that would take place afterwards in the gym.  And, that the "non-reception" in the gym would offer "coffee and donuts", but "coffee and donuts" a bit "enhanced" for the occasion.  I invited all to the gym after mass.

The celebration was flawless and inspiring.  There were a lot of folks from various parishes where Fr. Heslin has served; even the Sisters of Mercy were represented.  And, on behalf of the bishop, Carol Brinati and her husband, Randy, were with us.  Of course, I only referenced some of these details but kept most of this off the radar.

So to not distract, I remained, vested, in the pew.

At communion time, knowing that Mary, his sister, was here somewhere, I kept an eagle eye...and found her coming back from communion.  I went up to her and she was in earnest to ignore me, trying to appear as if she was not who I thought she was and that she was really not here.  Then she tells me, since I wasn't going away, that her other sister, Brid, was here, too.  And there she was as they sat in the last pew in the transept...trying to "not be here".

After mass I grabbed then and we track down the nephew and cousin and head toward the door to meet up with Fr. Heslin greeting folks as they left.  There they all met up, surprising Sean.  He knew the nephew and cousin were here as he saw them at the start of mass; but he did not know about his sisters.  It was a good moment.

The reception and its preparation in the gym were "5-stars" - "enhanced coffee and donuts".  So many folks in the parish made that happen, working tirelessly and joyfully; and some very good food was catered thanks to N.Y. Pizza here in Cocoa Beach.  It was a really fun time for everyone - the gym was FULL and the food was overflowing...cake, too.

And, as God said at the end of each day during those 6 days of creation, "It was very good."

Fr. Fred

More About Father Ruse's Adventure

One of my “favorite” people from my years in the mountains in our sister diocese is Milanda.  While I would like to say she and I have been through a lot, nothing compares to what she has been through in her life. Her health challenges are both physical and mental.  And, of course, then there is the poverty. 

And with all of these come stigmas…even in the third world.

It would be easy to look at Milanda and think that she doesn’t really “feel” the world around her.  Not so.  I have over the years learned differently: she feels deeply.  I recently saw her wipe a tear from her eye (I am sure she thought no one saw it), embarrassed by it, as she watched her daughter Ana Maria dance and sing. She hadn’t seen Ana Maria and her brother Diomedes in three years.

All her children are scattered across the country living with other people.  She gave birth to 8 and 6 have survived.

My return to the DR recently was to help Milanda do what every mother wants to do in their care of their children: secure a place for them in this world.  In this case, that means register them for their birth certificates.  For a parent to feel that they have done that, it is big, and even more so for those women who live in poverty.  With that certificate comes everything that is important in the present and in the future. 

This is not an easy process to do even for someone who has health on their side; for someone facing health issues, both physical and mental, and add to that poverty, it is for all practical purposes impossible.

The work of mission is accompaniment so to empower a person to do what God has planted in their heart to do.  In Milanda’s case: one work God gave to her was to take care of her children in the one way that only she could do.  No one else can register a child for a birth certificate except the mother.

Milanda could not do this before now as she herself had no birth certificate or official ID card.  That was because her mother did not have any of those.  So, years ago I helped her mother get her birth certificate and legal ID card; then we were able to help Milanda get her legal identification documents…and now we could do the same for her children.

I know that deep down Milanda feels like a “million dollars”.  She now has a bit of a sense of herself as a “good” mother.  She cannot provide for them in their day to day care, but she just now gave them their legal Dominican identity.

So, now Ana Maria (8 years old) and Diomedes (11 years old) and Narso (15 years old) have their birth certificates.  Milanda did that.  I just got the paper work and people in place to enable her to honor her responsibility.  This is the hidden work of being the people of God – you and I and Milanda.  It is a long and a slow work.  I wish there were more who could step into these “hidden areas” where people live; but still, the little that does happen at our hands – yours, mine and those of Milanda – serve to make present in God’s creation the conscience of the Gospel, the heart of Jesus…the Kingdom coming.