This past Sunday, we went to Holy Name parish in DC for mass, and a reception in honor of Fr Al’s birthday.
This post is twofold. Fr Al and his family grew up in Holy Name, went to school there, and it’s the home base in America for his following, and memory. It’s really a beautiful place, originally founded in 1891.
Have I mentioned Fr Al before? I know I recommended his book, but have I explained why? No? I will.
Mass was at 11, and we made it in time to climb the many stairs to the church. Woo boy, many stairs! But we made it, me, Joey, my mom, Jack my son and nephew Robert. A good trip in. And when we got there, we were greeted by Sisters of Mary and the pastor, who assured me that the elevator would be in by January! Another nice thing that happened was that Sister Margie loaned me a relic of Fr Al for the mass, which gave me a good deal of comfort.
The mass itself was also beautiful, and the highlight of the day as it should be. The pastor of Holy Name built an adoration chapel dedicated to Fr Al, with the hope of perpetual adoration soon!
Then there was a large reception after mass, and we were lucky to get in thanks to Janet, who was gracious to Joey and works for World Villages For Children, founded by Fr Al. We met again with Dolores, Fr Al’s beautiful sister, Lou his brother, sisters Maria and Margie, and more. It was really a lovely time!
But wait, you say. Who’s Fr Al?
Venerable Monsignor Aloysius Schwartz was a missionary priest from DC, founding homes for poor children throughout S Korea, the Philippines, Mexico, Central America, Brazil, and most recently, Tanzania. He founded the religious orders of the Sisters of Mary of Banneux, and the Brothers of Christ. He dedicated his life to serving the poorest, lifting them up, giving them education and training, allowing them to succeed in the world. He died in 1992.
And he had ALS.
In many ways, it’s very difficult to talk to anyone about this disease. On the one hand, it’s different for every person. The thoughts and experience of one are different than others. And, frankly, I’m not sure people are comfortable talking about death and dying. But on the other hand, I so desperately want to talk to anyone about this, my experience, or suffering, or about preparing for my death. Not many people have the ability to understand,, and I’m not even talking about my lack of speaking ability.
Enter Fr Al, who wrote down what he experienced, and left it for a person like me to connect to!
I would have never heard of him if not for our friend Lynn, friends with Kathleen, friends with Fr Al’s sister Dolores (or Dee.) Between all them, we went to his mass last year and this, and gained a patron saint to intercede for those of us with ALS. I am eternally grateful for he and his sister, who transcribed his words into his book, from cassette to paper!
Now, as the depression dogs become more active, I am able to have a companion to walk with me. And what a joyous family to be a member of!