The Catholic Spirit recently invited readers to answer this question:
“What person, living or deceased, has made a big impact on your faith life by doing ‘small things with great love’?”
Here are some of the answers we received
Priest who had cancer was a model of service
Father John Kelley was my priest at Nativity of Our Lord parish in St. Paul for over 20 years. He was a good and faithful priest and we became very close friends. I was privileged to become ever closer after he was diagnosed with cancer, a cancer he fought for 11 years until he died on Aug. 15, 2001.
Visiting the sick, elderly and homebound was one of his strong virtues. He would never say no to any request of this nature. During his final year before his death, he did something that I will never forget; it had an impact on me that remains today.
I took him to his oncologist one day. Father was then in a wheelchair and very weak. After an exhausting visit to the doctor, he said, “Can we stop at Regions Hospital? I want to see a parishioner who is very ill.” As I wheeled him down the hospital hall, I thought, here is a man, himself terminally ill, still reaching out to bring Jesus to another sick person. Inspiring!
Father John had a big heart and a generous spirit and a great love of his God and his priesthood. He is missed but not forgotten.
Nativity of Our Lord, St. Paul
My father’s love reflected the love of the Father
My father, William Wesely, nurtured my faith by his everyday example and by talking with me frequently about God’s love.
When I was a child, he pointed out to me the goodness of God, visible in nature — in the beauty of the sky, in the flowering trees and plants, and in the various kinds of birds. He often expressed gratitude for God’s creation.
My father led our family in daily evening prayer and would read about the particular saint for each day from “The Lives of the Saints.”
His care for his fellow men was evident when he chose to regularly share his gift of song by singing English, German and Czech songs to residents in nursing homes. He always included a church hymn or two before visiting with the residents.
He didn’t measure his wealth in money but rather in appreciation for the many ways God provided for him and his family. He told me once when I experienced great difficulty as a young adult that God was seasoning me, tempering me to be a strong and confident person of faith.
My father’s love for me exemplified the unconditional love of our heavenly father. His everyday expressions of faith, in word and action, will always be a reminder of God’s love.
Mary Jean Loomis
Nativity of Our Lord, St. Paul
Challenging us to get out of our comfort zones
Father Greg Tolaas was an extraordinary example of kindness, love and courage under extreme pain. In his final months, and often earlier during numerous sick days, he would enter the church almost too weak to speak. But by the time his homily was under way, he was fired with the Holy Spirit, changing how each person hearing his words would incorporate his wisdom into their lives.
He suffered all his life with cystic fibrosis, and later, a shutdown pancreas, diabetes, kidney disease and dialysis, high blood pressure, and an unbelievable number of daily medications. He received his first Communion in first grade, rather than second grade, because he wasn’t expected to live until second grade. The last six years of Father Greg’s life, he became pastor of St. Philip Church in north Minneapolis. With the charisma of a young, healthy man, which he wasn’t, Father Greg constantly challenged his congregation to get out of their “comfort zone.” At every Mass, he began by urging each of us to leave our pews and meet three people we didn’t know. Father Greg was always God’s beloved “Pied Piper.”
St. Patrick, Edina
My mom embraced those overlooked by society
Lucille Marie Manson, my mother, greatly impacted my faith through doing so many “small things with great love.” Like Mother Teresa, she embraced those who society overlooked. Stray animals, too, found their way to her door.
After working long hours as a waitress, she would walk nine blocks to the health food store, before boarding her bus, to purchase goat’s milk for a neighbor dying of cancer. On a meager income, winter fuel oil was ordered for a neighbor with seven children when her resources had been depleted. A young child with longing eyes pressed up against the window of a Dairy Queen received a cone from her. Though she contentedly built her wardrobe from garage sales and hand-me-downs, she always faithfully supported the missions and other benevolent church-sponsored works of mercy.
While she lived out her final days at Our Lady of Good Counsel Cancer Home, her only accompanying material possessions were her rosary and a small coin purse with quarters used to daily call a friend struggling with depression who needed uplifting.
My mother formed my faith base through her generous and repeated acts of unconditional love. Her love for God was lived out through her quiet, selfless outreach to others.
Mary Jo Hoch
St. Paul, Ham Lake