Anyway, today I learned that Msgr. John passed away.
Working in the Archdiocese means I get the death notices as they are shot off from our Communications office. Seeing his name on the notice felt like a punch to the gut.
I knew Msgr. John from my days as a Dougherty student. I never had him as a teacher, but he was routinely the celebrant at Masses, was ALWAYS around for Confession, and very often found in the chapel during lunch-time Eucharistic services.
He was such a kind, gentle priest. I was always sorta shy around him because he seemed so holy. I'm not shy around anyone, but I was definitely bashful around him. It was through no fault of his own. He was such a sweetheart, but I just felt very, very... I don't want to say unworthy, because that's the wrong word. I guess uncertain of myself is proper. As a result, I just remained silent and smiled a lot at him.
Anyway, he once gave me great advice in the confessional - advice I still go by to this day. He was always a wise confessor, and I appreciated that he was always - ALWAYS - so kind and gentle. Again, though, I kept my appreciation to myself. It slipped out in smiles and nods as we passed each other in the hall, but I never worked up the nerve to tell him how amazing I thought he was.
Until a few weeks ago.
He happened to call into my office, and I was lucky enough to pick up the phone. He introduced himself and I actually felt my heart jump. I blurted out, "As in Fr. John Wendrychowicz from Cardinal Dougherty???"
IMMEDIATELY I felt my cheeks burn as I realized how ridiculous it was for a secretary to blurt out a question like that when the poor guy's attempting to connect with one of his brother priests.
I could hear the confusion in his voice as he prepared to figure out who I was when he answered, "Why yes, I was at Cardinal Dougherty for a time."
I apologized, but then said, "Father, I'm so glad I picked up your call today! I was a student there - graduated class of 2001. I never said it then, but I've always wanted to tell you how wonderful of a priest I think you are. We were so lucky to have you back then."
He laughed and said, "Well thank you! I'm glad I called you today, too."
I felt so good right then because God had let me make up for all those times I hadn't said a word to him. As I passed Msgr. John over to my boss, I actually turned to my coworker Megan - super excited - because I had gotten to speak with him.
So today, when I heard news that he had passed, I was terribly saddened that we lost such a wonderful priest. However, in the same breath I uttered "Oh no... no... that's terrible!" I also said, "Well good for him."
My coworker, Russ, happened to be next to me when I said that and he said, "Wha?"
And I responded, "Yeah. Good for him. Can you imagine the Christmas celebration he's gonna get to experience this year?"
So even though I shed a few tears for him (and his parishioners as he was an active pastor when he passed), I knew that his soul would be enjoying the splendor of Heaven in time for Christmas. So if everyone would be so kind as to offer a prayer or two his way, I'd appreciate it. I really do hope Our Lady came to collect his soul, herself. He was a true representative of Christ, and I'm grateful for the blessing of both knowing him, and being able to tell him just how much I appreciated him before he met his Creator.
Bless the Lord for His goodness.