ASHWAUBENON NEVER LOOKED BETTER: A Beautiful Mass for a Beautiful People

I never though of how creepy it may have sounded, but whenever Steve comes over to the office -- and it is with great frequency -- at some point in the conversation, I always mention how beautiful his mother is. Steve receives that testimony well, he simply flashes that great smile of his, blushes just a bit, and suggests that I am a man of great taste.

I think Steve knows me well enough that he realizes that I'm not simply talking about her physical beauty; rather, for years I have been treated to Kay's beautiful singing in churches across Green Bay and DePere together with her great friend, Nancy -- her singing is another part of her beauty. I often encounter Kay singing her heart out at St. Agnes, but in other churches as well, usually at weddings. She fills a sanctuary with a vibrant, melodious accord.

Besides her music cranked through sanctuary sound systems, Kay always seems to be singing some sort of song in her heart no matter where you meet her. Whenever we greet one another, she fills every conversation with life, love and a whole lot of laughter.

And on Monday and Tuesday, she never looked better!

I drove over to St. Agnes early yesterday before the scheduled visitation that would begin at 4:00 PM. This was my clever attempt to "avoid the crowds" to have a little personal time with the family. Unfortunately, 200 other people were a little more clever than I, and certainly they had a heavier foot: the north lot at the church was already nearly full.

There was Kay at the heart of the center isle, greeting everyone who entered the church. Surprisingly, she knew the vast majority of names of people who approached her; those she did not know, she asked their names and asked how each person knew her husband. Naturally, many of the mourners who gathered were young men associated with Ashwaubenon High School -- they either had Rich as a teacher or a coach, but all of them had in Rich, a confidant and friend.

Mike and Ken Blaney tried their very best to keep the line moving. Kay would give in every now and then and try her best to move the line a bit more quickly; but as time would pass, she'd again greet each person with such motherly love and full attention, lasting until 9:50 PM.

You would think that today would be a moment for Father Richard Getchel, Fr. Tim Shillcox, O. Praem., Abbot Gary Neville, O. Praem., Father John VanDeurzen and me to minister to the family -- yes, but not completely! Kay would also minister to the full church by joining her friend, Nancy, in leading the music for the vast assembly before the Gospel and during the reception of Holy Communion. The Alleluia seemed like Kay's love song -- for two good men "who died prematurely on Friday's" as Father Tim would say, Rich and Christ himself.

Beyond the music, the congregation was ministered-to beautifully in other verbal ways. Rich's brother Dale gave us great images for us to remember from their boyhood years. Steve, Rich's son, is always impressive. Some may find it hard to believe that Steve is actually a young man of very few words; this morning he was eloquent as he shared the bond that exists between father and son -- which not even death can separate. Father Tim and Father Rich were each consoling and comforting in their very gifted and unique ways.

And then there was the subtle beauty as well. Andrea's tears spoke profoundly without saying a word as she would witness all of this -- so simple and yet so profound. I wondered what stories she would tell her baby about the child's grandfather come November. "She kept all these things in her heart'," as scripture says. Rich's grandchild will be no stranger to this good man!

And then there were the guys donned in their green and gold uniforms that would help fill St. Agnes. I have the privilege of ministering to two different groups of guys who deck themselves out in green and gold. At St. Norbert and at 1265, we often gather together in moments of great victory; sometimes in the midst of loss, and at times in total, agonizing defeat as well. But this loss is so much different; it comes -- in such a profound way -- for this team at the threshold of change as they embark upon a new season with a new coach. How will they move ahead? Once the memorials have been cleared away from the 50 yard line, then what?

Perhaps that is where we can recall the closing line of Father Tim's homily today. Father Tim intoned the antiphon for the Benedictus we Norbertines chant each morning of the Easter season. With those folks 2000 years ago who met in confusion and fear, hope and blessed assurance, they would come to believe that God is faithful to promises: a new day will dawn, a new life has come. In the Providence of our loving God, the Jaguars can join Rich today in singing out in one mind, heart and voice what he believed so wholeheartedly:

Thanks be to God who has given us VICTORY,
through our Lord, Jesus Christ: ALLELUIA!

God's flock is in Ashwaubenon, folks:
"Give it a shepherd's care!


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