My brother George on the right hugging my neighbor Jackie Doyle.
I remember that Mrs. Doyle was a very religious person. I recall seeing her walking to or from Mass each morning. One day after I entered the seminary, she gave me this cross, actually a crucifix with the corpus of Jesus hanging for love of us all. She said that she wanted me to have the crucifix. It belonged to her aunt who was a woman religious and when her aunt died, Mrs. Doyle was given this crucifix that her aunt likely wore for decades on a cord around her neck, and visibly in front of her habit. Since I was studying to become a priest, Mrs. Doyle thought I might be a good keeper of this treasure.
I am so happy that I found it this morning. I shined it up and got most of the patina and dirt off. It is in a little case with a zipper, and so it has stood the course of time pretty well.
Not only is it sentimental for me to be the steward of this crucifix, reminding me of my neighborhood and of the faith that seemed to permeate every nook and cranny of our block, but it also has helped me enter into the life of a person whom I never met.
I always loved the dedication of women religious. They taught me and provided me with good examples since my earliest age. I guess I always saw and admired those in my life as true servants of Jesus….always thinking of others. But reflecting on this crucifix hanging from the neck of a real person made me aware of the inner life of Mrs. Doyle’s aunt.
I pictured what a life of dedication must have looked like in those days. She must have died before 1965, and I imagine she may have worn that crucifix, putting it around her neck every morning, for at least four or five decades. I try to imagine her joy and fears, her ups and downs, her trust in Jesus through it all.
God grants vocations to each of us. It benefits us to examine one up close and even to imagine what it must have been like to serve each day. Every morning sisters and priests, moms and dads, teachers, and nurses get up and put on their badge of service, mostly unnoticed.
April is the month in which Good Shepherd Sunday reminds us of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who not only walks with us and cares for us, but also calls us. Just as he called Mrs. Doyle’s aunt, the echo of His voice continues through the centuries until He comes again. It is good to salute vocations in the Church. I think I will keep Mrs. Doyle’s cross on the table in the chapel where I pray. May she be a saint in heaven, interceding for me and for all of us who take our vocation to follow Jesus seriously.